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Sister gives tips on managing stress before it manages you

At some point, we all try to cope with the death of a loved one.

Others try to comfort us as best they can. And when others are in similar pain, we do our best to help them, too. Plus there are plenty of other stressful situations we all encounter. It’s a simple, unavoidable fact of life.

So when Sister Jane Will presented the program “Compassion Fatigue/Stress Management” to 60 managers and directors of Memorial Hospital and Health Care Center of Jasper, Indiana, her tips on dealing with stress really applied to about anyone.

“You’re giving compassion, that’s your call, your ministry,” Sister Jane told the audience. “But giving compassion is really for all of us, whatever we’re doing. So compassion fatigue is a possibility for all of us that serve. It’s an emotional stress that can result from the constant demand of caring for others, even though that’s our call as Christians.

“It’s been described as the ‘cost of caring.’ When we care for others experiencing pain, we often feel their suffering. As caring individuals, we are naturally sympathetic. So we take on their pain, causing stress to us.

“We have to find ways to manage that stress before it manages us. Because if we don’t, we’re not helpful to anybody.”

Sister Jane began with two ways of managing stress – prayer and humor.

She then led the group through relaxation exercises, including deep breathing and playing stress relief music, while coaching the participants on how to focus and what to do next.

Afterwards, Sister Jane advised, “You can also ease tension by reading scripture passages, by putting yourself in the presence of God, by putting yourself at the scene with Jesus.”

She then shared a handout listing 40 ways to beat stress, and asked the participants if there were any in particular they would like to try. One favorite was “Relax your standards. The world won’t end if the house doesn’t get cleaned this week.” Others were “Do something you enjoy every day,” “Do something for somebody else,” “Make friends with non-worriers,” and “Don’t belittle yourself.”

In a fitting conclusion to the program, the group recited a poem out loud together: “Too Blessed to Be Stressed,” which focuses on the energy of the Spirit and God’s will.