Getting overloaded?

Getting overloaded?

I wonder what you think when you see the word ‘stress’.  Does it make you tense up?  Do you feel you have already experienced all you need to know about stress?  Does it make you want to stop reading straight away?  If so, you’re probably suffering from too much stress.

Stress is something with which we are all familiar.  It’s part of the territory for missions workers.  We expect to have it.  But we don’t always realise the long-term impact of it in our lives, or know how to unload it.  So I am going to publish a series of articles about stress on this website: what it is, how to recognise it, how to deal with it, where to get help, and what happens if you don’t get help.

Much has been written about stress, and we don’t claim to be the experts.  There are many other websites where you can find experienced counsellors or detailed descriptions of the psychological impact of stress.  Most of the missionaries I meet suffer from some level of stress, often resulting from  over-work, the strain of living in an alien culture, or working in cross-cultural teams that often cause more problems than they bring solutions.  Many of them are ill as a result of stress.  It concerns me, because mismanaged stress can lead to burnout, which is a major cause of dysfunction and attrition in missions workers.

I’m sure we’ve all seen a small vehicle that’s overloaded with too many passengers.  35 people balanced precariously on the back of a Hilux.  Or far too much luggage.  You think it’s going to be fine, and perhaps it is at first, but it puts an unseen strain on all sorts of hidden but essential parts like tyres, brakes and suspension.  So it can easily overheat, or struggle to go uphill, or even worse, it will fail to take a corner and end up having a bad accident.

Stress is just like that.  We think we can cope, but underneath, it’s taking its toll on our heart, blood-pressure and brain.  All it takes is one extra demanding event and there’s a breakdown.  So if you’re thinking you’ll be fine, you’re nearly there and nothing’s gone wrong yet, stop right now and throw off a couple of passengers.  Get rid of one or two burdens.  Lighten the load.  It’s better to leave one or two by the side of the road than to have the whole lot crash.  You can always come back and pick them up later if necessary.

It’s important that we talk about this issue.  It’s a personal issue, so I’m not asking for comments on the website, except of a generic nature, but anyone who’d like to discuss their stress is welcome to email me confidentially on tim@syzygy.org.uk.  Alternatively, talk to a friend, a pastor, a colleague.  Talking to someone is the first step in resolving the problem, so do it today.