Today I want to talk with you about STRESS. I don’t know everything there is to know about stress but I do know 3 things:
1) There is no such thing as a stress-free life.
Jesus never promised us a stress-free life. In fact he promised just the opposite. In John 16:33, Jesus tells us, “In this world you will have trouble.” There really is only one thing you can count on in life and that is stress. (Death and taxes being two of the biggest offenders.) That’s the bad news.
The good news is found in Jesus’ promise: “I’ve told you these things, so that in me you may have peace… But take heart, I have overcome the world.”
Each of us have dealt with our own fair share of stress this year and unfortunately, as long as we draw breath on this planet, we will continue deal with stress. Jesus says that peace isn’t found when all of the stresses of life are gone. He tells us that we can have peace in Him even IN THE MIDST of the stress. The old saying is true: Know Jesus. Know Peace.
2) Even on its best day, leadership is full of stress. We can all swap stories from our most stressful days in leadership. Some days I look back on and think, “There was no classroom, book, or conversation that could have prepared me for having to deal with that particular issue.” (Ask me about the truck left in our parking lot overnight and the portrait of his beloved painted on the tailgate.) Tony Morgan’s book on leadership called, “Killing Cockroaches,” is the perfect picture of what it is like to deal with all the negative stresses in our lives and ministries. Headaches and pressure points arise from out of nowhere and we have to deal with them as fast as they come at us whether we want to or not. It’s just how it is.
There are the bad days of stress, but there are also the good days. Even on the good days, we experience stress. It is stressful to check in with our people. It can be taxing to lead and serve those whom we love and care for. People and their issues can be frustrating at every stage of life – babies, kids, teens, adults, and retirees. However, we get to share in their lives and help guide them from where they currently are to where God wants them be. We get to work side-by-side with them to build the Kingdom. It is rarely easy, but there are times when the stress pays off.
3) You’re never going to get it all done. You’re never going to get it all done. (I know I typed that twice.) One of the greatest sources of stress is our never-ending to-do list.
In Leadership: There is always going to be another problem. There is always going to be another budget issue. There is always going to be another meeting. There is always going to be another email to write. As long as you are in leaders, there is always going to be something else to do.
In Ministry: There is always going to be somebody else to reach for Christ. There is always going to be somebody else to disciple. There is always going to be another pastoral care visit. As long as you are in ministry, there is always going to be something to do.
In Life: There is always going to be another project to complete. There is always going to be a parenting issue to handle. There will always be relationships that need nurturing, repairing, or reviving. There is always going to be mistakes made. There is always going to be times when grace must be administered wether we have the strength or not. As long as you are alive, there is always going to be something to do.
Four Things You Can Do to Help You Manage Stress Today
The question you should be asking is not, “How can I eliminate stress from my life?” Instead, ask yourself, “How should I manage stress in my life?” You will never be able to eliminate stress but, you can minimize the consequences of stress in your life by engaging in some Stress Management Best Practices. Try these four on for size:
Be Still. Take a few minutes and simply be still. Put your phone on Do Not Disturb, close your door, and just sit, breathe, and simply be present. It will be ok. The world will not stop spinning. They will call back… they always do. I use an app called Headspace to help me meditate for 10 minutes each morning before I start my day. By pausing at the very beginning of the day it helps me focus and prepare mentally, physically, and emotional for whatever may lay ahead.
Pray. I can’t think of someone in scripture who had to deal with the stresses of leadership, ministry, and life more than David. Whether he was facing down literal giants like Goliath or the giant sin in his own heart; dodging spears from King Solomon or enemies on a battle field; herding sheep or wrestling bears David turned to God in prayer. No matter what you are facing today, God knows and would love for you to share your stresses with him. The book of Psalms is filled with prayers for every season and emotion. If you can’t find the right words to express what is on your heart, David has you covered.
Be Thankful. Paul tells us in Eph 5:15-20, “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit,speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” We live is very stressful times but there is a simple antidote for feeling overwhelmed, anxious, and stressed out: Thankfulness. Instead of listening to Nirvana or Jason Aldean or Joey Jo-Jo Junior Shabadoo and the Morning Sports Crew on your way to work, turn off the radio and turn up the praise in your own heart. Simply begin each morning by listing at least 3 things you are grateful for. Keep a running list in your cleared or reminder app and refer back to it during the day when you are tempted to let stress steal your focus.
Rest. I’m giving you permission to rest. Don’t burn the candle at both ends. Rest is an important component to your health and your long-term ability to lead. I don’t get sick very often but, when I do, there is usually a direct correlation to the fact that I have not been sleeping as much as I should have. We all have seasons where we don’t get enough rest but when those seasons turn into eras, you are flirting with disaster. Go to bed 10 minutes earlier tonight. Put down your iDevice or turn off the tv. Use one of your vacation days to push pause. None of us would violate the 10 Commandments by murdering someone or building a golden calf to worship on the weekends. However, most of us have gotten way to comfortable violating the Sabbath and forgoing the rest that God has commanded for our lives. If your life has gotten out of rhythm, my bet is that you’ve for to long without getting enough rest.
Bonus: Want to find some rest “outside the box?” Studies have shown that taking a 15-20min “power nap” can have amazing results on your productivity, outlook, and overall health. Leadership guru, Michael Hyatt, has written a few compelling articles on the WHY behind taking a few minutes to rest in your day and HOW you can begin taking advantage of this powerful tool. Check out his article, 5 Reasons You Should Take a Nap Everyday or listen to his podcast on The Secret Power of Naps.
What do you do to help manage the stress in your life? Leave your favorite Stress Management Best Practices in the comments and share what you do to manage the stress in leadership, ministry, and life.