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Defanging the V.I.P.E.R.S. of Stress

Illustration by RGVision Media

Did you know that, according to the World Health Organization, stress is the #1 health epidemic of the 21st century? It really should come as no surprise, because research indicates that stress affects individuals on virtually every level. For decades, studies have shown that stress negatively affects individuals on a physical level by leading to such illnesses as neurodegenerative disease, Alzheimer’s, depression, osteoporosis, metabolic syndrome, and diabetes, but recent studies have demonstrated that it also contributes to the weakening of other aspects of life as well, such as impaired decision-making, irrational thoughts and behaviors, and diminished religious fervor. Truly, the effects of stress impact individuals all the way around: physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

But stress doesn’t only affect individuals; it also affects society. One statistic indicates that between the years of 1988 and 2008 antidepressant use in America rose a whopping 400%. Another statistic indicates that in the year 2016 the national suicide rate reached its highest point in nearly thirty years, up 40% since 1999. Because of these statistics and others, it has grown increasingly urgent that something be done to address this rising assault on our individual and societal well-being.

In my doctoral research, I discovered that there are six primary areas one can address in order to stifle the effects of stress. I call these areas the VIPERS of life. These vipers are so named because they are found within the vocational, intellectual, physical, emotional, relational, and spiritual areas of one’s life. When one or more of these areas are affected by stress, they can potentially lead to impaired health and burnout if left unaddressed.   This is one of the reasons I often emphasize the importance of individuals doing stress and burnout inventories, so that they may determine where they fall on the stress and burnout continuums and take appropriate action.

Among those surveyed in my research, stress was found to be present in every one of the aforementioned VIPERS of the participants’ lives to some degree, but there was one area in particular that stood out above the rest: vocation. A staggering 60% of the participants’ stress came from vocation-related stressors, while 40% came from a distribution of the remaining five areas. And today, long after my doctoral research has been completed, I continue to see these statistics validated as I visit with marketplace professionals across the Rio Grande Valley. As a corporate chaplain, I speak with people on a weekly basis concerning numerous issues in their lives falling within each of the VIPERS life categories, but no topic comes up more than vocation. While stress can arise from within any area of life and may be triggered by virtually any action, thought, or idea, the reality is that vocation-related stressors far outweigh the rest.

Thankfully, there is an easy way for businesses in the Rio Grande Valley to address this growing epidemic in an manner that suits the needs of both the employee and the employer: a workplace chaplaincy program (WCP).   WCP’s come alongside and support employees as they experience the various stresses of their lives by providing them with access to onsite chaplains who visit with them during strategic times that do not interfere with their work schedules or productivity.  WCP’s are personalized, multi-faceted, and holistic in nature, addressing the spiritual, emotional, and relational needs of the employees.  They are also professional – maintaining strict respect for each individual’s personal, cultural, religious, and spiritual values.  For those who are spiritual, the onsite chaplain offers spiritual support.  For those who are not spiritual, the chaplain offers secular wisdom based upon his or her training.  Most importantly, the chaplain offers empathy, compassion, and active listening.

Companies who have utilized workplace chaplaincy programs have reported reduced workplace conflict, reduced accidents, reduced theft, increased employee morale, increased productivity, and increased bottom-line benefits. If you would like more information on workplace chaplaincy, you can contact Kairos Chaplaincy Services, LLC, at (956) 332-3040.

You can see Dr. Leslie Gonzales original article in the online edition of RGVision Magazine here and you can download the entire latest edition here!

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