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Stress probably feels like an inevitable part of your everyday life (especially over the last year). But spending your days worrying about every little thing doesn’t make life better, it only makes you feel less in control.

Instead of waiting for stress to take a different approach in life, why don’t you?

In this episode, you’ll learn how to find peace in any stressful moment and why the most complicated questions often have the simplest answers. 

Show Highlights Include:

  • Why managing your stress starts with two statements from Psychology Today. (0:32)
  • How to stop feeling worried when things are out of your hands (and the one thing you always have control over). (2:48)
  • The ‘Front Porch’ secrets for living a calmer life today (and why you shouldn’t worry about tomorrow). (6:45)
  • What an African Violet plant reveals about finding beauty in unpleasant times and how to use peace with whatever comes your way. (8:56)

Do you want to stop existing and start living your best life right now? Click here to get the first chapter of Dr. Rick’s best-selling book, Lessons From a Third Grade Dropout, for free.

Read Full Transcript

Welcome to “How You Living?” a transformative podcast featuring best-selling author, inspirational speaker and minister, Dr. Rick Rigsby—and, now, Dr. Rick.

Dr. Rigsby: Hello, friends, thank you so much for joining us for our podcast today. I want to talk to you about something that we have an abundance of these days: stress. But I'm not so much interested in talking about stress as much as I am talking about how we can cope with that stress.

I read an interesting article recently, Psychology Today, December 2020. The article asks readers to consider two statements.

Statement No. 1: stress is good for you, motivates you to stay alert and focused. [01:00.0]

Statement No. 2: stress is bad for you, a silent killer causing irritability, fatigue, sickness, and death.

Now, which of the above statements is true? And the answer, of course, is it depends. According to psychologists, the answer has nothing to do with our stressors and everything to do with our reaction to stress. COVID fatigue is real. Zoom calling is isolating. Mental health has become the major issue of our day and there's no magic formula that will suddenly end all of this.

According to the American Psychological Association, the pandemic has dramatically increased our stress level here in America. I would imagine that would be true for many parts of the world. It has also drastically affected our mental and physical health, and people are struggling to cope. [01:58.6]

Weight gain is on the rise. We're drinking more. We're sleeping too much or we're sleeping too little. We feel overwhelmed with all the demands and we can experience long-term effects when it comes to functioning mentally, as well as physically, our overall wellbeing, in fact, our overall lives.

In March 2021, a researcher at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston noted that a third of American adults report symptoms of anxiety and depression. As a matter of fact, the study goes on to report that 12% of Americans have seriously considered suicide in just the past 30 days.

What's stressing you out, friends? I want you to see how many of these items you check. Under lots of pressure. Facing big changes. Worrying about something. Little control over the outcome of the situation. Having responsibilities that are overwhelming. Times of uncertainty. If you're like me, you've probably checked every single item. [03:09.2]

Like many of you I've been stressed lately, some days even overwhelmed. Hey, Rick, aren't you that guy whose dad has all that wisdom? Yeah, that's me. Rick, aren't you an ordained minister, a pastor? Yeah, but, friends, I'm also human. You see, there's a reason Jesus went to the garden of Gethsemane the night before he was crucified.

Recently, I found myself thumbing through countless articles, attempting to seek relief from dealing with all this overwhelming stress, and then it hit me. The problem isn't stress. The problem is my inability to cope. During a restless night, I had this thought, why not talk to people who've learned how to cope with stress, older folks? [04:02.1]

My in-laws immediately came to mind. My wife's parents, we refer to them as Grandma and Grandpa. Grandpa was born in 1929 and, although he's 92 years old, he can outwork just about anybody in the family. Grandma is a little younger. We don't need to discuss her age, but the reason they came to mind is because they have survived.

They've survived wars, segregation, racism, epidemics. They've survived natural disasters, storms of every kind, illness, disease, and like you, they've lost their fair share of relatives and friends. Grandma and Grandpa have survived World War II, the Korean War in the ’50s, the Vietnam War in the ’60s, power shortages and gas rationing in the ’70s, the real estate crash of the ’80s and the dotcom crash in 2000. [04:59.6]

In fact, Grandpa was a child during the Great Depression. As a matter of fact, during those years, he watched his family survive one of the worst economic times in history. Grandma and Grandpa have even survived that technological revolution … with a little bit of assistance from children and grandchildren.

