The recent government shutdown is just the latest of a series of life stressors (including long-term unemployment or underemployment, changing health care paradigms and other seasonal economic pressures)  that can surface the need for help in those you lead.   Financial needs of those within the church are increasing and in some cases are more significant.  Emotional stress due to uncertainty is showing up not only in our Care Ministry at PV, but is also being felt at all levels of ministry.  Therefore, as we head into the year end, now is a good time to remind ourselves to look for signs of the resulting financial and emotional stress from your group participants.

Signs of an increasing level of stress:

  • Their anxiety level is increased
  • Their comments are more critical or have an edge to them
  • They begin to miss or cancel commitments (may be practical reasons like the lack of gas money, or dis-engagement due to stress)
  • Their judgment seems to be less effective and/or less healthy
  • They speak about inability to sleep or feeling overwhelmed

Psychologist Connie Lillas uses a driving analogy to describe the three most common ways people respond when they’re overwhelmed by stress:

  • Foot on the gas – An angry or agitated stress response.  Heated, keyed up, overly emotional, and unable to sit still.
  • Foot on the brake – A withdrawn or depressed stress response.  Shut down, space out, and show very little energy or emotion.
  • Foot on both – A tense and frozen stress response.  “Freeze” under pressure and can’t do anything.  Though appear to be paralyzed, under the surface is extreme agitation.

How to respond:

When you witness the above, it is time to put your care cap on and demonstrate empathy and understanding.
    Good: “How have you seen the process of looking for a job impact your communication at home?” (open ended question)
    Not So Good: “Is everything okay with the job situation?” (closed question)
    Good:  “Getting behind on your rent sounds stressful.  There’s help available–can I assist you in finding out more about it?”
    Not So Good: “Go sign up for benevolence.”
    : “I look forward to seeing you at worship service this weekend.”
    Not So Good:  “Make sure you don’t miss church.”
The Community Group is the first-line of care at PV.   So, be aware of the signs that help is needed and show you care by being willing to dig a bit, using open ended questions.