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Finding balance, making healthy choices help manage stress, wellness expert

GLORIETA, N.M. (BP)–Tommy Yessick believes the old saying, “the straw that broke the camel’s back,” is misleading.
“It wasn’t the straw that broke it, it’s the load that was there all along … the stress that wasn’t dealt with along the way,” Yessick, wellness specialist for LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention, said. He led the July 13 seminar “Can Stress Heal?” during the 1999 Church Music Leadership Conference at LifeWay Conference Center, Glorieta, N.M.
Stress is a paradox, Yessick said; it can help or it can hinder. It all depends on how a person deals with it. In fact, stress management is all about choices.
He gave several definitions of stress, part serious, part tongue-in-cheek, including:
— an event or condition that may be purely physical, social or psychological — including anticipation and imagination — that triggers a reaction in the mind and body.
— confusion created when one’s mind overrides the body’s desire to choke the devil out of someone who desperately needs it.
— emotional response to a situation you shouldn’t be in or can’t get out of.
— anything that upsets the homeostasis (balance) of your cells.
“In a word,” Yessick said, “stress is change, and that can be difficult to deal with.”
He identified two categories of stress: 1) acute, which is caused by something that happens quickly, such as natural and unnatural disasters, crime and other things outside one’s control, and 2) chronic, which results from the buildup of day-to-day pressures and demands.
Yessick said there are numerous types of stressors, including psychological ones such as worry, anger, disappointment and frustration. But even love, joy, peace and encouragement can be stressful. “Loving someone can be difficult,” he explained. “Have you tried loving your enemy lately? Or the unlovable?”
Among physiological stressors, Yessick listed smoking, drinking alcohol (“When consumed, every major system in your body is trying to get rid of it.”); drinking caffeinated coffee, tea and soft drinks; being overweight; and poor nutrition. He also mentioned two “good stressors” — exercise and good nutrition, both of which are good investments in health.
There are no “magic pills” for dealing with stress, “no one thing you can buy off the shelf” that helps people deal with all their problems and frustrations, Yessick said. Instead, effective stress management requires a holistic approach. Finding balance in one’s social, spiritual, physical and intellectual life is the key.
The Bible is filled with references to the importance of living a balanced life, Yessick said, listing 3 John 2, Luke 2:40 and 2:52, Deuteronomy 6:5 and Mark 12:30 as only a few examples.
He encouraged participants to view stress in terms of power. “Everyone has power, the ability to influence something else. There is the power that you have, the power that others have, and sometimes you’re not sure who the power belongs to.”
Effective stress management involves recognizing and taking control of your own power over the choices in your life, Yessick said. And you do have choices. According to the National Wellness Institute, of the things which impact a person’s quality of life, 16 percent relate to heredity, 21 percent to the environment, 10 percent to the medical community and 53 percent to the choices he or she makes.
Yessick shared several “management tools” for dealing with stress, including the “AAABC of coping”:
–A = alter or remove the source of stress.
–A = avoid or remove yourself from the source of stress.
–A = accept the stress by equipping yourself to deal with it.
–B = build resistance by nurturing your emotional, intellectual, social, spiritual and vocational well-being.
–C = change, e.g. examine what positive changes you can make in your home, family, vocation and spiritual life.
Other helps for dealing with stress, Yessick said, include support from family members and/or a strong network of friends; developing a sense of humor; committing to be a lifelong learner; getting adequate amounts of sleep and exercise; eating healthy; maintaining a consistent devotional life; learning to forgive; and learning to manage finances.
“Just remember,” Yessick said, “it’s not the straw. It’s being aware of the load you carry and learning to manage it day by day.”
Toward that end, he recommended three helpful resources: “Building Blocks for Longer Life and Ministry” which he wrote with help from his wife, Melinda; “Getting on Top of Your Work” by Brooks Faulkner; and “Can Stress Heal?” by Kenneth Cooper.
LifeWay’s music ministries department sponsored the Church Music Leadership Conference. More than 1,500 music ministers, other church staff and lay leaders attended the event.

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  • Chip Alford