Friday, August 18, 2006

Stress Management in Family Life

Do you ever feel stressed in your home? How about when you are traveling? I have. For fifteen days, I was traveling in China with my husband, our son and other members from my in-law’s family. Imagine ten people, age 15 to 84, going from place to place. The longest stay at one hotel was two nights! What are some of the stressors and how did our extended family survive? Here is a glimpse of our journey to the past and adventure into the future.

It all started the end of May, when my husband and I were told that six family members were visiting China with grandma. Although July and August would be the worst time there (due to severe heat and humidity), it was the only time available with everyone's work and school schedule. Would we like to go?

I was surprised at how fast my husband moved. Within an hour or so, he talked with his co-workers and our son. I was annoyed that we had to take a long trip on such short notice. How about our ministries? my clients? My blogs? And the July Newsletter? Okay, I could also see this as an once-in-a-lifetime chance with grandma being 84 years of age. Our son was skeptical initially, but he also wanted to visit his family's past with grandma, uncle, aunts, cousins and us.

My brother-in-law was making the travel arrangements through an agency. He was doing a great job when grandma threw in monkey wretches. We had to stay with her friends and relatives when we were there. She was adamant about making arrangements for those places she knew so well. She got upset when her children asked, "Do they have such a big house? Do they have air conditioning?" Imagine our concern knowing that she left almost 60 years ago and her last few times there were with grandpa before he died in 2000. We rolled our eyes when she said her friends would pick us up in Guang Zhou and purchase train tickets for us to Guang Xi.

With more friends and families of grandma getting involved, changes were made almost everyday. Good thing my husband's brother was the primary interface. One of her friends urged us to visit Zhongdian (Shangrila - Lost Horizon) at 3200 meters because we were in Yun Nan anyway. As soon as our travel agent arranged more stops, we learned about the risk of "Acute Mountain Sickness" at such high altitude. That got grandma worried since one of her friends actually died while visiting the snow mountain. When she decided to return to the States with her daughter and granddaughter, only her two sons and their families would go beyond Guilin.

It was at that time that I questioned our earlier decision again. When my husband wanted to keep his commitment, I got upset and angry. Couldn't he imagine my stress even before our departure? My head knew that it would be a meaningful trip but my heart was anxious about so many unknowns. Thanks for EQ to the rescue, my husband finally listened and understood my feelings. He encouraged me to look into AMS. I called my brother-in-law to express my concerns, "Hey, are you really going to Shangrila? With or without us?" "Our family is definitely going. Ge Ge and you don't have to go if you don't want to." Given a choice, I wanted to go. He exclaimed, "It would be fun! The three boys would have a great time together." Yeah. I can see our son (age 23) having a good time with his sons (age 15 and 17).

That is how ten of us journeyed to the past but only seven of us visited the future. Seeing a lot of his relatives triggered childhood memory of Hong Kong and the complication of being in a big extended family. I was not too happy, especially in the summer heat and humidity. Personally, I had a better time visited Guilin, Kuming, Dali, Lijiang, and Shangrila. The sceneries were beautiful. On the evening of August 6th, we arrived SFO but our four bags were missing in transition. You can read about the saga of lost and found in my blog at – I will be updating the blogs in the next few weeks with more pictures and stories.

Have you ever feel stressed? No doubt stress is normal, natural and unavoidable in life. We all have stress at school, at work, at church, and at home! Away from our daily routines, summer family trip could bring out the worst in us. On this trip to China, we had great times and many unexpected (even stressful) events. In the end, God delivered us with love, joy, and peace of mind through many closed calls (of missing plane, train rides, contact lens), injuries, sicknesses, and even some material losses.

After visiting the old homes and ancestors' graves, we gave a banquet of 17 tables. I was proud of mom for sharing her faith. Late that night, my sister-in-law made this observation: "Baba and mama were very brave when they left their families, big houses, and those acres of land." I agreed 100%. "Yes. They are very courageous. Imagine being at age 50 with four kids and moving to the U.S. Their decisions and sacrifices really make a big difference in the lives of their children and grandchildren!" When we have more time, I would tell her the story of Abraham as well as the following quote from the Bible:

Now listen, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money." Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, "If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that." (James 4:13-15)

I am grateful for this opportunity to visit China with our family! We often say, "So and so (a person) or such and such (an event) or this and that (situation) is stressing me out." In reality, we may be stressing ourselves out with our own thoughts, feelings, and reactions to people, event and circumstances. We cannot change the past and we cannot control our future. All we can do is to live in the present at this moment. Peace of mind only comes when we understand life as a journey, an adventure, and a growth process. Stress management is a choice!

Copyright © 2006 Winnis Chiang, Parenting ABC


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