Four Steps to Reduce Stress

When we feel overwhelmed by life’s challenges, we can benefit by going to our Father in Heaven and asking for help to bear up under our many responsibilities. After praying for help, perhaps we can consider one of four approaches that may help us reduce our stress:

Prioritize. If we are trying to do too much, it is important to separate the cream from the milk by choosing only the best things to do. What those best things are will depend on individual circumstances and will vary from person to person. Our cream choices also change as we pass through different stages of life. A single parent may spend all his or her time working and caring for children, while an elderly single adult may spend much time working in the temple. It’s important to separate the essential from the nonessential. Essentials include rest, good food, prayer, exercise, Church callings and attendance, and scripture study.

Another way to separate ourselves from burdensome responsibilities is to take a break from our normal routines, even for only a short time. Such a break can take many forms: a half-hour nap, a walk, a game of basketball, or a family vacation.

Delegate. Sometimes our prayers may help us discover that our answer lies in delegating some of our responsibilities. We must ask for help from others when we really need it. An overburdened mother prayed for guidance, discussed her feelings with her husband, and then presented her concerns to the entire family during a family council meeting. The family divided up many of the evening chores, such as helping young children with baths, assisting with homework,cooking meals, and doing dishes. The companionship that resulted as the family members worked together proved invaluable, and the mother began to feel better.

In another family, the birth of a disabled baby girl quickly overwhelmed the parents’ resources. With the daily help of teams of Relief Society sisters, the child received physical therapy for many years. Facing unusual circumstances, these parents sought help with a portion of their responsibility, and in so doing, made their load manageable.

Eliminate. Another way to deal with too much stress is to eliminate some items from our to-do lists. Sometimes we just need to say no to others’ requests, even when there appears to be no one else to step in. One year our local elementary school could not find enough volunteers to hold the annual Halloween carnival. When the event was canceled, individual parents planned a number of small parties for their children.

Do it. There will be times when, through prayer, we realize we should neither prioritize, delegate, nor eliminate—we should just do it. When we feel we have Heavenly Father’s support to move ahead, despite feeling at times that we cannot handle one more task, we need to trust in Him and just do it, for “the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them” (1 Ne. 3:7).

As we honestly attempt to choose what is best, always asking for confirmation in prayer, Heavenly Father will lead us to the proper solution for our concerns. With the Lord’s help, we can use our time and talents wisely, bring balance into our lives, and find greater enjoyment in the many tasks before us.Paula J. Lewis, Blanding, Utah

Using Ensign Art

Passing a local art gallery one day, I paused, struck by the beauty of a painting of Jesus Christ on display. My heart was touched as I looked at the face of the Savior, and I wished I had the painting in my own home. Afterward, I found myself thinking about the impact that painting had had on me. I wanted those feelings to linger, to become an everyday occurrence in my life.

Later on as I was preparing for a lesson I would be giving the following Sunday, I picked up the Ensign magazine and began to thumb through it, looking for a picture to illustrate my lesson. I was deeply moved by the artwork displayed in the magazine, particularly on its inside covers. I felt I was enjoying a visual and spiritual feast. At that moment I decided that my family should share in the wonderful treasure I had just rediscovered.

I went to my basement, where I had stored 10 years of Ensign magazines, and brought them upstairs. Removing the covers, I separated them and placed them in clear sheet protectors, then put them together in a binder according to subject matter: biblical scenes, Book of Mormon, Church history, families, Jesus Christ, temples, and so on.

We now have a wonderful visual resource for our family home evenings, talks, and lessons. We have enjoyed the beautiful spirit these paintings have brought into our home and the priceless gift of visual worship they give us.Lisa Gemperline, Kaysville, Utah

[illustrations] Clockwise, bottom, far left: Jesus Christ Visits the Americas, by John Scott; Rebekah at the Well, by Michael J. Deas; detail from Christ and the Rich Young Ruler, by Heinrich Hofmann; detail from The First Doll, by G. Magni

Freezing Our Compassionate Service

As a counselor in the ward Relief Society, I had been wondering how I could include more women in giving compassionate service to others. I discussed this with Sister Dale Barker, also a counselor in Relief Society, who suggested we prepare special compassionate service casseroles during Homemaking meeting, then freeze them for later use.

While all the sisters responded positively to the idea, working sisters were especially happy for this opportunity to help. We selected a recipe and asked sisters to bring ingredients. Sisters could help in the kitchen or attend other miniclasses. Our first attempt resulted in five casseroles, which were stored in Sister Barker’s freezer until needed. A few months later we invited the sisters to help once again, and this time we made eight large chicken potpies.

The sisters welcome this idea because it gives them opportunities to contribute to the compassionate-service needs of our ward while building friendships with each other. We have continued making our compassionate casseroles every two to three months as needed, and now more of our sisters are able to contribute meaningfully to needs of ward members.Gina Snyder, Fremont, California

Talk Time Instead of TV Time

One busy evening I heard a little voice coming from our youngest daughter’s bedroom: “Mom, could you come here?” I paused in the doorway. Rachel looked up at me from her bed and said, “Mom, you forgot to talk me in!” I chuckled and went through the bedtime ritual of tucking her in and left the room a few minutes later. But I couldn’t forget what she had said. “Talk me in” really made a great deal of sense.

At one point when our children were small, I got into the habit of watching a few favorite television programs—in fact, they were quite important to me. I looked forward all day to sitting in front of the TV to watch them. Unfortunately, the programs came on at the same time the children went to bed.

I don’t remember exactly when it happened, but at one point I realized I had put my programs at the top of my list and my children farther down. For a while I tried reading bedtime stories with the TV set on, but I knew in my heart it wasn’t the best way. As I pondered about the days and weeks I had lost to my TV habit, I began to feel guilty and decided to change. It took a while to convince myself that I could really turn off the TV.

After about two weeks of leaving the television off, I felt a burden somehow lifted. I realized I felt better, even cleaner somehow, and I knew I had made the right choice. The subsequent months and years of “talking children in” have been valuable to me. Some of my favorite memories of our old house are of lying on a bunk bed next to one of the children and singing Primary songs with our four children who shared the room. The strength and sweetness of their voices filled the night with love. After everyone had a couple of turns choosing a song, we talked a bit, listened as each child took a turn saying prayers, and said goodnight.

One mother of eight in our ward has what she calls “happy time” with her children as she chats with each one about the best thing that happened to the child that day. What bedtime really provides is an opportunity for teaching moments, counseling moments, and a sweet sense of security for a child ready to drift off to sleep.

Why just tuck children in when we can “talk them in”?Susan Heaton, Elgin, Illinois

[illustrations] Illustrated by Julianne Allen