Not surprisingly, work is a significant source of stress for many people. This makes sense. Author and researcher McGonnigal (2015) notes in her book The Upside of Stress: Why Stress is Good for You (and how to get good at it) that we experience stress when something important to us is at stake.
Having an unhealthy relationship with work can contribute to a number of health issues. Perceptions of high workloads, low social support, and perceptions of imbalance between effort versus rewards are significantly correlated with insomnia, for example (Yang et al., 2018). Job burnout perceptions were found to be predictive of health problems such as depression, heart disease, cardiac events requiring hospitalization, diabetes, pain, and even mortality in people under age 45 (Salvagioni, Melanda, Mesas, González, Gabani, & Andrade, 2017). Health care workers, teachers, and workers in fields that are highly interactive and emotional experience higher rates of exhaustion and burnout (Luken & Sammons, 2016).
Yet, as McGonnigal (2015) discusses, having the appropriate mindset (such as recognizing anxiety as your body’s way of giving you energy–which research strongly supports), finding purpose and meaning in your challenges, and helping others drastically reduces your health risks despite stress and even trauma. If God is real, designed us, and the scriptures are His primary method of communicating too us , then principles should be found to help us in our daily lives. Indeed, the scriptures abound with research-backed, practical wisdom to assist us in our work mindset and work life balance.
Humility boosts performance for leaders and team members
Research has found that when BOTH leaders and their followers are humble, a sense of passion for the work increases, leaders and followers feel more at harmony with one another, and performance improves for employees as rated by their supervisors (Diao, Song, Wang, & Zhong, 2019). Humility is defined by a willingness to admit mistakes and personal limitations, recognizing strengths and contributions of others, and openness to feedback and new ideas. Notably, humility in leaders can positively influence humility in workers, but if workers fail to express humility themselves, these benefits are lost. In other words, both leaders and followers benefit when they take on a humble approach to their work (Diao et al., 2019).
Scriptures have taught humility for thousands of years!!
Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted. (Matthew 23:12, KJV)
Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.. (Colossians 3:12-13, NKJV)
Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but whoever hates correction is stupid. (Proverbs 12: 1, NIV)
Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. (1 Peter 3: 8, KJV)
There are MANY scriptural verses on the power of humility, click here for a list of just some of those verses. Its only when we are humble that we open ourselves to shoring up strengths, collaborating with others of differing viewpoints. With humility, we create an atmosphere where there is maximal learning, sharing, identification of risks, and correction.
A strong work ethic protects you from work related stressors
Research has demonstrated that strong work values–beliefs that hard work benefits us both materially and provides self-esteem and purpose–are protective against common work stressors such as frequent interruptions (Zoupanou & Rydstedt, 2017). Research has repeatedly demonstrated lower psychological distress, lower physical health complaints, and higher ratings of well being in persons that view hard work as valuable (Zoupanou & Rydstedt, 2017).
Interestingly, these values were protective for both employed and currently unemployed persons during the time of the research studies (Zoupanou & Rydstedt, 2017). For both persons born into poverty or into wealthier settings, having a growth mindset–defined as seeing challenges as ways to improve abilities and seeking out such challenging experiences–proved a strong predictor of achievement (Claro, Paunesku, & Dweck, 2016). Conversely, avoiding challenges proved predictive of poor performance and achievement (Claro et al., 2016).
