Dealing With Stress – A Guide for Mentors, Role Models and Leaders, Part 2

The second in a two-part series. Read part one here

Mentors, role models and leaders experience unique forms of stress and pressure. It seems they’re always in the spotlight, and those who look up to them want their advice, insights and input on everything from theological matters to raising children to what kind of car to buy. The expectations to be perfect run high and there may be few outlets. Here are a few more ways that leaders and role models can deal with the stresses that often accompany their positions.

Be Real

Yes, we want to maintain our positions and a little of the distance that’s necessary for good leadership, but it doesn’t mean we have to pretend we’re something we’re not. Regardless of the positions we hold, we are all followers of Christ. We are all sinners in need of a savior, standing before God on equal footing. This calls for humility.

It’s OK to be honest about some of the things we deal with. It’s OK, and even good, for others to see that mentors are real people. When we are transparent and vulnerable, we may actually do people more good than if we continue to pretend we’re perfect. People will respect and admire this honesty, and in the process we do them a favor, too, in helping them to remember that people are people, not mini gods and goddesses. Good leaders keep themselves off the pedestal.

Go to God

A life in leadership is a high calling. God has brought us to this place and given us unique skills and talents to do the work. However, that doesn’t mean He installs us in our positions and then leaves us out to dry. God is the source, and no matter how busy we get, we must continually return to Him.

It’s easy to get sidetracked. We get busy and overwhelmed, we get used to handling things on our own and nailing them. In our haste, we spend less time with God, seek His guidance on a limited basis and become convinced that we’re doing OK.

It’s an easy trap to fall into, but sooner or later we find ourselves under the steamroller. Despite temporary outside appearances, we cannot do this without God and His grace, His strength and His guidance. Do not deprive yourself of God; start and end with Him and everything else falls into place in its time.

Model Good Habits Around Stress

Dealing With Stress - A Guide for Mentors, Role Models and Leaders, Part 2Everyone is dealing with stress of some kind. Thus, people should be able to sympathize with the stress we face. Pretending it’s not there, however, can waste what might be a powerful teaching opportunity. Dealing with stress head on and talking about it openly lets other people benefit from seeing how it’s done. We show what works and even what doesn’t.

Someone may be desperately in need of the valuable insights and tools we have discovered through our own difficult experiences. When we continue to try to pretend we’re perfect, it can cause others to despair, wondering what they’re doing wrong. It’s OK to show that we experience stress, anxiety and pressure, and then to demonstrate how to deal with it.

Get Counseling

Aren’t we always the ones counseling others? And as we do, we’re taking on their problems, dramas, disappointments and stresses, adding these to our own personal and family matters. It’s a recipe for breakdown.

Think of the compassion you have for those you lead and mentor. Think of the way you encourage them to get the help and support they need. Can you extend that same compassion and grace to yourself? Can you humbly admit that you need help and that you deserve it as much as anyone else?

Taking care of our own emotional and spiritual needs helps us to better serve others. Investing in you means you have more to invest in others. Seeking help isn’t a sign of weakness, but true strength.

Take a Break

Even the best and most faithful leaders can face burnout. And while there may be many things you can do to get yourself back on track, if the condition has been prolonged, you may need a break from some of your activities and responsibilities to deal with the issues.

That may mean a full sabbatical, but sometimes it is as simple as making a few intentional changes. If you’ve been teaching Bible study for 15 uninterrupted years, maybe it’s time to pass the baton. See where you can delegate and share responsibilities. Remember that we only have so much to give. It’s always better to do a few things well than several things poorly.