I’m sitting at my kitchen table. It’s 11:35 PM.
In my current visual field there is a 12-page document I’m translating for tomorrow’s deadline at one job, a stack of three different currencies that needs to be organized for my second job, and an email inbox spilling over with urgent requests.
Everyone I know who lives in my hemisphere is sleeping. I, however, am chomping away on imported pretzels to keep my brain going and my fingers moving.
Did I forget to mention that my family moved into a new house this week? And that we’re headed on our first furlough very soon? Or that I’m trying to write a dissertation and start a new business?
Heavens to Betsy, we could even discuss how I stumbled through a custom order at a hardware store in a tonal language today. Or about how I cooked my first successful pot roast in a year and a half (that’s seriously a praise report).
One other thing: I have a two-year-old.
Guys, THERE ARE JUST SO MANY TIMES IN A DAY I CAN LET IT GO.
Anyone who knows me knows that my life is generally….hectic. I kind of thrive in chaotic environments. So for most of my adulthood, my schedule has been full and my husband has likened me to a wildfire that could use some extinguishing here or there.
We’re talking about stress, and I can tell you that at least when I was stressed and in the United States, I could run through a drive-thru for dinner or do most of my shopping in a single place.
Not the case in the developing world. I don’t need to tell this to any of you.
So we take our baseline stress levels to the overseas field, and we basically inject them with high-powered stress steroids. Notice I did not say performance-enhancing drugs.
Maybe that was a bad analogy. Just imagine stress bombs exploding all over the place. This is now our overseas life.
If you’re wondering how that’s working for all of us, let me introduce you to two men named Thomas (Holmes) and Richard (Rahe). In 1967, they wanted to find out if stressful events could cause illness. Brilliant! So they analyzed the medical records of five thousand people and created what we know today as the Rahe Stress Scale.
These men chose 43 life events and placed them on a scale with points assigned depending on how much effect the event had on a person’s life. The highest was the death of a spouse at 100 points, and a minor violation of the law the lowest at 11 points. Patients were asked to list the events they had experienced in the last year, and the score for each person was totaled. Holmes and Rahe discovered that a score of 150 indicated a slight risk of illness, 150-299 indicated a moderate risk, and 300+ indicated a definite health risk.
Jansohn (2013) believes that some people can endure scores of 400, but that people in our line of cross-cultural work often live at sustained levels of stress at around 600 on the scale.
Call it resilience. Call it a strong support network. Call it what you want.
But I’m choosing to call it a red flag and a time to examine our mental health and function on the field.
About two months ago, I was mortified as I Skyped into a meeting with our supporting fellowship in a full-on ugly cry. I was NOT okay. And with hesitancy, I choked through the explanation of my fatigue and borderline burnout. Thankfully, we have the most loving and caring sending body, who extended loads of grace that included a plane ticket home for the holidays this year.
I’m well aware that many of you don’t have the luxury of supporters who you feel have your back. Oh, how I wish I could send the M committee fairies down with holiday vacations to each and every one of you. You don’t need to ask me twice – TAKE THAT VACATION AND TAKE IT NOW!
But if at the very least you’re trying to sit and justify your *fine*-ness, take a look at your stress levels and finally justify your fatigue!
For the Homes and Rahe Stress Scale, I, Lauren Pinkston, join you at a 400+. You can simply use this list to add up your score and see where you land.
If you’d like a more interactive stress test, I LOVE the assessment tool at Cerny Smith. Not only can you spend time reflecting on what is really stressing you out, but this inventory was designed specifically for people doing Kingdom work abroad.
So, please use these two tools to your liking. We are a crazy, frazzled bunch! Check yourself, take breaks when you need them, and don’t feel ashamed to say, I’m stressed!