Thoughts on stress and strength from our intern, Thom Thomas

Thom Thomas

I have been thinking a lot this week about family. Specifically, I have been thinking about how families deal with stress. A church I know (not this one) has recently suffered from an email storm. You know what I mean. Someone forgot the first commandment of email—“Thou shalt not hit send when you are still angry”—and then someone else forgot the second commandment of email—“Thou shalt not reply all”—and before you know it everyone is dividing into armed camps. Well, maybe not armed, but certainly snarky.

What I absolutely know is that every person involved knows better, but they got into the fight anyway. The health of a family can be determined by how they handle these stressful events. I am confident that they will be okay eventually, because I know that they are used to talking to each other, and they are used to having disagreements. They have learned the vital lessons of civil discourse, and they all have strong spiritual practices that will help them each deal with their pain and get back into each other’s good graces.

As I have been thinking about this, I have been wondering about how well I am modeling coping behavior. Do I have a strong spiritual practice that helps me cope with stress? In seminary we are advised to always maintain a good spiritual practice, and to pay attention to self care. We are not necessarily told how. I used to travel a lot, and I remember the flight attendant reminding us all to put our oxygen mask on first, so that we could then be able to assist others.

My niece is a flight attendant, and she offered me this part of her spiritual practice, which I adopted right away. At the start of every day, just after getting dressed, she sits for five minutes and considers how she will put her mask on that day. In other words, what one thing will she do today that will make her more able to help others by taking care of herself. She calls it “checking her oxygen mask.”

There is a lot of stress in our lives these days. What is the state of your oxygen mask?