Community in Action July 24, 2020

Yesterday Joan and I watched a webinar sponsored by the Board University of the Board of Pensions called “Understanding Survival Patterns in Response to Stress.” The first important point is that with the current pandemic we are all experiencing a certain amount of stress. It is a constant level of stress and that stress level varies person to person and circumstance to circumstance.

    The reason it is important to acknowledge there is a certain level of stress is because our body reacts to stress. This is because we are wired for survival, but it is important that we don’t just react, but that we intentionally choose how best to react. Whenever we experience stress there are four ways we react to it. They are fight, flight, freeze, or submit.

    When we we experience stress this will combine with our personality, past experiences in dealing with this stress (what we call emotional baggage), and our body will react.

    It is important that we acknowledge our stress so we can better choose how to react. In stressful times we know that just running away will not solve the situation, nor will striking out against someone (verbally or physically). Freezing is like when a deer is caught in the headlights of a car, our mind keeps spinning but we don’t know what to do. Submitting is more like withdrawing completely, which at first may seem the best choice, but many times if we withdraw we bury the emotions and feelings. We become numb, but later these feeling will pop out through acting out or some other unhealthy way, maybe even through substance abuse.

    If a quick reaction to the stressful situation isn’t necessary, like jumping out of the way of a speeding car, we can stop and think for a moment about what was just said or just happened. We can think about what caused our feelings and consider the best way to respond.

    There are two important things about stress. It causes a bodily reaction because it is tied to our survival. Do we need to react quickly? If not, then we need to think about how we should react. Secondly, we must address the stress in our lives, either through “settling” or through “action.”

    If we feel like flight or flight we can help our body to “settle.” We can exhale as long as we can. Or we can count to ten. Or we can even think of our “happy place.” What do we need to do if we feel like freezing or submitting? We can take a long inhale or we can force our body to move, like taking a walk or some other exercise.

    I would say that as followers of Jesus we have two additional helps during this time of stress. First, we can remind ourselves that God is in control. We may want a little more action on God’s part to deal with our stressful moments, but ultimately God is in charge. Secondly, we can pray. We can take a moment out of any stressful experience and ask God to help us know how best to react.

    I hope during this time we can encourage each other and we will also pray for each other. Take some time today and think of someone at church whom you don’t know very well and pray for them. Then think of someone you know very well and pray for them also. This may be the best first step to dealing with our current level of stress.


    Pastor Randy

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