Stress and “The Theology of the Body”- Spiritual Reflection
Dr. Gregory Popcak directs the Pastoral Solutions Institute, an organization dedicated to helping Catholics find faith-filled solutions to marriage, family, and personal problems. Together with his wife, Lisa, he hosts More2Life Radio and is the author of integrating psychological insights with our Catholic faith (Such as God Help Me! This Stress Is Driving Me Crazy! Finding Balance Through God’s Grace (link here) as well as God Help Me! These People Are Driving Me Nuts! Making Peace with Difficult People (link here).
In writing about handling stress in his blog, the good doctor refers to John Paul II’s “magnum opus,” The Theology of the Body. He starts by saying that a balanced life is a “receptive” life. This is classic Marion Theology. Mary’s posture is a posture of sitting – the liturgical posture for reception (For example, we sit to hear [and thus “receive”] the Word of God during Mass). Mary never entered into action until she had first “received” something. She doesn’t visit and give Elizabeth assistance until she “received” the news from the Angel Gabriel. She doesn’t give the world a savior until she first “received” the Holy Spirit. A healthy life is a receptive life, “dedicated to seeking connection with God and others” which opens us up to “receive His unfolding plan.”
Popcak also says that when we are under too much stress, we get stuck in old patterns and close ourselves to new possibilities. In contrast, receptive lives are lives that are “fired by” COAL:
O – Open
A – Accepting
L – Loving
I would also say that “C.O.A.L.” could stand for “Connections and Community; Openness to others and God in prayer and conversations; Avocations and Loving ourselves.
Connections/Community – In Theology of the Body, John Paul II (Quoting Genesis 2:18) says that it is “not good for man to be alone.” Man and woman need connections and that means community. Community is based on the loving relationship of the Holy Trinity.
Openness to God and Others – Thus “connection time” with God (i.e. prayer) as well as “connection time” with others is a key component to reducing stress.
Avocation – This would be where hobbies and personal interests come in. Popcak recommends, what he calls, “Time-In” which he defines as “regularly scheduled and anticipated times to play, talk, work, and play with loved ones
Loving Ourselves – Self-Care , (e.g. good nutrition and physical activity), and leisure (e.g. hobbies and creative endeavors).
Finally, it is also good to take a biblical approach to looking at our calendars from time to time to see if we are over-committed as well as to engage wise counsel to achieve a healthy and spiritually-based balance in our lives.