It sounds nice, but trying to manage stress is kind of like trying to find the end of the rainbow- it’s ever elusive. I mean, how DO you manage stress?
A quick Google search will render plenty of how-to articles with 5, 7, or 10 “simple steps” to manage stress in your life, but let’s get real. These steps are not so simple – exercise, healthy diet, a good night’s sleep. Please. These steps may sound simple, but to actually do them requires a life change. A life change usually requires a thought change and if you’re concerned about managing stress in your life, chances are you don’t have a whole lot of time to focus on changing the way you think. You’ve got a lot to do in a short amount of time and probably the self-care things have fallen by the wayside (and the waist side – see what I did there?). I hear you. I feel you.
It can be difficult to make the time to take care of yourself, especially if you are in ministry. It’s so much easier to neglect yourself and help others. You are a caretaker. You see a need and you meet it. You just do not ever take the time to look in the mirror and see your own needs staring back at you. You felt the call to go and make disciples, to feed and care for God’s flock, and you jumped right in. How could you not? When God calls, He calls, and His calling is good! It is very good and very important to do God’s work in expanding His kingdom. I totally get it, and I’m not the only one who does. A lot of people are in the same boat. You are not alone! (You never are.)
So, remember just a bit ago when I said that a life change requires a thought change, which requires time and attention? Well, change oftentimes also requires a great deal of talk before do. SO maybe you’re not ready to do. Maybe you’ve been talking a lot about changing things up to better manage stress levels in your life or maybe you’ve just started talking about it. Maybe you haven’t even considered this kind of change to start talking about it. Wherever you are in your process, let’s talk because a little more talk will get us that much closer to doing.
Why do you need a change in your life? Well, we’re talking about making a life change to be able to better manage stress. So why is stress management important? If you do not take time to manage the stress in your life, it can and will start breaking down your immune system, and it can definitely shorten your life, not to mention lessen the quality of it. How many of you have heard the saying “I’ll sleep when I’m dead”? Well, if you’re not getting enough sleep now, you’re gonna end up dead a lot sooner! That whole saying implies that you can be more productive without sleep and rest. Guess what? It’s wrong, wrong, wrong! So just stop thinking that way. Stop it. It’s way wrong. Don’t believe me? Then I challenge you to prove me wrong. I warn you, I’m trained in empirical research, so your argument better have accurate data to back it up.
Okay, so back to our talk. What do you think God thinks of taking care of yourself and resting?
Why do you think he created the Sabbath day of rest? God rested, so why aren’t you? The command to take a Sabbath and keep it holy is for EVERYONE. Maybe as a minister, your Sabbath can’t be on Sunday. Big deal. Pick a different day, and keep it holy, keep it sacred. Why? Because God said so, and He said so for a reason. He knows what is best for you.
If you are better rested, healthier, and happier, you are going to be able to help and take care of others better anyway. It’s true, I promise. So maybe we need to talk more about this and keep talking for a bit, or maybe you are ready for change. If so, then throw away the guilt and myths about rest. We all need to manage stress in our lives and it will look different for you than it will look for me. Maybe exercise is really hard for you; maybe trying to change your diet at this present moment is more stress than stress relief. Maybe you feel that you have to be all in or nothing at all. (You don’t, by the way! Every little bit helps, start small. Start with a 10 minute walk, add some veggies at lunch, go to bed 10 minutes earlier.)
What are some ways you can blow off some steam and decrease stress? What are some activities that help you rest? If you have a hard time answering that, maybe it’s time to find out.
Alexie Gonzalez is a Licensed Professional Counseling Candidate in the state of Oklahoma. She also enjoys being a wife, playing with her puppy, and hosting parties as a jewelry lady with lia sophia Jewelry Company.