Stress

Christian Women in Leadership: Gloria Nelund

Gloria Nelund has been blessed with a life characterized by great success is business and constant, faithful service to her Lord with her God-given talents and abilities. Read on…

What does it look like to be a woman in a leadership role? How does Christian faith impact leadership? And what happens when you put the two together?

To find out, we caught up with Chairman & CEO of TriLinc Global, an impact investing firm that she founded three years after her “retirement” from a 26-year career on Wall Street in the global asset management business. While she doesn’t hold a formal degree, she did study Elementary Education at the University of Dayton and graduated from an Executive Program at the University of Virginia, Darden School. Gloria is also a speaker at the upcoming WLI National Conference where she will lead a workshop on “Letting God Lead.”

We asked her a few questions about her job and her views on Christian leadership:

What’s the favorite part of your job?  

Solving problems and helping people.

How would you define Christian leadership?

Being called by God to a position of influence and then using that influence to do what you were called to do in the best way possible, and through it all, showing God’s love to others through your relationships and interactions with them.

How do you bring your Christian values into your work?

It’s how I live my life. From 2005 – 2007, I was on what I call my “wilderness journey.” During that journey, I had time to dive deep into Bible study and really reflect on my business life. And one of the things I realized is that my Christian values are what actually defined how I worked my whole life.  Literally, all the things that made me successful, all my “lessons learned,” the things I would give talks about, all had their root in the Bible. Every single one of them. So, my Christian values are reflected in everything I do.

The other “aha” I had is that there is a difference between “evangelizing” in the workplace and living out your Christian values at work. Every day, I strive to live a life that honors God. Sometimes that includes sharing my faith with someone God has put on my heart and sometimes it is just working hard, solving problems and helping people.

Looking back, is there a time on your leadership journey where you perhaps felt uncertain about the future, but God had a bigger plan?     

Absolutely. In 2005, at the age of 44, following a very successful 26-year career on Wall Street, I retired because I really felt there must be some other purpose for my life. I was ready to take on the world—I was on a mission to find my purpose and finally live out my “calling.”  And, for the next three years I worked hard to discover that purpose. I joined several women’s Bible studies, participated in Half Time training/discovery, taught a bible study, read everything I could find about finding your purpose and even took the Master’s Program for Women. I call it my “wilderness journey” because I really felt that I was lost in the wilderness. I was frustrated that God wasn’t using me for some great purpose.

And then, one day, as I was quietly listening to the Lord (instead of complaining), He told me to invite a close friend to Bible study, which ultimately led her to accepting Jesus as her Lord and Savior. In the months that followed, I started wondering if that was actually my purpose in life. Finally, I felt like God was asking me, “What if that was your only purpose for being here, to be there at just the moment she needed an invitation to Bible study. Will that be ok with you?” I’ll be honest, I struggled with it for a while, and it wasn’t until I was truly ok with it, where I could honestly say “my life was definitely worth my friend coming to know Jesus,” that God began to show me a bigger purpose for my life.

The Lord began to demonstrate to me that business was my calling. All along my job had been my mission field and over a period of about three months, I randomly began to hear from former colleagues and business associates whose lives I had touched in my career, that I never knew were watching me.  I was never an evangelist but I’ve also never hidden my faith. If someone asked, I was more than delighted to talk about it, but, most of the time, it was just how I lived my life and conducted business.  And even though at the time I didn’t know it mattered, I feel very blessed to learn that it did.

How does working in a religious or secular setting change the way you lead as a Christian?

It really doesn’t. I live out my faith in my life every day in every setting. Early in my career, I adopted three principles that I would follow all of my life: I would work really hard; I would solve problems; and I would help people. The first meant that when I finished an assignment I would look for another one. I was always asking for more to do. It was much later in my career when I realized that not everybody did that! In the second one, I found that I enjoyed making processes efficient, finding a better way to do something. And in the third area, I found joy in making other people successful.

Is there a passage in scripture that resonates with you as a Christian woman in leadership? 

“And whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord and not for men.” Colossians 3:23

What most prepared you to be a Christian leader in the workplace? 

