Set Boundaries To Your Work
A pastor must know when he is on duty and when he is off duty. One problem with the work of ministry is there is no starting time and quitting time. A pastor’s body never knows whether he is working or whether he is relaxing and playing. By intentionally setting boundaries to his work, a pastor is clear about when he is on duty and when he is off duty. His body, then, has a better sense of what it is supposed to do.
Resolve Conflicts Quickly
There is no emotion more stress producing than anger. Whenever a pastor is in a conflict, his body goes into accelerated fight or flight mode. His body feels threatened; it does not know what to do. A pastor must tell his body what it should do. The most obvious thing to do is to solve problems right away. If a pastor allows a conflict to stay with him into the night, it is going to disturb his sleep. This will make him less effective the next day when he tries to resolve the conflict. Festering conflicts are a major source of stress disease.
Take Care Of Unpleasant Tasks First
Some pastors are procrastinators. But procrastination does not keep them in low stress mode; it increases their level of stress. Wherever possible, try to do things on time, especially unpleasant tasks. Unpleasant tasks need to be taken care of right away. The sooner these tasks are off the body’s agenda, the sooner the body will go back into low-stress mode again.
Inoculate Yourself Against Stress
When a person is inoculated to prevent physical illness, he is given a mild dose of some disease so his body can build resistance against it. Similarly, dealing effectively with small amounts of stress can help build the body’s resistance against stress. People who are at greatest risk for stress are those who never experience any stress at all. Suddenly, they are thrust into a whirlpool of crises, and they do not have any skills for dealing with it. On the other hand, a person should not take things too seriously. Try to understand where others are coming from and do not take matters too personally. Learn to forgive other people quickly because there are spiritual, physical, and emotional benefits to offering forgiveness.
Be Firm About Setting Up Your Recovery Times
Remember, the third stage of the stress response system is the rejuvenating stage. Pastors need to build recovery time into their life after every period of stress. Failure to do so means the body never catches up; it never heals itself and gets back to its original state. It is extremely important to respect the Sabbath. Pastors need to take time for rest — a day off, a vacation — and to build into their life some personal retreat time. Pastors are giving, giving, giving all the time. They need time to receive. Without receiving, there is no renewal of either their body or mind.
Keep Your Adrenaline Arousal To A Minimum
Adrenaline is so energizing and so exciting that some pastors seek it even to the point of becoming addicted to it. Many pastors like the thrill of a challenge or the thrill of a change because it gets their adrenaline going and makes them feel good. This is dangerous. Too much adrenaline is deadly in the long run because adrenaline is the high-octane gasoline of the body. Our bodies are designed more for camel travel in the sense that they must go the distance, not just finish the high-speed race. Learn to enjoy a little bit of boredom in life now and then. Take time for leisure and recreation because these, in the long run, will help prevent stress from killing you.
Maintain Open And Healthy Relationships
People need one another, but they also need to live in harmony with one another. This is important to a person’s spiritual, physical, and emotional well-being. People who live in conflicted environments — in families that are always fighting or in churches that have conflict — are under more stress. A pastor needs to make sure the people around him love him and care for him, and can be relied on in moments of crisis.
Sleep Better And Probably Sleep Longer
Sleep is probably God’s most important provision for a pastor’s rejuvenation from a stressful day. God designed sleep to be a daily part of our lives. Perhaps God knew one day’s worth of stress was about all a person can handle. The problem is that our western culture has taught people not to respect sleep. Many feel guilty if they sleep too much and force themselves out of bed to keep going, often to their own detriment.
Archibald Hart, Arcadia, California.