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Stress Care

Posted: 7/1/20 at 1:00pm. Written by Dan Bagby.

In conjunction with our Healthy Pastors, Healthy Churches webinar that took place on June 30, 2020, Dan Bagby offered the following helpful information for ministers regarding stress care during this time of the COVID-19 pandemic.


“The relationship that will most affect you is with yourself.” (One Minute For Myself, Spencer Johnson)

TEN MAIN STRESSORS (C. Leslie Charles, Why Is Everyone So Cranky?)

1. Compressed time: Frazzled from hectic daily schedules

2. Communication overload: Information glut (cell phone/texting)

3. Disconnection of significant relationships

4. Cost and enticement: What it costs to live

5. Competition: for adequacy/place/recognition

6. Depersonalization: Rudeness, loss of respect

7. Dependence on technology: pace requires flawless perform

8. Change: Happens at quicker pace; out of our control

9. Struggling with expectations

10. Complexity: Balancing more demands than ever


1. Feel continually rushed and pressed for time?

2. How long since you did anything fun?

3. Become more irritable or impatient as the month progresses?

4. Neglecting your health in any way?

5. Feel dissatisfied or discontent with how you are coping?

6. Feel apprehensive about the family/congregational expectations?

7. Anticipating a change in your life you’ve been resisting or avoiding?

8. A relationship in your life that needs attention?

9. Plagued with the nagging sensation that something is missing in life?

10. Headaches/anxiety/muscular tension/sleep/stomach/spending/

appetite/irritability/tight, clenched jaw/worry/distracted/resentful


1. Focus on the day’s priorities. Save time for a grief; read a psalm.

2. Dinner table self-awareness and sharing: In what ways do you need hope, peace, joy, and love? Share with family, a colleague, friend.

3. Monitor your commitments and schedules (we include too much).

4. Explore your expectations: What is “adequate” right now?

5. Make selective & intentional choices about initiatives/family.

6. Combine reflection with exercise (gently) three times a week: What can I “birth” in my life? In what ways can I show the “Gift of Presence” to someone else?

7. Surround yourself with support; choose safe people/limit time with naysayers: Who raises your stress level—and who reduces it?

8. Schedule some sacred music into your routine and at least three meditative, reflective times. Listen to your self-talk: Target preoccupations.

9. Connect with three persons a day: Invest in relationships by blessing them with a phone call, an email, or a written note; watch the isolation.

10. Choose compassion: Contempt and kindness are hard to hold together.

11. Take a nap periodically: It’s sacred care of the soul.

When stressed, ANSWER two questions: (1) Is this a small, medium, or large annoyance? (2) How upset do I want to get, and for how long? (Resources: David Elkind, Family Ties That Stress. Tad Tadlock, Rush Hour Every Hour. Robert Hemfelt, We Are Driven. Dan Bagby, Healing Our Hurts: Coping With Difficult Emotions.)

10. Exercise: The body absorbs stress in many ways and needs renewal through stimulation, use, and “engagement.” Find your way to “charge up” your temple and reduce emotional/spiritual fatigue.

11. Remember that we are all “learning as we go” in this mysterious challenge; pace yourself. Read the scriptures a different way: reflectively, absorbingly. Note its many crises—and God’s care.

Dan Bagby is a professor, pastor, and counselor. He is most recently retired as the Ted Adams Professor of Pastoral Care at Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond.