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Don't Let Stress Mess With You


Stress. Many of us live with it and deal with it.

Stress from...

our work...

raising kids...

deadlines to meet...

one-off projects...

events to pull off...

Sunday...it always returns...

a pandemic...

financial pressure...

illness...

lack of volunteers...

are jut a few of the reasons we get stressed out.

Stress can affect our health and our work.

But the good news is it possible to manage stress if we know what to do and have the right tools.

According to professor and psychologist Richard Lazarus, stress is "a condition or feeling experienced when a person perceives that demands exceed the personal and social resources the individual is able to mobilize."

In other words, we experience stress when we believe we don/t have the time, resources or knowledge to handle a situation. We experience stress when we feel "out of control."

There are two reactions we have when we face stress.

Fight or flight. This is a short-term survival response that is triggered when we see something we perceive as a threat. When this happens, our brains release stress hormones that prepare the body to either "fly" from the threat or "fight" it. It can cause us to be excitable, anxious and irritable.

General Adaptation Syndrome. This was identified by Hans Selye in 1950. Syley found that we cope with stress in 3 different phases:

1. The alarm phase, where we react to the stressors.

2. The resistance phase, where we adapt to, and cope with, the stressors. The body can't keep up resistance indefinitely, so our physical and emotional resources are gradually depleted. This can cause long-term health problems; and it can also affect the quality of our work and our productivity.

3. The exhaustion phase, where, eventually, we're "worn down" and we cannot function normally. This phase normally happens when you live under constant stress for a long period of time. The body can't keep up resistance indefinitely, so our physical and emotional resources are gradually depleted. This can cause long-term health problems; and it can also affect the quality of our work and our productivity.

I have personally experienced #3 and it almost took me out of ministry. You can read about it in this article that I wrote about the experience.

Here are some signs of this.

  • Frequent headaches.

  • Cold or sweaty hands and feet.

  • Frequent heartburn, stomach pain, or nausea.

  • Panic attacks.

  • Excessive sleeping, or insomnia.

  • Persistent difficulty concentrating.

  • Obsessive or compulsive behaviors.

  • Social withdrawal or isolation.

  • Constant fatigue.

  • Irritability and angry episodes.

  • Significant weight gain or loss.

  • Consistent feelings of being overwhelmed or overloaded.

A big source of stress can also be other people. Conflict and personality differences can cause major stress.

Another source of stress is when someone is a perfectionist. They struggle to let go of tasks unless everything is perfect.

Here are some tips to help you deal with stress.

  • Write down what is causing you stress.

  • Write down why this causes you stress.

  • List the stresses in the order of their impact on you. We talk about how to do this in our coaching program for children's ministry leaders. You can get more info. here about this program that has helped dozens of children's ministry leaders find balance in their ministry.

  • Make sure you are managing your time well.

  • Use time management tools such as a "to-do-list" and "work priorities."

  • Only check email at set times.

  • Get your rest.

  • Learn to relax more.

  • Commit to exercise. This is a great way to help deplete stress.

  • Watch your thinking. Shift from your default being negativity to it being positive.

  • Build a support network of friends and family.

  • Learn how to deal with change.

Are you stressed out today? Take these steps and don't let stress mess with you.

Remember ministry is a marathon not a sprint. If you want to go the distance, you have to pace yourself and learn to deal with stress.

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