The Stress of Service

 “I thank my God every time I remember you”.                                                                                                        Philippians 1:3

Yesterday I talked about the effects of stress, specifically the burden that it places on our endocrine system, which responds with hormonal responses to the flight, fright or freeze process. We know that acute stress causes spikes in these hormonal responses with release of cortisol and adrenaline. Over a period of time, such reactions can cause some long-term physical and emotional problems.

Especially problematic is the presence of long-term, chronic stress, where the body gets fatigued with the repeated release of these chemicals which prepare us for acute responses. If the stress is prolonged, we can have some long-term physical problems. Unfortunately, many people in many professions are expected to always be vigilant, always in response mode. This leads to physical and emotional burn-out.

We get used to stress, and it becomes like normal. But it is not normal. We pay a price for such long-term stress. Indeed, human resilience can become adapted to incredible stresses. Physicians and emergency personnel who are “on call” become inured to vigilance as a way of life. Soldiers and police officers become accustomed to danger as a part of everyday life, and they sometimes do not even acknowledge the presence of constant fear. “It’s what we do”, they say.

Yes, it is what they do, and I thank them for it. I don’t know how long such persistence is possible. Clearly, like the law of economics, whatever we put off comes due with interest. We pay a high price (like interest charges) at a future time for the current stress we undergo.

We recognize that stress is an unavoidable part of life, but some have more chronic stress than others. Undo, unnatural stress over time comes with a cost. Validation of such sacrifice is important to society in order to support and encourage those who sacrifice for our safety and security every day.

So, for those who serve us in first line healthcare, for those police, fire, military and other emergency personnel. Thank you for what you do. You are paying a price, and we appreciate it!

Please try to take care of yourselves.

Prayer: Father, we lift up those who serve in such critical roles to serve their community. Bless them, and protect them, Amen.

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