In my last couple of columns I’ve been discussing Reorganize, the fifth level of defense against stress in my Five R’s of Coping (Rethink, Reduce, Relax, Release, Reorganize) Model©. As I discussed, Reorganize is a lifestyle-based based approach to conquering your stress that makes you more hardy and stress-resistant.
In my last column I discussed reorganizing your social well-being. In this column I’ll talk about how to reorganize your spiritual well-being and continue your quest to become more stress-resistant by building a healthier lifestyle.
Reorganizing Your Spiritual Well-being
The key element in defining spirituality is a sense of interconnectedness with something beyond yourself. Spirituality can be religious or secular, or both. If your spirituality is religious in nature the interconnectedness you feel is with a source of divine power or God. If your spirituality is secular in nature the interconnectedness your have is with other living things, nature, the universe, etc. It is not unusual for you to have both, a belief in a divine power and a sense of interconnectedness with other living things, nature etc.
Although spirituality is an inner sense of connectedness, reorganizing your spiritual wellbeing takes action. Reorganizing and strengthening your well-being is a direct result of your behavior, not just your thinking. It takes both commitment and action to move from just thinking about reorganizing to actually making changes.
If you are religious, your religion connects you to a faith community through your church, temple, mosque, or other place of worship. This is the hub of your spirituality and the base for your spiritual activities. It is a place of worship, a meeting place, a community center. Often churches, temples, mosques, and other places of worship serve as the base for a variety of community services. Many of these religious sanctuaries serve as distribution centers for food and clothing for the needy, meeting sites for help groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous, and refuges for the less fortunate until they can get back on their feet. All of these services provide entry points for you to make a commitment and take action.
If you are not religious and are looking for ways to start reorganizing your spirituality, you can follow the same guidelines given for religious people. Start with something you enjoy and are passionate about and go on from there. If you love to hike, join a group such as the Appalachian Mountain Club or the Sierra Club and volunteer to help maintain trails in national parks and forests. If you love children, become a Big Brother or Big Sister or a mentor through your local United Way. There are countless ways to connect with something beyond yourself by volunteering to serve others. Remember, to develop your spiritual dimension fully, you need to commit to serving some good greater than our own needs and then follow through by taking action.
Spirituality Exercise: Get Connected
Purpose: If you are looking for a way to enhance your spiritual well-being you can experience a deep sense of connectedness by volunteering with a religious or secular organization that provides opportunities to serve others, protect the environment, or care for animals. The following exercise, Get Connected to Something, is designed to provide a framework for acting on your spirituality.
1. Read the following five suggestions for getting connected to something or someone other than yourself:
Volunteer to Work With People– there are hundreds of different organizations looking for help. Find one that you think you’d enjoy being connected to and volunteer for a few hours next week to help them.
Volunteer to Work With Animals– there are many opportunities to help animals ranging from walking your elderly neighbor’s dog to spending time at the local animal shelter. Contact your local animal shelter (located in your telephone book) and volunteer for a few hours next week to help them.
Join a Religious Group – if you are a religious person take a more active part in your congregation. Join one of the groups affiliated with your church or temple and volunteer for a few hours next week to help them.
Join an Environmental Group– whether your spirituality is religious or secular, working with other people to help promote a cleaner, safer environment will get you connected to the natural world at a deeper level. Contact your local chapter of a national environmental group such as the Audubon Society, Sierra Club, or Appalachian Mountain Club, etc. and volunteer for a few hours next week to help them.
Join an Online Group– the internet has opened up countless portals for connecting with spiritual seekers from across the globe. Most formal religious and environmental organizations have online groups. Use an online search engine (such as Google, Yahoo, etc.) to find one and volunteer for a few hours next week to help them.
2. Keep a journal of your group activities for the next few weeks.
3. After three or four weeks spend some time reflecting on how volunteering with this group has influenced your sense of spirituality.
If you don’t feel comfortable with the group or organization that you volunteered with don’t let it become a source of stress. You will be a less effective helper if you continue to volunteer at a place that is not a good fit for you. Give your group leader sufficient notice that you are leaving and keep looking for an organization and group that you feel more comfortable with. There are countless organizations that would love your help so don’t give up.
Until the next time remember to Stress Less and Live More.
Dr. Rich Blonna is an expert in understanding how the mind and body work together in creating and managing stress. He is the author of several stress self-help books and courses and the popular college textbook, Coping With Stress in a Changing World 5th Ed; McGraw-Hill Publishing. He is a retired Professor Emeritus from William Paterson University in New Jersey. For over 25 years he has devoted himself to helping people just like you stress less and live more. www.drrichblonna.com.