Daily time with God and in the Word. In the hectic pace of business, it is easy to get caught up in the trappings around you: to lose perspective. I find that I need to take time each day to get centered, to gain a larger perspective, and to reconnect with purpose and goals that are bigger than me. Many people think they are too busy to do this, but I have found it essential.

What is the most important piece of advice you would want to pass along to other Christian women in leadership?

I love answering this question because it is not what anyone would expect me to say, but, my best advice is to find a really great husband. I could never have done all that I’ve done without a really great husband—one who has supported me, encourages my walk with the Lord, who takes care of everything at home, and proves incredible emotional support. I probably didn’t appreciate it as much as I do now, but I have to say it’s what I know allowed me to be stable and just continue doing what I did. 


Gloria Nelund spent 30 years on Wall Street as one of the most successful and visible executives in the international investment management industry.   After retiring from Deutsche Bank as CEO of their $50 billion North America Private Wealth Management division, she co-founded TriLinc Global; an investment firm dedicated to launching and managing innovative impact investment funds that will exponentially increase private capital participation to help solve some of the world’s most pressing challenges. For more from Gloria, check out her article, Business as a Calling.

Being an Assertive Christian Woman

By Ruth Koch

Sometimes it seems like life is uphill all the way.  Someone is rude to you, verbally abusive, takes advantage of you—whatever—and you, being raised as many women are, to ‘make nice,’ just don’t know how to handle the situation.  If you make a big effort to ‘make nice’ with the person who is doing wrong, you will encourage the behavior and participate in their wrongdoing.  You don’t want to be the doormat woman who forfeits the respect of those around her.

And I’ll bet you’ve seen too many women who hold it in and hold it in and then just blow up, raining nasty words and red-hot anger and even hatred that has been fermenting for way too long.  You don’t want to be that woman who behaves aggressively—hurting others and later regretting it.

And, besides, you’re a Christian woman and that is at the very center of your identity.  You want to represent Christ well in all your interactions with others, but you may not be sure just how to balance the whole counsel of God which tells us, for example, to put the needs of others ahead of our own (Philippians 2:3) but also tells us to ‘look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others,’ (Philippians 2:4), affirming that it is appropriate to look to our own interests.  To untangle some of these competing instructions, we need to look at the concept of assertiveness, the healthy antidote to both passive and aggressive behaviors.

And thus we look to the Word, and to Jesus’ life, for the answer to this important life dilemma.  In the gospels, you can observe Jesus’ behaviors, His attitudes, His loving, compassionate interactions and His sometimes direct, fiery interactions as well.  Jesus embodied a higher law, the law of love.  Jesus was beautifully assertive in His interactions with others, discerning what would most effectively accomplish His goal of salvation and service.  The heart of assertive behavior is that it embodies both self respect and respect for others.

Mark 10:17-22 is the story of the rich young man who came to Jesus.  Quite proud of himself and determined not to be vulnerable, the rich young man asked Jesus what he must do to be saved.  Jesus knew his heart, wanted him to know salvation and began where the young man was by telling him that he must obey the commandments.  “No problem!  Been doing that all my life,” the young man answered.  And Jesus looked straight at him with love (v.21)How easy it would have been to dismiss this arrogant young man!  But Jesus loved him and wanted him to be a part of God’s kingdom.  So He looked into the young man’s heart, saw how it was tangled up in riches, and spoke assertively and directly to him: “Sell it all, give it to the poor and follow me.”  Jesus did not compromise His mission to bring salvation to this young man, nor did He mince words and try to make nice.  Too much was at stake!  His loving engagement reinforced His words.

Alas, we are told that the rich young man’s face fell, and “he went away sorrowful, because he was very rich” (v. 22).  Important to note that Jesus was loving, direct, focused on His own mission of redemption and fully engaged with this young man.  All that, however, did not guarantee that the man’s response would be to repent, sell and follow Jesus.  Behaving assertively does not guarantee success, but it greatly increases the likelihood that a genuine and authentic encounter will take place

At its heart, Christian assertiveness is dedicated to the welfare and respect of others as well as honoring a commitment to the mission and ministry set before each Christian.  An assertive Christian is not asserting rights, but is instead choosing behaviors that support, enhance and celebrate that Christian’s call to love and serve God and others, living out respect for self and the person God has created you to be—and respect for the other person as beloved and precious to God.

