The online Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the word stress as: a) a state of mental tension and worry caused by problems in your life, work, etc.; b) something that causes strong feelings of worry or anxiety; c) physical force or pressure. The word sanctuary is defined as: a) a place where someone or something is protected or given shelter; b) the protection that is provided by a safe place; c) the room inside a church, synagogue, etc., where religious services are held.
These days, we live in times of extreme stress, much of which is self-manufactured. We fret about what kind of car we ought to buy, which movie to attend, or even where we ought to be playing golf. We worry about our 401Ks or our IRAs. Is our nest egg large enough to sustain us in our old age? Is our diet sufficient to maintain our ideal weight? What is an ideal weight? Do we get enough exercise to support our cardiovascular system? (My guess is that our parents didn’t even know for sure what that was.) Then, there are the weighty issues of war, world hunger, achieving world peace, climate change, and overpopulation. The list is endless, as is the stress derived from worrying about it all.
All of these “concerns” bring a level of stress with them. Add them all up, and it’s easy to see why a majority of people need a sleep aid, or an afternoon cocktail, or some artificial “support substance” to cope with it. Currently, we are in the throes of a Presidential election cycle. Regardless of which side you are on, if you care a wit about the outcome, your days and nights are overflowing with stress. We feel like screaming, “Sanctuary, sanctuary, sanctuary!”
So, where do we find sanctuary? There are many places. Some sanctuaries are ethereal, places in our mind that we go to for escape. Lots of people utilize meditation, willing themselves to be rid of all stress. Then, there’s music, yoga, a good book, or a movie for escape. Other sanctuaries are physical places like gardens, parks, churches, or, as is my preference, bodies of water. Earlier this week, I sought and found sanctuary in the calming waters of a local trout stream. A good friend drove down from Virginia to join me, and we forgot all about stress for two whole days. The fishing was fantastic (we caught and released 30 trout between us), and the comraderie enabled us to forgot about anything other than which fly we should use to catch fish.
A nap can be an excellent form of sanctuary. Taking a walk (I just returned from a three-miler) can isolate us from the rest of the world, making everything safe, if only for an hour at a time. For many of us the best sanctuary is the unconditional love provided by family that keeps us feeling secure, no matter what goes on around us.
The ultimate sanctuary, of course, rests in the arms of our Creator. That is where all stress will become obsolete. In the meantime, as long as we inhabit our physical body on this Earth, each of needs to find whatever sactuary we can. Why not start now, and beat the rush? Find out what works for you. But above all, don’t let it stress you out.