Consider these specific practices that can lessen your stress from Charles Stone in his book, “Every Pastor’s First 180 Days: How to Start and Stay Strong in a New Church.”
Exercise. For decades, we’ve known how exercise benefits our body. But recent research26 has discovered that it benefits our brains and reduces stress as well. When we exercise, it causes our brains to release a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which has been dubbed Miracle-Gro for the brain. It encourages new neuronal growth and protects brain cells from the effects of stress.
Statio. Statio is a Christian monastic practice that we might call a mini-transition between events of the day. It’s those in-between moments when we pause before going from one task to the next. It allows us to break our hurry, obtain closure from the prior task, and prepare our hearts and minds for what comes next. Leaders who practice this can turn down their body’s fight-flight system (the sympathetic nervous system) and engage the rest and digest system (the parasympathetic system), which makes us calmer and reduces the impact of stress.
Sleep. When we don’t get enough sleep, we rob our brains of important neural functions because the brain is actually very active during sleep. Although the brain never really shuts down, it’s only truly at rest during non-REM sleep, which accounts for only 20 percent of our normal sleep cycle. During the other 80 percent, sleep helps the brain encode, strengthen, stabilize, and consolidate our memories from the day. Our brain replays what we have learned during the day to make our memories stick. Sleep also plays an important role in learning.”28 So sleep is another effective way to combat stress.
Get off the grid. In our 24-7 connected world, our smartphones can actually keep us on high alert and in stress mode. I find that if I choose a twenty-four-hour period (my Sabbath, which is usually Saturday) when I don’t respond to or seldom check email, I’m much more at peace. Getting off the grid helps disengage my mind and slow my internal pace. Turning off the automatic notifications function on my smartphone and my computer has also helped me get off the grid.
Stone, Charles. Every Pastor’s First 180 Days (pp. 37-38). Outreach, Inc.. Kindle Edition.