Stress Don’t get worked up over it!

Unsurprisingly, with all that’s going on in service life these days, there’s much talk about stress in our busy and complicated lives – both occupational, everyday stress and the stress of going on deployed operations.

I’m presently in the middle of a ‘pre-deployment’ cycle and all the preps and courses that have to be completed before I leave Waddington for Afghanistan is causing just a few complications in my life. Good as all this preparation undoubtedly is the courses make it harder for me to do what I think is important, getting some quality time with my family before I have to endure months apart from them. I could get rather stressed about it all!

Yet another word for STRESS is simply CHALLENGE and it’s a word which always helps me change my perspective and deal with what is going on in my life much better.

Challenge is something we all need in life – it gets us out of bed in the morning and motivates us in all sorts of situations at work, at home and at play. Challenge is one sort of stress that is actually good for us – and it’s worth remembering that the only time human beings are completely unstressed is when they are dead!

Being a great fan of the RAF Chinook I’ve always been very interested to see the blades being transported safely in a box, loaded onto a C17 and transported out to Afghanistan. Of course in that box the blades are protected from all stress – but the blades themselves are doing no useful work either. It’s only as the blades are fixed onto the rotorhead and the twin 3000 SHP engines fired up that the blades start to get stressed (or challenged!) and do any useful work at all!

And of course the Chinook is a great workhorse and can lift enormous under-slung loads as well as carrying large numbers of troops. It is still the helicopter of choice on the battlefield when it comes to fetching and carrying! Nevertheless, even the mighty Chinook can be overstressed by overloading it with too many troops or overweight loads – just like human beings can be overstressed by too much work or tasks beyond their capacity. A Chinook which is damaged by enemy fire or IED impact may well keep flying but, like a human being trying to work when injured or ill, its performance will drop off considerably.

So the right kind of stress is good for machines and people – but too much can be damaging and cause our performance to drop off. Stress itself is not necessarily a bad thing – but making sure it is the right sort of challenging rather than overwhelming stress is important all round. As ever it’s all about balance – finding the motivation in our lives to crack on and do a good job, as well as recognising that we all need times to chill out and recharge!

When Jesus went to visit his friends in Bethany (Luke 10:37-42), Martha complained that she was stressed out and busy with all the hospitality whilst her sister Mary simply sat doing nothing at Jesus’ feet. There are times when we all need, like Martha, to be busy serving, but other times when, like Mary her sister, we need to be still just loving and being loved. The Bible talks about human beings being made in God’s image to love and serve others yet at the same time calls us to ‘be still’ and know that we are loved by God. Getting that balance is the key to living challenging lives which don’t stress us out!

By Padre Andy McMullon

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