by Julia M. Bruce, MSPC, Mental Health Coach,
CEO, Wellspring Christian Ministries

While a spiritual solution is important, there are also mental and physical solutions that can make us proactive in both reducing and managing stress. For example, as we understand how the body’s natural fight-or-flight response system operates, we can better cope with stress. Emotional intelligence allows us to use and manage our emotions in positive and constructive ways. Self-evaluation can help us become aware of when we are feeling tense, on edge, and stressed out. Self-awareness enables us to recognize the impact our emotions and actions have on a situation. Knowing ways that help the body relax and calm down can help lower stress and be more effective for finding solutions to our stressors.

The Physical Fight or Flight Response System

We typically react to a stressor that is threat in a different way than one that is a challenge. Threats tend to elicit a greater stress response from us and create greater levels of anxiety. Stressors that are perceived as a threat, whether real or imaginary, will initiate our “fight or flight” response system and create a greater sense of anxiety. The purpose of this system is to trigger the release of hormones that will prepare your body to either stay and fight the threat or to run away from it and find safety. It prepares your body to respond to the danger.

In Genesis 3, at the fall of man, Satan deceived Eve and created distrust. Through his wiles and schemes, he seduced Adam and Eve away from trusting God – the most wonderful, loving, giving, caring, sensitive, helpful being who created them. Believe it or not, Satan convinced them that God could not be trusted, and our world has not been the same since. As a result, distrust is born and it is impossible for there to be both distrust and faith at the same time. When distrust creeps in, so does fear anxiety, and depression. We instantly feel as if our personal safety is at risk and the “fight or flight response system kicks in.

The body’s physical response to the fight or flight response system

When this happens, your heart rate increases, blood pressure rises, and breathing becomes faster. Your body becomes tense, ready to take immediate action. The increased heart rate and breathing rate gives you energy and oxygen. Your skin will become pale or flushed as blood flow to the surface areas of the body is reduced so that more blood flow is sent to your muscles, brain, legs, and arms. Your body also increases its ability to clot blood to prevent excess blood loss. Additionally, your pupils will dilate so that you can be more aware and observant of your surroundings while also allowing more light into your eyes giving you better vision. As your muscles prepare for action, they will become tense which can result in trembling or shaking.

Your fight or flight response system can be activated by any real or perceived threat. For eustress, this system will help you perform better. For distress, it can help you survive.  When this response becomes severe, it leads to panic attacks. However, once activated, it can take anywhere from 20 to 60 minutes after the threat is gone for your body to return to its pre-threat state.

A Physical solution: Emotional Intelligence

We all know of a time in our lives when we let our emotions get the best of us. They can override our objective mind, make mountains out of molehills, and make the possible impossible. Our emotions can influence our personal lives, our relationships, or careers, our families, friends, and our ministries. When our thought processes and emotions become irrational, they become an obstacle that creates stress.

Emotional intelligence is a term used to refer to the ability one has to identify and manage his or her own emotions, as well as the emotions of others. It includes a sense of emotional awareness that allows someone to identify and name their own emotions. In other words, they can identify they are angry, sad, depressed, frustrated, happy, ecstatic, etc. However, being able to put a name to emotions isn’t enough. One must also be able to harness these emotions and apply them to tasks such as problem solving.

Finally, emotional intelligence includes managing emotions so that a person can regulate those emotions when necessary for themselves or to have the ability to cheer up or calm down someone else. A person that has a strong emotional intelligence would be better equipped to handle stress because such a person would be able to notice when they are becoming stressed and begin to calm themselves before they react to the stress at an unmanageable level. Additionally, the empathy and social skills of someone with a well-develop emotional intelligence would be more effective in both expressing themselves and avoiding saying something that might create a stressful or hurtful situation.

A Physical solution: Self-evaluation

We need to have an understanding that too many challenges, whether they are eustress or distress, can lead to chronic stress, which then leads to burnout. It becomes important for us to self-evaluate and know what our own limitations are and how to create a healthy balance. While threats can be scary, challenges can be exciting opportunities to prove ourselves. Challenges can be enjoyable to overcome. They can be opportunities to learn just what we can accomplish when we give it our all. Self-evaluation helps us recognize what our natural coping skills are and determine whether they are positive or negative coping skills.

Any time we complete a self-evaluation, we are looking at the progress, development, and learning that has taken place in a certain situation and deciding what has improved and what areas still need growth. Our self-talk plays a big role in this. Often, we set ourselves up for failure as soon as stress hits us simply by what we tell ourselves about the stressor.  We can tell ourselves how bad, scary, impossible, and horrible something is, or we can tell ourselves that through the power of God’s help we can overcome. When you are faced with stress what is your typical self-talk? Write in the space below what you typically tell yourself when faced with stress.

