It’s a Friday evening. I am looking at a pile of marking. The list of things to do is longer than a giraffe’s neck, but not as well ordered. Bex Lewis just reminded me of the need to write this blog post, and the soundtrack of Billy Joel’s ‘Pressure’ is playing in my mind. So it seemed a good idea to pause and reflect a little on this whole business of stress, work, busyness and such. First over to the wisdom of Billy:
‘You have to learn to pace yourself
You’re just like everybody else
You’ve only had to run so far, so good
But you will come to a place
Where the only thing you feel
Are loaded guns in your face
And you’ll have to deal with
OK – to say I have loaded guns in my face is overplaying it somewhat, but sometimes as I look around me, I can sense that many people do feel like that. The pressure is on in the work place. According to the Workplace Health and Safety Survey (WHASS) carried out in 2005, stress is the most widespread hazard among British workers. 22% of the working population reported that they were quite or very concerned that stress might cause them harm. It’s interesting to compare this figure with that of the second most widespread hazard which workers identified, in the same survey, as being potentially harmful. 9.4% of workers identified lifting/carrying heavy loads by hand on their own.
According to the HSE Labour Force Survey 2010/11, ‘The occupations that reported the highest rates of work-related stress in the last three years were health and social service managers, teachers and social welfare associate professionals’.
Stress is a matter of the heart. The European Heart Journal comments that:
“Stressed workers suffer a greatly increased risk of heart disease. Stressful jobs have a direct biological impact on the body. Workers under 50 who said their work was stressful were 68 per cent more likely to develop heart disease than the stress-free’”
The HAS states:
“Stress is still seen as the biggest threat to the welfare of UK workers with more than four in ten senior human resource professionals surveyed singling out stress as the main health concern of the workforce”
So how do we deal effectively with ‘loaded gun’ syndrome. Perhaps Ignatius of Loyola is not the most obvious choice as a source of help. But, read this:
(it’s a quotation I have taped to the top of my monitor. Note to self: ‘I need to read this more often.’)
‘You must have patience and not think that God our Lord require what ‘man’ (Ignatius is a man of his time…) cannot accomplish. And if one satisfies God, what difference does it make whether he satisfies men? There is no need to wear yourself out, but make a competent and sufficient effort, and leave the rest to Him who can do all he pleases.’
Living from this centred understanding requires constant inner adjustment.
- It requires that we remember that God is alive and well and involved in the whole of our lives. God’s presence in the workplace is a given, though perhaps sometimes it comes as a surprise. Do we pray about work related issues? Do we bring budgets and practical problems to God? Or is God caged up in church, like an elderly relative, waiting for our next visit?
- Ignatius is urging deep trust in God, and a sense that God works with us. God is there in the classroom, the factory, on the shop floor, in the canteen and the classroom, the kitchen and the crèche.
- He reminds us not to invest our sense of worth in pleasing others, the key thing is to be faithful to God. Sometimes I create stress for myself by being a perfectionist, and I suspect that the perfectionists among us compensate for an inner lack of confidence by portraying an outer efficiency – just to keep people off the scent!
- I love the phrase, ‘there is no need to wear yourself out.’ God does not desire that his people are burned out wrecks, husks of humanity strapped to the hamster wheel of relentless pressure. That is not ‘life in all its fullness’.
On that note. It’s nearly 6. 0’clock. It’s a Friday. The marking can wait. I am going home. Why don’t you make a brew and put your feet up?
Editor’s Note: I almost felt that I should post this in an evening, and encourage us to put our feet up every evening, knowing that we’ve done a good day’s work!