Stress Management Series
Examining Common Causes of Stress--Part 1 (SL#89)
by Lloyd Elder, Th.D., adapted from SkillTrack® Vol. 11 - Stress Management

Objective and Observations:
Article Objective: to examine common causes of human stress and to identify how stress factors are related directly to Christian ministry. In your own life experience, stress has at least four or more elements. See the following graphic and summary descriptions that become an introduction to the topic:

Introductory Observations: As we examine in this article and the next, SL#90, the seven common causes of human stress, these observations may be beneficial:

With these few observations before us, the remainder of these two articles will seek to identify some general stressors, or “common causes,” that tend to be the source of many of our stressful experiences.

“No matter how old you are, you always think that there may be something hiding under the bed.” --Monica, age 13, from a Youth Calendar

1. Common Stressor #1: Personality

That’s right, personality; your personality, but also that of others around you. Sometimes the stressor component itself is not an outside entity but is a function of your inner person; that is an internal stressor! Tests have shown that a significant factor in stress is one’s own personality. There is no single key personality type that insures a stress-free life, but by becoming aware of certain personality tendencies in your own life and ministry, you may be able to manage the danger points more successfully. Also, assessing the personality of those to whom you are responding may provide insights regarding your stress experiences.

2. Common Stressor #2: Change

“Preacher, I’m not sure our people would be happy about making that change just now; we’ve never done it that way before.”

Reflection: What are the most profound changes that have occurred in your life during the last two years--changes for better or for worse? Did you know that the more you have had, the more susceptible you are to stress-related illnesses and difficulty, as a result of your resources for adapting being challenged? When change causes conflict, conflict may back into stressful experiences. As you monitor your own life and work, and in your capacity to lead and counsel other, keep in mind the impact change can have as a life stressor! An ultimate change is provided in a scriptural picture:

Philippians 1:20--“I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.”

3. Common Stressor #3: Expectations

Two types of “expectation” can easily become stressors: expectations you have of yourself, and expectations you have of others. We will not explore here the expectations others have of you.

“When your mother is mad and asks you, ‘Do I look stupid?’ its best not to answer her.”
--Meghann, age 13, from a Youth Calendar
Reflection: What, or who, is the greatest stressor caused by personal expectations in your life and work? What stress have you recently experienced caused by failure of another to live or perform up to your expectations? Are your expectations fair and reasonable? Do your expectations usually contribute to high performance and satisfaction? Or, do they more often cause stress and its damaging symptoms?

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© 2009; hosted and copyrighted by Lloyd Elder & Associates, Inc.
For full citation of referenced works, see Bibliography/Links at
Adapted by Lloyd Elder, Th.D., Founding Director, Moench Center for Church Leadership