Stress and Mission When workload takes its toll

Author: Sarah Hay, Personnel Specialist, Generating Change.


Stress is a common word in the language of the 21st century. Many people are suffering from stress and its side effects. It hardly needs defining because we have heard the word bandied about so often. Stress is really a physical, mental or emotional pressure which affects the way in which we function if it is allowed to remain unchecked. Kelly O’Donnell, a key writer and thinker on missionary member care has said ‘Stress affects us all. It is an inevitable and normal part of life. Too much accumulated stress, though, will sideline even the most robust missionaries’. It is too much accumulated stress which causes a problem and on the mission field there are many stresses, including that of workload.
It should come as no surprise that stress is a major factor in the mission world. Anyone involved in mission is likely to have personal examples of times when they have been stressed and quite possibly will have come across people who found the stress too much, resulting in them returning home or even requiring long-term counselling or medication to help them de-stress. A common misconception about stress is that stress is a bad thing. Too much stress is obviously a negative thing, but for many people a little stress is helpful for them in terms of creativity and achievement. Likewise, when selecting a mission candidate it is fine to accept someone who may get stressed but what needs to be assessed is how stressed the individual gets and how they manage and cope with that stress. It is the coping ability that is key.

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