"I want this yesterday!" We've all heard the nearly impossible demand with a nearly impossible time frame from the boss. Coping with the stress of deadlines - especially when they come as surprises - is a big workplace issue, and there are dozens of self-help articles on this topic in bookstores, magazines, and on the Internet.
Many discuss the values of cultivating a quiet calm, and some advise meditation. I have found over the past couple of decades a further step that is consistently effective, and that's prayer.
The prayer that heals stress doesn't have to take a lot of time. It can be a quick turning to the ruler of the universe, whom we call God. As I have recognized that God, infinite Mind, outlines, arranges, and coordinates all ideas, I have been able to act out that divinely mental activity, which has enhanced my work in practical ways without becoming frantic.
That kind of prayer acknowledges that God is all-power, right now and right here. It doesn't have to be done only in church or through an intermediary. As a matter of fact, it can even be done in a meeting, while walking down a hallway, or just at one's desk. But it does require a distancing from the flutter and excitement caused by the demand. The flutter gets in the way, and prayer that affirms God's all-presence - and the consequent absence of anything un- Godlike - brings calm.
I love the promise found in the Bible, "Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth" (Ps. 46:10). That stillness, that awareness of God's existence and that He is inevitably exalted, or expressed, in earth, erases the stress.
Another biblical promise tells me that after I have calmed down, I will in fact know what to do. The prophet Isaiah wrote, "Thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way" (Isa. 30:21).
So I have learned to trust my intuition in this two-step process. For me, it has resulted in quickly producing a speech or a research report, or helping my son organize a last-minute project for school that he had somehow forgotten about.
Not long ago a friend asked for help. He had worked very hard on a complicated task and had found out at 4 p.m. on a Friday not only that the original instructions had been unclear but also that he needed to produce a very different product by the close of business that day. The topic was not in his field of experience, either, but he was expected to produce a policy statement that was exact and comprehensive. He was stressed out, and he asked me to pray for him.
I prayed along the lines that I've described. I was able to see clearly that my friend was not separated from God, that his identity included nothing but God's qualities of integrity and intelligence. I knew that God, Love, doesn't send us off on our own with a limited amount of energy, or smarts that eventually run down. God is telling all of us, including me and my friend, "This is the way."
It couldn't have been more than 30 minutes later when he called back. First of all, the deadline had been extended to the next business day. In his field, that is something that occurs about as often as the sun rising in the west. Second, my friend told me that he had quickly located a source of information that allowed him to do the job perfectly. The assignment was accomplished with speed - and without stress.
Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of this newspaper, once wrote, "Never ask for to-morrow: it is enough that divine Love is an ever-present help; and if you wait, never doubting, you will have all you need every moment.... This sweet assurance is the 'Peace, be still' to all human fears, to suffering of every sort" ("Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896," page 307).
Knowing that God exists and that God tells me, "This is the way," takes me beyond mere stress management to stress eradication. And it gets the job done with joy.
He maketh the storm a calm,
so that the waves thereof are still.