Now, why am I focusing on Grandma and Grandpa? Simple. They're a reflection of the greatest generation, a generation that made a choice to not just survive, but to commit for the long haul, to not get too high or to not get too low, to flow every single day regardless of the obstacles, regardless of the circumstances, regardless of the situation. These folks collectively made a choice to choose calm over stress. [06:02.0]

This was the generation that went to war that returned home and had babies in record numbers, reared their families. They were loyal to companies. They committed to patriotism and participated in civic responsibilities. This was the generation that helped rebuild America. There wasn't much time for yoga classes and there wasn't much money for weekend getaways. With babies crying and bills to pay, there was not much me time for this generation. And guess what? They learned how to cope. They learned how to cope.

I spoke with Grandma and Grandpa recently. I asked them a few questions, mostly to help me, but hopefully some of their responses will help and encourage you as well. [06:55.5]

Here was the first question I asked. I said, “In light of everything that's going on, in fact, in light of the last several decades, how have you folks learned to cope?” Grandma said it best. She said, “You have to take it as it comes.” She said, “I thank the Lord as my feet hit the floor every single day and then I asked for His help to take it as it comes throughout the whole day.” That's good advice, y'all. Grandpa agreed saying, “I've learned this one secret in life. One day at a time. Today has enough problems for itself. I'll worry about tomorrow and cope with tomorrow, tomorrow.” Great advice.

Then I asked, “What are some of the things you folks do to remain calm?” Grandma told me that the front porch has been a lifesaver. She said, “I try to keep things in order. I try to keep things simple. For example, I love listening to birds, singing. I love looking at my flowers and observing the colors of the leaves in the spring.” She said, “It's simply glorious.” [08:12.1]

Grandpa said two things. First, he enjoys his daily trek to a nearby garage. He talks to the mechanics and talks to all the patrons waiting for repairs. He also loves relaxing to the point of a self-induced nap several times a day.

When I asked about advice for a younger generation, both Grandma and Grandpa echoed each other. They said, “You must believe that God will not give you more than you can bear. Slow down, breathe, be grateful and realize the beauty that's in front of you.” [08:56.4]

At this point, my wife entered our conversation. She reminded me that her mother and father had spent a visit with us in Dallas years ago. Grandma and Grandpa had come out following a series of surgeries I had to replace a hip. As a result, I had an infection, a life-threatening infection, and it required several more surgeries. This was a very challenging time for our family, especially for my wife who was most grateful for her parents and especially grateful for her parents helping with the children.

During our recent conversation, my wife said, “You know, Mom, I remember at that time that you told me that I would have a rough road ahead and then you gave me an artificial plant, an African violet. You said to me, ‘Dear, put this African violet on your nightstand, so that every morning when you open your eyes, the first thing you'll see is something beautiful.’” [10:00.0]

Reflecting, all these years later, my wife recently told her mom, “Gazing at that plant, forced me to slow down. It allowed me to breathe and it encouraged me to take in its beauty.” Friends, that was over a decade ago that my wife's mother gave her that African violet. Do you know that little artificial plant is still on my wife's bedside table? I've never noticed it. In fact, I don't even know what an African violet looks like, but I can promise you this, the next time I'm out, I'm buying one and placing it on my bedside table.

Here's the big lesson from Grandma and Grandpa. Calm has nothing to do with situation. Calm has nothing to do with situation. The situation does not determine my reaction. My reaction was determined the moment my feet hit the floor this morning, when I thanked God for another day, when I asked God for His help to deal with whatever comes my way. [11:14.8]

Friends, there's a generation of Americans who live like this and perhaps just maybe it's our turn to observe the beauty of an African violet, a subtle reminder that calm has nothing to do with situation. Thanks, Grandma. Thanks Grandpa.

That's going to do it for this episode. Until we meet again, this is Dr. Rick, asking you the most important question I can ask, how you livin’? [11:48.2]

Are you ready to make an impact in your world right now? Do you want to stop existing and start living your best life right now? Dr. Rick wants to give you the first chapter of his bestselling book, “Lessons from a Third Grade Dropout”, absolutely free. Just go to www.RickRigsby.com/FreeGift to get the print or audiobook right now.

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