Resilience in the Face of Stress

Resilience in the Face of Stress

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Last week, the Bridge Conference Ministers extended their recommendation to suspend in person worship through the month of May.  By now, after being safe at home for about six weeks, some of us may be feeling stressed out as a result of physically distancing from our neighbors, family and friends.

In their book, The Emotional Intelligence of Jesus: Relational Smarts for Religious Leaders, Roy Oswald and Arland Jacobson use the research and conclusions about emotional intelligence and apply it to the effectiveness of living as followers of Jesus.  It is in the midst of this national crisis that we need to develop stress resilience, a chief component of emotional intelligence.   
 
Oswald and Jacobson define stress resilience as “the ability to face difficult and even frightening situations without breaking down physically, losing one’s capacity to focus, or becoming ineffective in accomplishing the task at hand.”  Stress resilience helps us to manage our emotions better.  It takes considerable skill to maintain equilibrium and a state of calm amid the ordinary stresses of life and is even more needed in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.   
 
Stress during an infectious disease outbreak can include:  
  • Fear and worry about your own health and the health of your loved ones 
  • Changes in sleep or eating patterns  
  • Difficulty concentrating 
  • Worsening of chronic health conditions 
  • Worsening of mental health conditions
  • Increased use of alcohol, tobacco or other drugs   
The good news about emotional intelligence is that we can work on improving it by working on specific ways to deal with stress.

Some suggested ways to cope with stress:  
  • Take breaks from watching, reading or listening to the news about the pandemic 
  • Take care of your body – deep breaths, stretching, meditating
  • Exercise regularly 
  • Establish a regular routine – to bed and to rise at the same time each day. Dress for the day and eat meals at regular meal times
  • Find ways to have fun either alone (puzzles, arts & crafts, reading a good novel) or with others on Skype, Zoom, Google Meet  
For us followers of Jesus, we can also take inspiration from his demonstration of resilience found in scripture.  In the face of stress during the storm on the Sea of Galilee, Jesus is the picture of calm, sleeping in the boat at the height of the storm. (Mark 4:35 – 41)  We can also take our worries and concerns to Jesus in prayer, for in Matthew 11:28, Jesus invites us: Come to me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. 
 
A regular prayer routine, using times of day to organize your prayer life is one way to respond to Jesus’ invitation.  Praying upon waking, after meals and before bed every day can contribute to overall well being. Family prayer with children and teens can help them learn to accept Jesus’ invitation to place worries and cares at his feet where we can lay our burdens down.   
 
From the time I was a small child, I have always felt the closest to God in music, listening to music, playing music, singing music.  So, it is quite natural for me to turn to music to feel God’s presence in any given situation.  I find inspiration for dealing with the stress of this pandemic in the hymn "Precious Lord, Take My Hand":  
 
Precious Lord, take my hand 
Lead me on, let me stand 
I am tired, I am weak, I am worn 
Through the storm, through the night 
Lead me on through the light 
Take my hand, precious Lord 
And lead me home. 
 
When my way grows dreary 
Precious Lord, linger near 
When my life is almost gone 
Hear me cry, hear my call,  
Hold my hand lest I fall;  
Take my hand, precious Lord  
And lead me home.   
 
When the darkness appears  
And the night draws near  
And the day is past and gone,  
At the river I stand 
Guide my feet, hold my hand 
Take my hand, precious Lord 
And lead me home. 

 

Author

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Marilyn Baugh Kendrix

The Rev. Marilyn Kendrix is Bridge Conference Minister. Kendrix, a 2013 graduate of Yale Divinity, earned that school’s Henry Hallam Tweedy Prize for exceptional promise in pastoral leadership, the highest prize conferred on a graduating student ...

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