Christians can wade into messy situations and gather up our courage, knowing we are called to imitate the beautifully, lovingly assertive Christ.

Ruth N. Koch, M.A., NCC is a mental health educator and National Certified Counselor. Trained in both social work and counseling, she specializes in conflict management, grief education, and everyday mental health issues that impact personal and family relations. She is the co-author of Speaking the Truth in Love: How to Be an Assertive Christian, Stephen Ministries, St. Louis, MO. Come to the Gifted to Influence Conference in Milwaukee, WI September 29 – October 1 to hear Ruth’s presentation, “Neither Passive nor Aggressive:  The Assertive Christian Woman.”

Christian Women in Leadership: Susan Marshall

Susan Marshall has one piece of advice for Christian leaders in a secular world: stay true to God’s Word. Read on…

What does it look like to be a woman in a leadership role? How does Christian faith impact leadership? And what happens when you put the two together?

To find out, we caught up with Susan Marshall, Founder of the Backbone Institute. Their tagline is “Never grow a wishbone where a backbone ought to be,” and their mission is to create a stronger, more confident future one person or team at a time.  She holds a B.S. in Management and an MBA from Stritch University. Susan is also a speaker at the upcoming WLI National Conference where she will lead a workshop on Developing Confidence in MY Ability to Influence.

We asked her a few questions about her job and her views on Christian leadership:

What’s the favorite part of your job? 

Seeing people grow—their energy and excitement is contagious!

How would you define Christian leadership?

Having the courage to live as God commands in a world that shuns Him and His message. Having the strength to encourage and comfort others who struggle with worldly demands and feel woefully inadequate.

How do you bring your Christian values into your work?

Patiently. Consistently. Joyfully. There is greater power in invitation and acceptance than in judgment and condemnation. We are all human. We all struggle and fail. Since we have been forgiven for EVERYTHING we have messed up, we can offer forgiveness and acceptance to those who have hurt us.  Our open arms are a radical invitation to change.

Can you remember a specific experience where you relied on your Christian faith or values to lead you through a tough decision or important task?

The past two years have been full of family challenge. Dad passed in August 2016. Mom passed this June. I was assigned Power of Attorney in the Estate Trust they created in 1997. My decisions for their treatment and living arrangements were soundly criticized and challenged by siblings, who had little involvement and who have abandoned “religion.” God’s promise to be with me always was enormously comforting. The seven months we had with Mom here provided time to convince her that God wasn’t waiting for her to do “one more good thing” that would assure her safe arrival in heaven. We were blessed.

Looking back, is there a time on your leadership journey where you perhaps felt uncertain about the future, but God had a bigger plan?

The past two years! My professional work was almost entirely set aside to care for Mom and Dad. As a single, independent professional, I had no idea how I was going to keep up with mortgage and monthlies. God provided and has now opened new doors for work.

How does working in a secular setting change the way you lead as a Christian?

Being a Christian leader in a secular setting demands quiet and consistent courage. Reading God’s word, reflecting on secular values and why they do not matter to me, and letting go the things of this world are all daily disciplines. It is difficult to stay true to God’s plan without coming across as holier-than-thou or painfully naive. Resisting the judgment/assessment of others is a constant challenge.

Who are your biggest role models as a leader?

Paul, David, and Abraham. There are few today, which points to an enormous opportunity for us!

Is there a passage in scripture that resonates with you as a Christian woman in leadership? 

Jeremiah 29:11. I can come up with plans and strategies, but I’ve learned to relinquish them to God’s will. I can become upset with the world’s judgment of my work and the work of other Christian women, but God’s thoughts are not our thoughts; His ways are not our ways. He HAS plans for each of us. Our job is to trust Him.

What most prepared you to be a Christian leader in the workplace? 

