There are 10 million working days lost to stress every single year, ChildLine has seen a staggering 200% increase in calls about stress from children and young people and nearly a third of parents complain of burnout. In a way, it seems strange to raise awareness of something which is so prevalent. Most people, I expect, would be able to recall a time where they’ve felt stressed.
Modern life is almost unimaginable without stress; and it’s often a badge of honour to prove you work hard enough and long enough.
“I’m stressed’ seems to be synonymous with “I’m successful” and we’re desperate for people to know that we’re doing well.
And yet it’s a high price we are paying for success; the effects of stress on physical and mental health can include chest pain, depression and high blood pressure.
Stress doesn’t need to be an unavoidable part of life, though. There are a number of ways you can help to reduce and manage the stresses in your life. Mindfulness colouring books, talking to a friend, exercise and breathing techniques to name but a few. For more information you can check out the great advice over at Mind.
There is more to stress management than self-help, however.
Charles R Swindoll writes:
“God presents the Sabbath rest as a shelter we can enter. (Hebrews 4:1-11)”
Could it be that sabbath is the antidote to stress?
The concept of sabbath is one seen throughout scripture; a holy rest day, a shelter from the busyness of life to rest in God’s presence.
It doesn’t mean that we need to sit in silence alone all day; the Sabbath is God’s gift to us.
It’s a chance to reset and connect with the things that matter most. Time with God, time with the Church, time with family without the distractions of unanswered emails and unending to-do lists.
It’s not something that’s just for a Sunday; for a start, many of us work on Sundays, me included!
I try to consider it a rhythm, rather than a formula. A rhythm of rest, time away from the demands of the day whether that be the ten minutes in the shower before waking your children, or the morning coffee which gives a chance to take stock. A day is ideal, but it might not be possible for everyone. Jesus demonstrated a sabbath rhythm; he healed on the Sabbath day, but also spent time away for himself. He is Lord of the Sabbath, it’s not another thing to add to our to-do lists.
As a freelancer, taking a whole day off can be a challenge I wrestle with the fear of missing out on work or networking, but its important I do it, that I remember the world won’t fall apart without me, because it’s not my world.
Taking a Sabbath in the midst of stress reminds us that we aren’t in control, God is and a He has set us in communities to work and rest in rhythm.
Wayne Muller describes it beautifully;
“Like a path through the forest, Sabbath creates a marker for ourselves so, if we are lost, we can find our way back to our center.”
The Sabbath calls us back to God and back to life when we feel stress has crawled over the ground like a weed.
So my challenge today is this:
If you can recall with ease the last time you were stressed; have you considered when you had your last Sabbath?