Women in Ministry: Dealing with Stress
Today’s women wear many hats. On any given day, a woman who centers her work around the family can put 100 miles on her car simply running errands and getting her kids to activities. A woman who works outside the home will attend meetings all day, drive through rush hour, and still have to make dinner, give the kids baths, and help with homework. In ministry, trying to balance work, home life, and sometimes school or another job becomes tricky. Single women are not immune to the pressures either. Even though they may not have to factor in marriage responsibilities or children, many report being asked to do more by church leadership and other members because people assume that they have the time to donate to others.
Women tend to take on a lot. In their roles as family caretakers, many find that the cooking, the cleaning, the nurturing, and the organizing falls to them. Add to that the breadwinning role and a role in ministry leadership, and the already-full plate begins to overflow. As the caretakers and multitaskers, it is hard for women to admit that they are feeling stressed, disengaged, or even depressed because of the full lives they appear to lead.
“Being able to recognize that we all have our limitations is the first step in understanding how to acknowledge and address our stress or burnout in daily life and in ministry work,” says Krista Kerin, Ministry Development Consultant at The Church Online. She adds that she is glad to see churches and women’s groups alike addressing this issue directly.
Experts tell us that understanding the stages that we might go through in the throes of our most stressful seasons in life is paramount to identifying what causes us stress. Only then can we take steps to stop those stress-inducing behaviors and patterns, and eventually, overcome the issues. We must learn to recognize our stress symptoms, stress compensation behaviors, and stress breaking points.
Many times, our stress symptoms are issues that we live with every day like headaches, stomach issues, or insomnia, which we tell ourselves are normal everyday issues. These minor problems can be our bodies telling us to slow down and decompress. When we use stress compensation behaviors, we are trying to make the best of a bad situation by scrambling to make deadlines or putting others’ needs before our own. Ultimately, when we reach our stress breaking point, we experience the depression and hopelessness that comes from fatigue and the constant sense that we are over-scheduled and not good enough. After this, we are ready to make changes, but only after we have hit our breaking point.
Start to break the pattern by first understanding your stress symptoms. Next, seek help when you find the urge to get into your stress compensation behaviors. Finally, know that, when you reach your stress breaking point, you can rebound from it and make changes in life that will help you stop the cycle of over-extending yourself in life and in ministry.