Conflict. Struggle. Failure. I have had to fall hard in order to appreciate God’s power. Sad, but true!

What challenges do you face as a Christian leader in your workplace?

Scorn and ridicule by the intellectual elite. They tell me believing in God is superstition; trusting His will is irresponsible and lazy.

What is the most important piece of advice you would want to pass along to other Christian women in leadership?

Be strong. Stay true to God’s Word. Find people to support you. Ignore social pressure. LEAD.  he world needs you more than ever!

Conquering Nervousness to Unleash your Full Speaking Power

by Sarah Holtan, Ph.D.

Do you like to talk? If so, then you possess the potential to become a dynamic public speaker. It’s true! Yet, you might find that your nerves steal your power.

When we feel threatened, our bodies typically react in one of three ways: flight, freeze, or fight. Many of us experience the flight and/or freeze modes when asked to present publicly. We may find excuses not to present (flight). Or, we may become extremely nervous about the presentation and our carefully-prepared words seem to fall right out of our heads (freeze).

Symptoms of Nervousness

Perhaps you’ve experienced some of the following common physiological symptoms of nervousness: dry mouth, shaky knees, trembling voice, red skin blotches, or excessive sweat. The good news is that most people do not detect your nervousness. The other piece of good news: the worst of the symptoms typically subside after thirty seconds of speaking.

You probably know exactly how your body responds when you speak publicly so take measures to counteract the specific symptoms. For example, if you suffer a dry mouth, suck a mint beforehand as well as bring water. If you get shaky knees, wear pants. If you get a blotchy neck and chest, wear high-neck clothes or a scarf. If you sweat too much, wear black, navy, or white colors. Breathing techniques to slow your heart rate are also recommended.

Strategies to Conquer Your Nerves

Being prepared for the presentation and passionate about the topic are two easy ways to help offset the nerves. Pick a topic that you get naturally jazzed up about. If you’re assigned a topic for which you have little knowledge or enthusiasm, ask the coordinator to adjust the topic. If you’re stuck with it, request to co-present. That will take the pressure off you having to become an expert on the topic.

If you are a novice speaker, you will want to try a progression approach to build skills and confidence. First, try some low-stakes public speaking, such as volunteering to read material during a Bible study, church service, or meeting. Next, find opportunities where there is a moderate amount of psychological risk. Examples include facilitating a meeting, co-presenting, praying aloud at a group event, speaking to a group of much-younger people, or speaking to a very small, informal group. Young people and small groups don’t seem to “threaten” us as much. Now you’re ready for the formal, structured public speaking events. Until you are a more advanced speaker, consider reducing the amount of self-disclosure offered in a speech. Sharing private information (e.g., history of abuse or trauma) can make us feel more vulnerable, which results in higher anxiety levels.

Specific Techniques

Assuming you’ve conquered your nerves enough to focus on your delivery, let’s turn to the most common pieces of advice I offer to beginner speakers.

Verbal Techniques:

  • Let your natural enthusiasm for the topic carry your pitch, tone, and inflection.
  • Speak to the back of the room or the person farthest away to project voice.
  • Breathe normally to regulate your pace; what seems like a long moment to catch your breath is not really very long to an audience member.
  • Minimize “um’s” and other fillers by using pauses judiciously. If you use fillers in everyday conversation, you will use them more in speeches.
  • No reading and no memorization. Use your notes to jog your memory only.

Nonverbal Techniques:

  • Maintain eye contact with each person for 2-3 seconds.
  • Use your hands for natural gestures or rest lightly on the table/podium.
  • Ground the four corners of your feet firmly and hip width apart. Stand or sit up straight to project confidence.
  • Use movement with purpose and to burn excessive energy. Avoid swaying, though.
  • Use a PowerPoint or another visual aid to draw staring eyes away from you. (Warning: Technology will fail you when you need it most, such as on Presentation Day, so be sure to have an old-school back-up plan ready.)
  • Match your wardrobe to the formality of the event and the seriousness of your topic.

