Stress, Desserts and Success

Did you know that stressed spelt backwards reads “desserts? Theres nothing quite like a massive slice of chocolate cake to alleviate stress, albeit for a short time.

Stress is one of those things we all struggle with. I remember some form of stress at every stage of my life. When I was a student, I stressed about good grades or at least passing. Then I stressed about finding a life partner; when I found my life partner, I stressed about the wedding; after that I stressed about being a good wife and a good worker; and then the ultimate stressor I had kids!

Of all the stresses that I have experienced in my life, I think being a parent is the hardest. Nothing quite prepared me for the stress I felt as a first-time parent. Not sure if I was doing the right thing, not knowing what to do and to top it all off, struggling to make right decisions in the stupor of exhaustion. As time went on, I learnt to cope, but now I find myself starting to pick up steam on the stress-train once again. You see, my son is hurtling towards the grand milestone of Primary 1.I used to be one of those people who would look at parents stressing and smirk and say, Gosh, they are so kiasu!  Its only Primary 1! Whats the big deal? Let me list the things that can stress a parent about his child facing Primary 1  will he be able to buy his own food at the canteen? Will he make good friends? Will he be bullied? How will he cope with the early morning starts? And the biggest one of them all, how will he cope with Chinese?

In Singapore, it is no secret that our education system is unbelievably stressful. In my line of work, I have seen primary school children who are afraid to go home, for fear of facing their parents with poor grades. Some children have even thought about, or attempted suicide because of the pressures they face at school and home.

In general, I think my husband and I are quite relaxed parents. My children do not attend any academic enrichment classes and it has been quite deliberate on our part. Our philosophy has always been to give our children as much of a childhood as we can.However, as a parent of a child entering Primary 1, I feel the pressure immensely. I fret about whether I have done all that I can to prepare my son for what is to come. The last thing I want is to disadvantage him right from the start. My anxiety has reached such levels that, I am ashamed to say, it has clouded my ability to be a good parent.

As parents, we all want the best for our kids. We want them to reach their potential and be successful in all their endeavours. Growing up, I never understood why my parents placed such an emphasis on my grades. I thought that it was so that they could show off to their friends what clever children they had. Now as a parent myself, I understand better what they were stressing about. As parents, we know how hard life can be, so we try our best to give our children every opportunity and to prepare them for life the best way we can. Our need for them to succeed stresses us, and in turn, we put all this pressure on our children to live up to our expectations, and when they fall short, we get disappointed, upset and even more stressed. And so the cycle of stress continues.

So what does the Bible have to say to stress-monsters like me? If you decide for God, living a life of God-worship, it follows that you dont fuss about whats on the table at mealtimes or whether the clothes in your closet are in fashion. There is far more to your life than the food you put in your stomach, more to your outer appearance than the clothes you hang on your body. Look at the birds, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God. And you count far more to Him than birds.  Matthew 6:25-28 (The Message).

I admit this is something that I struggle with on a daily basis, but I am learning. We live in a world that thrives on stress.

Matthew 6:25 says: If you decide for God, living a life of God-worship  Our role as parents is not to stress about whether our children will be well provided for, or to prepare them for their future vocations. Our role as parents is to stress the importance of making a decision to follow Christ, and to model what it means to live a life of God-worship, living carelessly in the care of God.

These are difficult things to do, and even as I write this, I know it is easier said than done. But fear not, for God knows we have trouble with this. That is why He gave us instructions on how to handle our stress in Philippians 4:6.

Dont fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of Gods wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. Its wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the centre of your life. A great example to set for our kids!

The next time you feel yourself start to stress, take a step back and pray. Im sure a slice of chocolate cake wont hurt either!

Annabel Ong is a full-time youth worker at Trinity Annual Conference Youth Ministries (Truthmin).