Stress is prevalent in our world today. It is a byproduct of our age. Pick up any periodical at the public library and see if doesn’t contain an article mentioning stress.
According to Dr. Hans Selye, the “father” of stress research, stress is“the nonspecific response of the body to any demand made upon it.” This definition is contrary to the popular thinking that defines stress as an unpleasant circumstance, such as tax time or a screaming baby.
I really like how Richard Swenson in book “Margin” defines stress. He says:
“Stress is not the circumstance, it is our response to the circumstance”. pg. 44
So this means that it makes little difference if the situation we react to is positive or negative. What makes the biggest difference is how we respond to the situation. So what you may find stressful may not be the same as what I find stressful.
Now, this does not diminish the negative effects of stress. It just helps us understand stress a bit better.
Excessive stress does have a negative effect on our lives. I have experienced the negative effects of stress many times in my life.
Stress has caused sleepless nights.
Stress has caused stomach pains.
Stress has caused heightened blood pressure.
According to Swenson,
“Human performance does best, and even thrives, if we keep the amount of change and stress in our lives within an acceptable range of tolerances.” pg. 49
My tendency is to exceed my range of stress tolerance routinely and I pay for it. I have to continually work at managing my stress so that it lives within an acceptable range of tolerances.
3 ways I manage my stress:
1. Embrace my limits.
I recognize that I am not superman and I will never will be. My body has limits and I need to respect them. Pastor Wayne Cordeiro has a great principle called “The Plate.” He says that every leader has a certain-sized plate based on their skills, gifts, life season, health, etc. Not all our plates are the same size, and that is the way God designed it.
I need to trust that God made me who I am to do what I can do and leave it at that. I realize that a lot of my stress comes from the fact that I have a salad plate stacked with a buffet plate’s amount of food.
2. Take enough time off each week to rest and replenish.
I went through most of my life as a pastor taking only 1 day off a week (and even that was a rarity). God did not design my body to work 7 days a week! It needs a day to recharge, refresh, replenish and relax. I also make it a priority to be home more nights than I am out. My family needs me at home. I need to be at home.
3. Regular exercise.
I find exercise to be a great stress killer. It does so many positive things to my body. It helps me relax. It helps bring my blood pressure down. It helps me focus and concentrate. My goal is to exercise 3 to 5 times a week (usually this means going for a 20 minute walk).
How do you manage your stress levels?
I am continuing on in my book club discussions of Richard Swenson’s book “Margin.” This week I read Chapter 4: The Pain of Stress. Whether you’ve read the chapter or not, please share your thoughts!