Even after you’ve had experience speaking, and mastered the basic verbal and nonverbal delivery techniques, it is natural to feel nervous. You can harness that nervous energy by embracing it. To an audience member, nervous energy just looks like energy.

Think of speech as a gift from God. We have a responsibility to use it for the service of our neighbors.

When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.” (1 Corinthians 2:1-5  NIV)

We may stumble over our words, but the power of God never stumbles.


Come to the WLI National Conference in Milwaukee on September 29 – October 1 to hear Sarah’s presentation—Speaking 101: Delivery that Delivers


Four Ways to Beat Burnout

by Gretchen Huesmann

Tired. Weary. Exhausted.  Sometimes we’re just having a busy day. At other times, we experience seasons of hard work and long hours. Unfortunately, not all labor produces obvious fruit and we can feel like we’re spinning our wheels, a common feeling in ministry. Obviously, if our path is leading to burnout, something has to give.  It’s time to take a step, even if we’re dead on our feet.

1.  Step Back

Sometimes we just need to take a STEP BACK –  a break, a hiatus, or a vacation. How many people really take a day off or a true Sabbath rest? I know I’m guilty of dragging work home with me on a regular basis. Jesus Himself set a better example when He said, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place to get some rest.” (Mark 6:31)

Or perhaps a longer respite is required, such as a sabbatical. This is trickier, but may be necessary for clarity, health, and rejuvenation.  My husband and I have friends who recently embarked on a 6-month sabbatical. This step was not an easy one for them or their workplaces. However, the alternative, to continue the downward spiral toward burnout, was not a welcome option.

2.  Step Aside

At other times, the Lord may be calling us to STEP ASIDE. Could it be that God has something else in mind for us or less in mind for us?  Maybe it’s time for someone else to run the Sunday School or plan VBS. I know a woman who has led the same Bible study group for 30 years! She’s very proud of that. Yet I can’t help but wonder how many potential leaders have missed out from her unwillingness to step aside.

3.  Step Away

Perhaps a bigger step is needed, a STEP AWAY. Any kind of change is daunting, especially a career change. It requires prayerful consideration, conversations with family, and searching God’s Word for direction. It takes courage and clarity and a whole lot of trust. Recently, a friend left his job to start his own construction business, a bold move to be sure, but a God-directed and God-inspired one. He has a new bounce in his step.

4.  Step Up

One last option is to STEP UP.  Is God calling you to press on? To lean into the work, not with your own strength, but with His power?

Paul describes this in Philippians 3:13-14, “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ.”  And in Colossians 1:29, “To this end I labor, struggling with all His energy, which so powerfully works in me.”

Noah pressed on to build the ark, despite the dry weather. Moses pressed on with the Egyptians behind and the Red Sea ahead. Jesus stepped up when He prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me, yet not my will, but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42)

What step do you need to take? Proverbs 4:26a says, “Give careful thought to the paths for your feet.” If exhaustion is leading you on a path toward burnout, carefully, prayerfully consider your next step. Know that our God will lead you.

Gretchen Huesmann loves to connect women with God’s Word through Bible studies, retreats, and blogging.  Since little people are her other joy, she also teaches 4K. Gretchen lives in Jackson, Wisconsin. You can find her blog at www.gretchenhuesmann.com.


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An Attitude of Gratitude – In Leadership and in Life

by Deb Burma

Today is a new day, and we have all kinds of expectations for it, don’t we? We’d like to think that our tasks will be completed with ease, our relationships will thrive, our health will be optimum, and all will be well. We’d like to envision the day’s contents packaged neatly and tied with a beautiful bow. (Then reality sets in!) As the day unfolds, we may be faced with struggles at work or conflict in relationships, trouble with health, or stress from an overloaded schedule. Our day may end up looking more like a package that’s been dropped in the mud or torn open haphazardly. The contents are spilled and our neat-and-tidy expectations have given way to a mess!

As Christian women seeking to lead and serve well in our homes, our workplaces, our communities, and beyond, we’re called to live a life of gratitude in our daily walk with Christ and with one another, and as we bear witness to the One we serve. How is this even possible in the midst of certain circumstances and especially on those days we might liken to a muddy mess?

