Walking in the fire, continued


Part One closed with this scripture: Philippians 4:8 "Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things."

You may not realize it but this is a major part of dealing with stress and burnout.

I gave you a list of symptoms to look for. Could you see yourself in that list? Perhaps over the holidays you have been more aware of the pressures put on you by others. Many people experience chronic depression during the holidays because of the additional expectations of others. So let's get to the how to fix it.

Now being a cowboy church pastor, I see things from a cowboy point of view. You may have to find something more directly related to your lifestyle, but my wife taught me this expression as a way to check stress causes in our life.

1. It Ain't My Bull!

2. It Ain't My Rodeo.

The first has to do with our actions. Are we causing the stress? If so, "It is our bull" and we can do something about it. Or do we have direct control or responsibility for the circumstances? If so, "It is our rodeo," and we can do something about it. If not, then you have to ask yourself what you can do to eliminate or minimize your exposure to that stress.

So what can you do about the stress that is such a heavy burden to you? How can you keep from getting utterly and completely burned out? You have to start managing your stress. This is done in two ways.

First, you have to find ways to avoid the stress in the first place.

Second, you have to find ways to undo the effects of stress you have already suffered. It just like balancing a checkbook. Quit writing checks and start making deposits into your compassion satisfaction account. If you are like most people you have been making dollar withdrawals and making nickel deposits.

The reason that scripture (Phil 4:8) is so important is because studies have shown that people dwell on the negative four times as much as they do on the positive. If one bad thing happens it will cause four times the stress than one good thing can compensate for. Your account has an exchange rate of 4 to 1. Therefore, meditating on the good things is important.

Self-care is the key to balancing the account. Here are some things that can help get things turned around:

  • Quit overdoing it
  • Quiet time / prayer
  • Time off / vacation
  • Boundaries
  • A hobby that refills you
  • Personal development
  • Get out of the office
  • Exercise
  • Eat right
  • Schedule family time

When you look at the list you probably think, "I don't have time for that." The truth is that the reason you don't is because you have taken on more than you can do. But these things are not optional if you want to be healthy and happy. You feel that it would be selfish to do these things. Exactly. And it isn't a bad thing to take care of yourself. Why would you give yourself less care than you give others? Being a servant doesn't require you to use yourself up. Taking care of yourself allows you to serve longer.

Finally you should know that self-care is for life. You can't do it for a while, then go back to your old ways. If you get all the way to burnout it may take years to recover and may totally change your life. If you practice these self-care tips and still feel overwhelmed, seek professional help. You owe it to yourself, to your family and your ministry.

Frank Locke is a certified Compassion Fatigue Educator and former Cowboy Church pastor.
Related articles: How Much Battery Do You Have? / Walking in the fire / Predicting the positive impact of ones faith