If you’ve ever competed in sports, you know that the pre-game nerves are good for you! The same goes for how musicians feel before a show, or a public speaker—even a pastor—before delivering a talk or a sermon. Those jitters put you into a state of preparedness. The adrenaline surge enhances your concentration, strength and productivity. It can even give you a boost of creativity. In fact, in dangerous situations, it can save a life! In other words, not all stress is bad!
Good stress, or eustress, can be used like the tension in a bowstring. Unless you stress the bow and the string, your arrow won’t fly as far to reach the mark. Eustress is a fruitful friction. It allows you to produce the results that you are aiming toward. But this tension is usually only good when it is short in duration. In between stressful times, it is important for the body and the brain to return to a state of rest and recovery.
Later in this Strength Journey, we’ll look at the physical impact of sustained stress. Persistent stress does not allow for recovery. While it’s not necessarily possible to simply switch off the source of stress—the demands of pastoring a congregation, the strain of relationships, the impact of health issues—there are ways to ease the tension. Some of these include:
- Praying, including practicing listening prayer
- Being intentional about having good boundaries
- Celebrating the Sabbath every week
- Finding sports or hobbies that help take your mind off the challenges of work
- Meeting with a counselor or a Strength Coach to process
- Taking vacations
- Practicing silence and solitude
- Running or doing exercises to get your heart rate up
- Freewriting or journaling
- Establishing routines or rhythms to give your day structure
- Spending time with friends
While it is true that some of the items require finances, most do not require any financial investment.
Answer the questions below and share insights with your spouse or a trusted friend.
- Look at the list above. How many of the stress-relieving practices do you currently practice? Which ones would you like to lean into?
- One of the most common complaints from pastors is that they do not have good friends. Do you have a good friend or two? Folks who make you laugh? Folks with whom you can be transparent? If not, what stands in the way? And how can you get around that barrier?
- How about boundaries? Is this an area in which you can grow? (If you’ve not yet done so, you may want to read or listen to a reading of “Boundaries” by Cloud and Townsend.)