A Physical solution: Self-awareness

Self-awareness enables us to understand ourselves and what drives our needs, feelings, and habits. It helps us figure out what is behind our emotions and identify their root cause. Psalm 139:14 says, “I will praise You because I have been remarkably and wonderfully made. Your works are wonderful, and I know this very well.” Each one of us is a unique artwork, created by God. Because of that uniqueness we can’t look to how others respond to stress and life. We need to understand how we uniquely respond to it. We can start with asking, “Why do I feel this way?”

Whenever we begin to explore our self-awareness, a good place to start is keeping a journal on what you are trying to learn about yourself. By keeping a journal about the areas that cause you stress you can identify reoccurring stressors in your life and the way you currently deal with them. You can then evaluate if the way you deal with them is healthy or not.

To start your stress journal, write down each time you feel stress and then look for patterns or common themes. Each time you feel stressed, write down what caused the stress or if you are having trouble identifying the stressor, make a guess. You can correct it later if you need to.

Underneath the stressor, write about how you felt physically and emotionally. Then write about how you reacted to the stressor. Note if it was a healthy or unhealthy reaction.

Next, write about what you did to make yourself feel better, which is your natural coping strategy. Was this healthy or not, and why?

Now, plan for the next time you experience this stressor.

Lastly, spend some time in God’s Word and find a Bible verse that you can begin to memorize that relates to the stressor. Write the verse at the end of your journal page and begin memorizing now.

Benefits to journaling to discover self-awareness in stress

The benefits to journaling your way to self-awareness include:

  • finding new ways or better ways to deal with your stress
  • being able to determine if a change in circumstances is needed
  • being able to determine if your reaction to the stressor was positive or negative, healthy or unhealthy
  • identifying unnecessary stress that you can eliminate from your life.
  • discovering appropriate boundaries and personal limitations so you are better prepared to say “no” when necessary
  • setting priorities that will help eliminate stress
  • discovering and remembering God’s plan that will get you back on track to what He’s called you to do.
  • Identifying people that causes us stress

A Physical solution: Dealing with difficult people

If I say the words, “difficult people,” I can just about guarantee that a name or face popped in your mind…maybe even more than one person.  In a ministry profession, you can’t always just turn and walk away from the people that stress you out. Some of them have genuine needs and God has brought us into their lives to help meet those needs. But some of them are Satan’s flaming darts that is meant to disrupt or even destroy our ministry.  Make sure you determine which is true.

(All difficult people probably feel like “flaming darts” and our first reaction goes back to the fight or flight response. It is only through careful prayer and discernment from the Holy Spirit that we can determine if the difficult people in our lives are truly difficult or someone God placed in our path for us to minister to them. When encountering a difficult person, make prayer your first response.)

Even if difficult people are a “flaming dart,” there are pro-active ways to minimize the stress they cause. For example, you can limit the amount of time you spend with them. Try scheduling appointments with them that are short with another scheduled event following so that you have a reason to end the appointment.

Bring a ministry partner along when dealing with difficult people

You can also minimize stress from difficult people by making sure another ministry partner is included so that false accusations are less likely to occur. As a person in ministry, your reputation and integrity are at stake. A person’s ministry is often ended by the accusations of someone. Having a ministry partner with you will help protect you from accusations or when accusations are made, they can serve as a witness to what was said or done.

Schedule meetings with difficult people when you are most rested

You can also schedule that appointment when you are the most rested and would therefore have more patience with them and have a clearer mind to make decisions. If you are tired and worn down, you are more likely to handle difficult people in a negative way. Be proactive and make sure you get enough rest before meeting with these people.

Start with Prayer

Prayer is always a good place to start when you are dealing with a difficult person. Prior to an appointment with a difficult person, ask God to give you wisdom to deal with the person, a heart that is in tune with His, and ask Him if He is trying to teach you something through this person. You might be surprised what God will reveal to you if you spend some time in prayer about the difficult people that come into your life.

Terminate relationships, when necessary

There are times when relationships do need to be terminated. For example, if a person of the opposite gender makes an inappropriate sexual suggestion, end the appointment immediately and never end up in a situation where you are alone with them.  

A Physical solution: Environmental Stressors

Some stress can be handled by taking control of your environment. For example, if the evening news causes stress, then turn off the TV. If rush hour traffic stresses you out, consider going in a little earlier or later if it’s an option or change the route, even if it takes you longer to get to your destination. You can also try turning on your favorite Christian radio station or listen to a podcast of your favorite sermon or an audio book from your favorite author.