By God’s grace, we can instill habits that cultivate an attitude of gratitude—in leadership and in life – on those neat-and-tidy packaged days AND in the midst of every muddy mess:

  1. Look for the Bless(ing) in the Mess

With God’s help, we can choose to see blessings in the midst of the messes in life. He enables us to shift our gaze from difficult or frustrating situations to the One who holds us and guides us through them. Not dismissing them or making light of them, but resting in His promises and receiving His strength to “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for [us]” I Thessalonians 5:18.

We cling to the Truth of God’s Word in spite of feelings, fears, and the difficulty of the moment. For example: when we feel that a situation is out of control, we hold fast to the Truth that Jesus has everything under control (Hebrews 2:8).

“Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” Philippians 4:8.

We can ask ourselves: “In today’s situation, what can I give thanks for? What can I think about that is true, pure, lovely…?”

  1. Make a Choice to Rejoice! 

Let’s take a deep breath, then slowly exhale. (Go ahead…) See, God just gave you and me another breath on this new day of life – a simple reason to rejoice! “This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” Psalm 118:24. What will we witness today if we’re watchful? Can we recall the refreshing time spent with a friend, the delicious foods we savor, the kind gesture from a stranger? May we take a closer look at God’s creation and marvel in one detail of it? We would be wise to consider His continual provision of our needs. Above all, we can rejoice in His free gifts of forgiveness and faith: Jesus is Lord and He is risen! We celebrate life in His name!

As Christian women seeking to lead and serve well in every area of life, we’re called to live a life of gratitude. How is this even possible in the midst of certain circumstances and especially on those days we might liken to a muddy mess?

We rejoice, too, as we remember God’s promise to work all things together for good (Romans 8:28). Whether we stare at a pretty package or a muddy mess today, let’s consider how the Lord may be working in and through it:

  • He may lead us to look to our Savior alone for life and peace – to the One who has overcome this messed-up world. (See John 16:33)
  • He may teach us to rest in His strength and not pretend that we can go it alone in times of trouble. (See Psalm 46:1)
  • He may use this to grow and mature our faith in Him. (See James 1:2-4)
  • He may work through us to leave a powerful, lasting influence upon someone, as she witnesses our trust and gratitude, even in the midst of a mess. (See 1 Corinthians 11:1)

Actively express thanks to God through creative expression: start a gratitude journal. Look for blessings, big and little, as a daily exercise in thankfulness, then list them in your journal, adding Scripture, images, and artwork, too. Record God’s provision and all the blessings in your life that come to mind.

  1. Gaze Upward and Outward: Inspire and Influence

In a world filled with naval-gazers, we’re called to look not inward, but upward…then outward. We live in grateful response to the Giver of every good gift (James 1:17), with our gaze upon Him as we follow His lead. Then – by His grace – we get to impact the world for Christ right in the midst of our circumstances, even the muddy, messy ones. Through our influence, we can “…make the most of every opportunity.” Colossians 4:5

In all we say and do, we have the opportunity to inspire others with a message that reveals a life of gratitude in Christ: (1) For who we are, chosen and redeemed in Him. (2) For all we have, received from His hand. (3) For all we are becoming, as we continue to be molded in His image and grow in our life of leadership and service.  We inspire gratitude in others as we live it and express it freely (even in the midst of a haphazardly-opened, muddy-messy package-of-a-day).

We can ask ourselves: “How can I lead with a spirit of gratitude in this situation? What kind of influence may my growing gratitude have on the people God is placing in my life?”

As the Founder and Perfecter of your faith (Hebrews 12:2) continues His good work in you (Philippians 1:6), ask Him to help you see the blessing in the midst of every messy circumstance. Seek His strength, that you can make a choice to rejoice. Fix your eyes on Him, making the most of the next opportunity (and the next…and the next…) to inspire and influence others through your attitude…of gratitude!


