If you are like me, managing all of the tasks and difficulties of each day can lead to tension and stress. I am usually not the calm, collected one of the family, and I often turn to family members for advice and help when I am overwhelmed with stress.
My husband has a unique talent of coming up with appropriate and descriptive analogies. When there is a problem or a situation he wants to explain, he is always quick to create an analogy that puts everything into perspective and helps me to understand the situation better. Recently I presented him with a number of pressing problems I was dealing with. In typical overreactive fashion, I had become overwhelmed with the gravity of it all. He calls this lumping everything into one giant catastrophe the “snowball.”
He asked me what the first thing I do when attempting to wash clothes is. I responded that when I tackle the laundry, the first thing I do is to sort the clothes. I started to see where he was going with this. When overwhelmed and anxious over life’s worries and problems, the best thing to do is to sort them out – to make a list of them and examine each one, one at a time, and come up with a course of action or a solution for each one individually. In this way, rather than become frustrated and hopeless about the enormity of the collective mess of difficulties, I can break it down into smaller, more manageable problems.
This skill of compartmentalizing problems definitely doesn’t come naturally to me. I tend to become overly emotional and overwhelmed when life gets stressful. This lesson of listing problems and solving them individually has helped me to manage my stress and become calmer and more productive over time.
Following the laundry analogy, another step I take before washing the clothes is to find the really tough stains and pretreat them with stain remover. Prioritizing the more urgent problems is the next step in the problem-solving strategy. After making a list of tasks or problems, we can prioritize the ones that need immediate attention and set to work solving them first. Then we can move on to the less urgent needs of our families. The more difficult problems often require more time and effort, like the tougher stains.
Scripture tells us to “have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”(Phil 4:6-7) This is not always easy to do. We often worry when we feel out of control of a situation. Jesus repeatedly offered his disciples peace and told them to be not afraid. He offers us the same peace and freedom from fear if only we learn to trust in him and to give up trying to control every aspect of our lives. As St. Pio of Pietrelcina advises us, “Pray, hope, and don’t worry. Worry is useless. God is merciful and will hear your prayer.”
Jesus never promised that the vocation of motherhood would be without challenges and problems. However, he did promise to remain with us and help us through any difficulties that arise. He gives us our husbands to help and guide us in our journey as mothers. I am thankful that my husband always provides me with a helpful analogy, or even a hug and a kind word, when I need one. I know with his help, and the help of Jesus, our Blessed Mother, and the saints, I can sort through all of the difficulties of family life and conquer any challenges that arise.