Stressed Out?

Wednesday, April 15th, 2020

For many, this time of social distancing has been a way to connect with immediate family and experience some positive changes. Others are out of work or struggling financially, and many aren’t seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. Whatever your personal situation, COVID-19 has brought a certain amount of stress to nearly everyone. This week’s timely topic that may be helpful both at home and in your role at a church or organization is stress management.

Imagine yourself on a church committee that has been put in charge of a luncheon to welcome the new pastor, and you are specifically in charge of coordinating the food preparation and serving. You feel responsible for having a great event, and you envision everything going smoothly. As it turns out, you have a larger number of people than expected from your congregation to feed, and others on your committee seem too busy to answer your calls. The day of the event arrives and you feel stressed out!

Stress is a common problem that everyone faces to some extent or another, but feeling that there’s not much that can be done about it only serves to compound the issue. Stress can arise just about anywhere in our lives, including work situations, family life, finances, and even in church settings.

The most effective way to cope with stress is to come to terms with the fact that life will never be entirely stress-free. You can, however, learn to recognize stress symptoms when they appear, and develop tools to cope with stress more effectively.

We tend to classify stress into one vague sensation that comes and goes, like the weather, and that is true to some degree. Being more aware of different types of stress can help you manage stress more effectively. Following are some different types of stress and how they manifest themselves:

Distress. This kind of stress is centered around an event or process, and brings with it negative implications, such as the stress caused by divorce proceedings, the grief of dealing with the loss of a loved one, a lawsuit, or long-term financial problems. The generic term “stress” is most typically referring to distress.

Acute stress. This is known as momentary, situational stress that puts you into “fight or flight” mode as your body prepares to protect itself. It can take up to 90 minutes for the metabolism to return to normal when the initial physiological reaction ends. Examples may include getting into a heated argument, taking a test, or losing something of great value.

Episodic acute stress. It involves repeated instances of acute stress, leading to feelings of loss of control and chaos. For example, the stress someone experiences when he or she has to speak in public.

Chronic stress. This is ongoing and ever-present stress caused by the toll of daily life. We tend to ignore or stifle this kind of stress. Examples include bills or money problems, children, work, church responsibilities, and relationships.

Self-inflicted stress. This is an often overlooked type of stress that deserves our attention as much as any other. Dynamics such as harboring unrealistic expectations of ourselves and others, procrastination, self-esteem problems, negative self-talk and perfectionism, and lack of decisiveness/assertiveness/boundaries are examples of ways in which we compound life’s already existing stresses.

This information has been excerpted from the CongregationU online course “Stress Management.” This 35-minute course can be purchased for just $12 per learner. In the month of April, CongregationU is offering a FREE course to anyone and everyone. Learn more here.