A Physical solution: Scheduling Stressors

Another stress reducer is to take time to analyze your schedule, responsibilities and daily tasks. Begin deleting the ones that are unnecessary, then prioritize the rest. Be sure you are including time with God through daily devotion and prayer and make this your highest priority.

Schedule demanding and taxing tasks when you are at your peak

After that look through the items and place the ones that might be more demanding or taxing on you and schedule them when you are at your peak performance level during the day. For some, that would be early morning. Others need to be awake a few hours before they really get going. Other people are night owls and are most effective later in the day.

Schedule quick, easy, routine tasks for when you are less productive

Plug in the quick, easy, routine items for your slow, less-productive times of the day. At the end of each day, review your schedule for the following day and prioritize the next day’s schedule so that you are ready to go in the morning and know what you must accomplish.

Mix things up

Try mixing your schedule each day with items that you enjoy doing with those that are more stressful. If you have an extremely stressful or unpleasant task or meeting the following day, take time to pray about it and surrender it to the Lord. This will help you sleep better and help prevent the stressor from robbing you of sleep. If you find it is keeping you awake, pray about it again and visualize in your mind handing the stressor to God. Try focusing on something that will be pleasant. Some find it helpful to think of an imaginary switch and visualizing flipping it to turn their mind “off” so they can sleep. Another helpful tip to help you fall asleep is to use a Bible app that has an audio feature and timer and let the app read the Bible to you until you fall asleep.


Self-care course and coaching

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Coming December 2021!

Pre-order for a 50% discount. You will get the complete set of downloadable self-care video-based course plus 10 group coaching sessions.

Pre-order now to receive a 50% discount! (Releasing December 2021)

You will get the complete downloadable self-care video-based course plus 10 group coaching sessions.

We know that ministry is hard! When you serve in ministry as staff or volunteer, you are on a spiritual battlefield 24/7. As you serve God, you fight for the Kingdom of God and our adversary is constantly attacking. He wants you to either lose your effectiveness in your ministry role or get you to quit. We must be sure we are reconnecting to the Vine (Jesus) so that we can refill, renew, and recharge. Then we can keep on pouring into others.

If you are feeling like you are losing the fight or struggling to stay in the fight, Jesus says to you, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” (Mark 6:31) Self-care is both Biblical and necessary, if you are going to stay in the fight and be effective in the Kingdom of God. Stress, burnout, and compassion fatigue are real weapons that the adversary uses against us.

Even if you do not serve in ministry, if you are a Christian, you too are in a spiritual battle. Every Christian fights the same adversary and our Biblical self-care principles are for every Christian.

What you get in this self-care course:

In Part 1 of this video-based course, you will learn about the spiritual dangers in ministry, discover if God is testing you or is Satan attacking you, understand that ministry is battlefield and how to be steadfast, immovable on the battlefield, learn how the devil uses his wiles and schemes against us, and remember how to use your Spiritual Armor. We will also breakdown stress, burnout, and compassion fatigue.

Part 2 is all about Preventing and Recovering from Burnout and Compassion Fatigue as we go through six areas that need self-care. In this part of the course we will provide you with practical ways that you can immediately begin practicing self-care. As you continue to serve God in whatever way He has called you, self-care is vital if you are not going to grow weary in doing good so you can reap at the proper time (Galatians 6:9).

Additionally, this packaged deal will provide 10 group coaching session where we will discuss the weekly assigned videos and do check-ins on where you are in each of the six areas of self-care that include: Spiritual, Sensory, Emotional, Social, Physical, and Intellectual.

Releasing in December 2021, this packaged deal will include the complete video-based course plus 10 group coaching sessions with the author, Julia Bruce. In the 10-week program you will complete weekly videos and assignments and then meet virtually for a group coaching session to help you apply self-care where you need it. 

But wait! That’s not all! Check out this Bonus to the self-care course and coaching program.

BONUS: While this course and group coaching is not releasing until December 2021, if you’re purchasing this material, we know you need help now. So, if you purchase before the release date, we’ll place you in our new private Facebook membership page for free through the end of 2021. In January, this group will require a monthly subscription of $19.99. But it will be yours free through the end of year when you purchase the pre-release of the course and group coaching sessions.  

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We all face stress. How we handle stress, however, has many variables. Learning how to recognize stress, coping with stress, and creating a self-care plan during times of stress can begin by journaling. Taken from our series on Biblical self-care for people in ministry, we’ve created this free download to help you through the things that cause you stress.

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