Many unwittingly discover that the first months of the year are staggeringly stressful. Reports indicate that people in leadership are particularly squeezed.
Given the email, text messaging, and the consequential demand to multitask, many of us spend more of our energy in work-related activities than ever before.
When pressure overwhelms us our anxious juices makes accomplishing tasks next to impossible. Our mood is altered and trying to focus becomes desperately frustrating.
Too often we manage this extra stress by pushing ourselves beyond that which is healthy for body and mind. Our willful intent to be responsible and cordial, more often than not, frustrates us further.
We can turn a mess into a disaster by stubbornly refusing to vulnerably acknowledge the very real limits of how much we can really accomplish.
When, by will and might, we push beyond the reasonable, we become our own worst enemy. Such frantic solutions (which are questionably virtuous in the minds of some) become the biggest hurdle in moving beyond the debilitating pressure.
What to do we do when we live in a zoo… we smell like a monkey and act like one too! Or, like the primates we be, do we search for the key, to let ourselves free?
The key to freedom is, in my experience, humility: a humble acknowledgment that the stressful pressures of family and work are fast becoming overwhelmingly complex.
We respectfully accept that our intertwined lives are a multifaceted system of obligation and expectation that we can’t possibly master.
Like it or not, we can’t do it all. We let folks down and often don’t meet our own expectations. We make stupid mistakes and bite off more then we can chew.
Failure is the nature of involvement. It is, in unpredictable quantity, the bane of all who care.
In my experience, managing overwhelming stress is the gift we give ourselves when we acknowledge our limitations and let go our over-worked expectations. It is a process that calls to light the source of our self-worth.
It is argued that unrealistic goals, and the stress they generate, are the unfortunate result of feeling inadequate. The recognition that follows achievement can become a feel good remedy when feeling incompetent, powerless, or even shameful.
Related to this drive for meaningfulness, some of us have mistakenly assumed that our input and presence is, forever and always, indispensably needed. And though some may argue this is a false arrogance, I believe it is far better explained as the dark side of an antiquated work ethic.
As congregational leader I am continually grateful for the sound advice that all great leaders must learn the quiet art of working themselves out of their many tasks.
As I see it, the overwhelming stress of our demanding times, is best countered by developing an unassuming sense of our own importance.
We have developed a significant gift when we can say with some measure of confidence, “the world won’t come to an end if I can’t do it”. It is a humility in which we accept our limitations as integral to our expectations; and consequently, in all our choices, bear the stamp of quiet self-acceptance.