Wednesday, June 10, 2020

stress levels - you won't believe this

anyone heard of the "holmes-rahe stress test"?

it's been around since the late 1960's, and is still widely used by health professionals to determine a person's stress level.  still used by the american institute of stress, the scale - which is based on life circumstances - helps predict when a person's level of stress is likely to cause serious health problems.

the test
most people score between 50-150 on the scale.  here's how the results are to be evaluated:

150 or less = relatively low risk of serious health problems due to stress

150-300 = 50% chance of a health breakdown* within the next 2 years.

300 or more = 80% chance of a health breakdown* within the next 2 years

*health breakdowns mentioned are heart-attack, heart disease, mental breakdown, severe depression, diabetes, stomach ulcers, gastrointestinal disease, and other severe illnesses causing hospitalization.

missionaries break the scale
in the late 1990's, doctors' lois and lawrence dodd of heartstream resources began using the holmes-rahe scale to determine the stress levels of foreign missionaries serving overseas.  what they discovered is amazing, not to mention sobering.

✔foreign missionaries not only average well over 300, but have sustained scores of 300 year after year.

✔foreign missionaries average 600 on the scale.

✔foreign missionaries in their first term average 900 on the scale.

the results are remarkable.  and they explain a lot too - like why 75% of foreign missionaries return home within the first 2 years, never to go back to the field.

one missionary who took the holmes-rahe test noted that he scored a 532... and this despite "no way to account for the fact that i almost crash every day that i drive in my country, don't speak the language, and daily instruct my children what to do when a cobra wanders into the yard."

for me, it has taken years to admit it.  but i know it's real.  i lose weight and have severe stomach problems. i know it's stress related - directly connected to the field - because when i am stateside i gain weight and my stomach is fine.

i'm not writing this to provide answers- i'll save that for another post!  i'm just sharing the information because i think this is serious stuff.  and rarely gets talked about.  i guess my only hope is that knowing this information might inspire people and churches to be intentional about caring for missionaries serving overseas.

and i'm definitely not writing to complain.  because the truth is (and i think i speak for most long-term missionaries), despite the stress, i feel most alive in the field!  i always feel most at peace when i'm obeying God, no matter what.

it's paradoxical, that's for sure.  as christians, our spirit tends to be most thankful and content when our flesh is being challenged.  we know our joy is fullest when we're being sanctified.  for me, i also feel the opposite effect- when a season of "comfort" leaves me feeling spiritually lethargic.

if you've never lived in the foreign mission field, it's simply impossible to put into words how constant the stress is.  our missionaries at BVSA all deal with it in different ways.  but we all have one thing in common - we consider it to be worth it.  and we wouldn't have it any other way!

james 1:2-4, romans 5:3-5, 2 corinthians 12:10, philippians 3, galatians 6:9

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