Ekkistress by Craig Howard

While vacationing in Norway last week, Marilyn and I took a lecture on happiness, and why Norway (ranked #1 in happiness in 2017) continues to be one of the happiest countries in the world. The presenter shared methods like Hygge – having homemade cake with friends in a cozy environment. The lecturer also spoke about Friluflsliv – enjoying outdoors that may include ice baths! I can go for Hygge, but I have to pass on the polar bear plunge!

The best word we learned wasn’t from the lecture but from the local tour guide. As our bus twisted and turned up a mountain, the guide emphasized the trip would be ekkistress– low stress. She talked about living a low stress life and the value of taking it easy on oneself. When we stopped for our event she said, “The bus leaves at 2:10. Or 2:20. Ekkistress!”

Returning to work and being met with a mound of emails demanding attention, phone calls to be returned, and numerous reports to be read and written, I find myself pausing and wondering how to build ekkistress into my world. Can the leaders of congregations and other ministries model a way of serving and being that is low stress?

The first step is to be aware of the pressures and what brings the stress. For me, simply turning off email alerts helps. Why get constantly bombarded by messages while trying to write or read another document? This applies to pings and notifications on my phone as well. Second, I’ve softened deadlines. I’ll arrive a little early or a little late. The report will get done in good enough time. It’ll be okay. Third, stop beating myself up when I make a mistake or when things don’t go the way I want them to. Relax. Breathe. Small tweaks over time bring big results.

I’m also committed to showing appreciation for the leadership of the pastors, teachers, chaplains, and other minsters in the presbytery. I am blessed to be a part of this presbytery and thank God daily for you and the staff of the presbytery.

These are some of my adjustments to help live ekkistress. What about you? What helps you to reduce the edge of stress in your day? I’d like to know!

Rev. Craig Howard