August is a stressful month for me. I’m a campus minister at three different schools. Each August there are a lot of things that need to be done. And they all need to be done three times. Three new student events to prepare for. Three campus club days. Posters to get ready. Rooms to reserve. Students to contact. Programs to plan. And then there are volunteers to round up. Snacks and meals to plan. And social media- Facebook, and Twitter, and Instagram, and probably something I don’t even know about yet.
It is part of life on a campus that you never know with certainty, which of your students are coming back. Schedules change, living arrangements change, commitments to groups change. Problems with finances can prevent a student from returning. Poor grades can prevent a student from returning. Or a legal issue. Or a family situation. Students’ lives can be pretty unsettled.
So August is a stressful month. As the start of school gets closer I start to wonder if “old” students will return, if “new” students will participate. What if you have a campus ministry and no one shows up?
I don’t mean this to sound as if I am complaining. I’m not. I have a great job! And every job has it’s stressful times. Stress free live doesn’t really exist.
Fortunately, all this August stress is a kind of routine stress. I know it is coming. It happens every year. And so I can be ready. I can be attentive to my emotional and spiritual well being. I know what I need to do and while it doesn’t eliminate my stress, it reduces it to a manageable and maybe even a healthy level. (There’s nothing like deadlines to focus one’s self).
What I need to do, is stick to my regular practices and not skip them because I am “busy”, or “tired”, or whatever. For me that means morning and evening prayer using The Book of Common Worship. And it means some silence. And after these two things, I am able to ask for guidance and insight in a non anxious way. I can ask and then be able to hear an answer, a question, an insight. That is a daily individual practice. Monthly I participate in spiritual direction.
But as I think about other spiritual practices, there are some things I do that are part of a group. I am part of a spiritual formation group which meets monthly. That group is a tremendous gift to me. It is a place where I can be honest and know I am loved and accepted. It is a place where others are honest about their own “stuff” and I can listen and support them in love and acceptance. It is pure gift.
And then there is the weekly book group. We do read and discuss books but we also talk about our lives, current events and we drink coffee. And we laugh. A lot. Our youngest member is 22 and the oldest is in their 70s (I think). Men and women. Members of my church and non members. People come when they can. If life gets busy or difficult and they can’t come for a while, we keep them on our email list and we are glad when they come back. There is not “Where have you been?”. We say “We’re so glad you’re back!”
Stress management for me is personal spiritual practices and some regular group events. Plus of course church nearly every Sunday. And books and cats and great kids.
How about you? What practices, spiritual or otherwise, do you do to manage stress?