I have been a pastor since 1996. During this time I have felt the negative effects of stress many times in my life. One of those times was very serious for me.
It was 4 days before Christmas of 2001, Lauren was due to give birth to our second daughter any day. I was madly preparing for a wedding that was taking place the next day. I also was preparing for the two services that I was leading on Sunday. Needless to say, I was stressed!
I hadn’t felt well all week but then it escalated to having incredible pain in my chest and arm. To make a long story short, I ended up in the hospital for 4 days because I had virus attack my heart.
My immune system was weakened because of the stress that I had put on my body. I was discharged on Christmas Day (Merry Christmas!) and our daughter was born 4 days later. As a result of this incident I was off work for a month and then I could only go back part time for several months.
I wish I could say that I learned my lesson about killing my stress from that experience but I didn’t. In May of 2007, I ended up on a 2.5 month medical leave as a result of stress and other issues.
Then in 2009, I was diagosed with Type 2 Diabetes. Because of this I have to be even more aware of my stress levels. I have to admit that it is a daily struggle for me. There are still times (more times than I like) when I allow stress to get the best of me.
The truth is that stress kills many marriages, ministries and the people who lead them and if we don’t kill it, it will eventually kill us! WebMD says that 75–90 percent of all doctor’s office visits are for stress-related ailments and complaints. Deadly stress is an all-too-real reality for the typical pastor.
3 things I do to kill 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 that is 20 minutes of walking for me).
What are you doing to kill your stress?