 

Deb Burma is a member of Speakers Bureau and a sought-after speaker for women’s conferences, retreats, and leadership workshops. She is the author of Christian-living books, Bible studies, and devotionals, published by CPH. Deb is grateful for Jesus’ redeeming love, for her husband and children, and for the opportunities each new day presents, guided by God’s grace!

Stretched vs. Stressed: What’s the Difference and why does it Matter for Leaders?

by Sarah Holtan, Ph.D.

“How do you do it all?” I’m asked regularly by friends and colleagues. My answer: “I don’t.” I watch their eyes get round and their eyebrows shoot up. They know I’m the solo parent of two young children, a full-time employee, and hold numerous other roles. I explain that I used to try to do it all… yes, I tried to be a SuperMom. I even took multivitamins by that name! But the SuperMom Phenom was a dangerous trap for me. The pressure to maintain control over all the moving parts in my life– or the illusion of control – was utterly exhausting and stressful.

Leaders are prone to high levels of stress. The Bible refers to stress as anxiety, worry, and troubles (Matt. 6:25; Ps. 142:2-3). God wants us to come to Him in prayer with our troubles (2 Sam. 22:7). Prayer is the antidote to anxiety: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Phil. 4:6-7). He wants us to learn to love and trust in Him fully to provide for us (Prov. 3:5-6). Furthermore, our general well-being is at stake. We serve no one well when we are highly stressed because we make poor decisions and/or withdraw from situations and people.

I was in a position of leadership at work and in a low place in my personal life when I realized I couldn’t function well anymore. I was no longer challenged in a positive way; I was just overwhelmed. My adrenaline was pumping almost constantly. After prayerful consideration, and to the shock of many, I requested a demotion at work. It was the hardest and best decision of my professional life.

How did I know I was stressed out and not just stretched? At first, I didn’t. Like most of us, I just tried to “power through” the daily grind of managing work, family, and Everything Else. I told myself it would get better after I adjusted. It didn’t. Looking back, I can see I exhibited some of the signs that are commonly associated with stress:

  • Negative emotions being close to the surface, such as irritability and frustration
  • Resentful attitude
  • Forgetfulness
  • Feelings of being overwhelmed, especially at night and upon waking
  • Sleep disturbances (too much or too little)
  • Over-reliance on over-the-counter medications for headaches and other ailments
  • Lack of self-care, such as exercise
  • Increased escapism activities, such as television

But I’m an overachiever, classic Type A, so I had trouble discerning the difference between the challenges that stretch us – those that are positive, healthy, productive, and growth opportunities – and challenges that stress us, which are those that might debilitate us.

Here are some signs of being stretched:

  • Feeling energized by the new role, task, event, life change, etc., even if scared about it
  • Brain automatically begins visualizing possibilities
  • Able to manage negative emotions reasonably
  • Sense of accomplishment surrounding it

If you are exhibiting signs of stress, what can you do about it? I’d recommend the following:

A.     Pray. Read Scripture, such as Psalm 118:5-9, John 14:27, and Matthew 6:25-34. Trust in the Lord to provide the necessities of life.

B.     Identify the top 1-3 stressor(s) in your life (macro level) or regarding one particular aspect of life (micro level).

1.     Decide if the stressor(s) can be fixed with a technical solution.  For example, I don’t mind cleaning the house. But I do mind the time that it takes to vacuum snack crumbs out of the carpets, scrape silly putty off the fireplace hearth, and pick up two dozen toy trucks and half-finished art projects. My technical solution was to add a household budget line item for a housekeeper.

2.     If a technical solution is not readily apparent, you might need to consider if you have a deeper, philosophical issue.  Maybe it is fear of changing or delegating work to someone else, and thus, losing control.

C.     Ask yourself what could or will happen if you do nothing? What are the short- and long-term consequences? What will you regret?

D.     Consider what you could do for others to help ease their troubles and anxieties (Luke 11:46). Are you creating obstacles for your co-workers or family members? Could you help them overcome their obstacles? Could you serve them in a meaningful way, and thus, experience their tranquility and joy by proxy?

I’m proud to say I’ve shifted away from the SuperMom trappings. But since I’m Type A, I’ll rebrand myself as a TopMom.