A Bender Byte MomentBy Ron Bender © 2012
Many people I talk to think stress is bad. That isn’t necessarily so. Stress is an inevitable part of living. In fact, I’ve found that people who from time to time are not experiencing and growing through some stress – challenges, struggles, conflicts, pain – probably aren’t living a very active or full life. They’re not experiencing enough stress. They may even be depressed.
Maintaining an Optimal Stress Load
We all need what could be called “optimal stress.” What is optimal stress? you ask. It means that your stress level is within a moderate range, not too high and not too low. You’re not racing around anxiously and you’re not out of gas and depressed either. Nor are you depressed and anxious, spinning your wheels in futility and frustration. Instead you’re energized and focused as you move down the road of life.
We need to be alert to accomplish what God has for us. And we need to “take courage” as we dare to dream, make sacrifices, work hard, resolve conflicts, overcome obstacles, recover from hurts, and bounce back from disappointments. Stresses like these are the price of success. And they are the fires that forge good relationships and challenge us to become better people.
We all best function best when we are under moderate stress levels. Optimal stress can help to activate our concentration and energy. It challenges us in ways that require that from deep within ourselves we take a hold of the hand of God in order to move forward. And as we venture on God into the challenge, following his lead and relying on his help, then his grace meets us and help us to perform better in life and in our leadership of others.
How I Got Overloaded
Achieving a balanced stress level can be difficult. If you’re like me your tendency isn’t too little stress – it’s too much stress! Most of us go through seasons in our lives in which we’re overloaded with too much, often too much of a good thing.
Sometimes ministry can be one of those stressful times for me. Times of emotional involvement and frustration. Wave after wave of stress crash on top of me and threaten to knock me down. My involvement working with ex-offenders was one of those times. During my involvement with Transition to Community my wife and I managed a house with 5 to 8 men. We helped them with adjustments, monitor their coming and going, and various activities (all on schedule!). These are all good things, but sometimes they can be too much – especially if an unexpected crisis hits!
During our service there many stories and gossips were spread about me that eroded our capability and effectiveness. It was a very sad time for our ministry. Than another wave hit us very hard. I staff member deceived many by lying and incriminated me with false reports. Not being able to clear myself I was asked to leave. This was indeed a crisis in our lives. My wife and I were overwhelmed by this crisis.
It wasn’t until much soul searching, angry prayers, Mentor help, that working though this stressful season I can see some light for the future. It took a few months, but I recovered and got back in balance.
Are You on Stress Overload?
You’ve surely had your own stressful seasons from time to time and experienced the negative effects of that stress. Maybe you’re going through that now.
Research suggests that those who are over stressed for six months or longer are liable to experience a negative consequence to their physical or emotional health. Problems like sickness, headaches, ulcers, digestive problems, insomnia, family conflict, panic attacks, compulsive behavior, drug addiction, eating disorders, and even some severe medical illnesses like heart disease and cancer can be partially caused by chronic stress.
Pastors, leaders, and others who are responsible to lead or care for others are especially prone to stress overload. They tend to do too much. There are so many people with needs and so many good things that can be done. How do you say no to doing more of God’s work? To helping more people?
Take my Stress Overload survey and see how well you’re coping.
Learning to R-E-L-A-X
If you’ve been overloaded with stress for too long then you need to take steps to lower your stress. Doing so will help you function at a higher level in your work and in your relationships. It’ll also help your health and well-being.
How can you reduce your stress level and achieve that balance I call optimal stress? The key is to make some important lifestyle changes – one at a time, starting today. You need to learn to relax, to “make every effort to enter God’s rest” (Hebrews 4:11).
Jesus shows us how to face stress in God’s strength. No one had more pressure and responsibility than Jesus and yet he was relaxed. Jesus offers us his “easy yoke” (Matthew 11:28-30).
Here’s some ways to help you R-E-L-A-X in Jesus’ easy yoke to help you go from stress overload to optimal stress:
R est regularly
At first you may be bored and fidgety, but stay with it and learn to use times of rest to recuperate and re-energize yourself. For instance, try to get a full eight hours of sleep at night, put margin in your schedule by planning to arrive early for appointments, pause during a busy day to take a deep breath, take vacation time. We need to learn to rest in God’s care by keeping a Sabbath.
E njoy yourself
Have fun with your friends. Visit places of beauty. Make time for your hobbies. Exercise regularly. Laugh! “The joy of the Lord is your strength!” (Nehemiah 8:10).
L earn to say no
Don’t try to do it all – do what you can, what God puts on your heart to do. Don’t try to do things perfectly – do the best you can let that be “good enough.”
I have struggled with the problem of doing too much. One thing that helped me was looking closely at Jesus’ life in the Gospels and observing how he accepted his limitations, set boundaries, and replenished himself regularly.
Read how Jesus Set Boundaries in His Helping and learn from him.
A ccept yourself
You’re not perfect, but you’re loved by God and others. So practice receiving care, asking for help, believing compliments, and saying thank you. God’s grace is for perfectionists too!
X -ray and X-press yourself
Follow the example of the Psalmist. Talk to God and safe friends about your feelings regularly. This is the biblical prescription for anxiety. Praying the Psalms teaches us to do this.
Growing in God’s Peace
It is possible to be under stress and not to be overloaded, not to be suffering from anxiety. Even under stress we can be at peace with God’s help.
The Apostle Paul was under tremendous stress in his ministry, but he did become overwhelmed. He said, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9).
Paul was a great psychologist and he taught us to deal with the stresses of life in the way that he had learned:
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7).
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RonRonald Bender- President/CEO Bender Consulting.~http://www.benderbytes.net/bender_consult
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