The scriptures emphasize the value of hard work and self-discipline
Go to the ant, you sluggard! Consider her ways and be wise, which, having no captain, overseer or ruler, provides her supplies in the summer, and gathers her food in the harvest. How long will you slumber, o sluggard? When will you rise from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep—so shall your poverty come on you like a prowler, and your need like an armed man. (Proverbs 6: 6-11, NKJV)
I went by the field of the lazy man, and by the vineyard of the man devoid of understanding; and there it was, all overgrown with thorns; its surface was covered with nettles; its stone wall was broken down. When I saw it, I considered it well; I looked on it and received instruction: a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest; so shall your poverty come like a prowler, and your need like an armed man. (Proverbs 24: 30-34, NKJV)
Blessed is every one who fears the Lord, who walks in His ways. When you eat the labor of your hands, you shall be happy, and it shall be well with you. (Psalms 128: 1-2, NKJV)
Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going. (Ecclesiastes 9: 10, NKJV)
But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. (1 Timothy 5: 8, NKJV)
Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need. (Ephesians 4: 28, NKJV)
Because of laziness the building decays, And through idleness of hands the house leaks. (Ecclesiastes 10: 18, NKJV)
Hard work is the tool God has given us to bring order out of chaos as referenced by the above verses. What is fascinating is that his creation of the world is compared to labor, during which God institutes the sabbath day as rest (Genesis chapter 1 & 2). Indeed, our very universe, even our personal health, represents order despite the forces of chaos (Morris, 1997).
Rest and recovery are essential
While work and stress can be useful for achieving financial goals, providing a sense of purpose, providing self-esteem and meaning, among other benefits, excessive hours without rest and recuperation can be destructive to mental and physical health over time (Hsu, Bai, Yang, Huang, Lin, & Lin, 2019; McGonnigal, 2015). Working overtime was associated with decreased perceptions of work-life balance, a greater sense of psychological stress, greater fatigue, greater job dissatisfaction, lower productivity, and poor quality of life (Hsu et al., 2019). A sense of control over time however reduced the negative effects of long hours on job satisfaction.
According to the Effort-Recovery Model, workers in high stress jobs need to achieve psychological detachment from their work during non-working hours in order to boost productivity (Hsu et al., 2019). This psychological detachment reduces the risks of burnout, improves psychological health, improves sense of well being in the job role, and may have corresponding physical, behavioral, and psychological positive health implications. The Effort-Recovery Model is supported with related research on the need for our nervous system to move back and forth between the “fight or flight” and the “rest and digest” arms of the nervous system for optimal health (click here for more information) (Dhabhar, 2018).
The implementation and maintaining of a weekly sabbath (day of rest) can be found in the religious practices of several modern religions such as Orthodox Judaism, the Seventh Day Adventists, various sects of Christianity and others (Superville, Pargament, & Lee, 2014). The commandments for the sabbath can be found in the Bible in the book of Exodus 20: 8-11. While various religious groups restrict various activities during the sabbath day, a commonality includes a weekly reprieve from work and even household chores (Superville et al., 2014).
Other similar characteristics for those that observe the sabbath include the practice of prayer, avoidance of distance travel, participation in religious services, time spent with visiting family, communal gatherings, and other restorative practices (Superville et al., 2014). Research supports the mental restorative powers of sabbath keeping. For example, regular keeping of the sabbath was shown to improve a sense of religious support and religious coping, both of which showed STRONGER effects on mental health than diet or exercise (Superville et al., 2014).
Positive emotions and health have been linked consistently in the literature (Superville et al., 2014). Worship services allow opportunities for worship, praise, expressions of gratitude, and a general focus on positive and hopeful thoughts. Further, worship services provide opportunities for socialization, reductions in loneliness, can invoke feelings of hope, and induce feelings of peace (Superville et al., 2014). Hope, socialization, gratitude, meditative practices, practices of faith, and optimism all have been found to support resilience against trauma and stress (for more specifics, click here).
Work life balance is supported in the scriptures
Thus the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, were finished. And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made. (Genesis 2: 1-3, NKJV)
Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it. (Exodus 20: 8-11, NKJV)
And He said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.” (Mark 2: 27, NKJV)
Do not overwork to be rich; because of your own understanding, cease!
Will you set your eyes on that which is not? For riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away like an eagle toward heaven. (Prov 23: 4-5, NKJV)
It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows; for so He gives His beloved sleep. (Psalms 127: 2, NKJV)
Better a handful with quietness, than both hands full, together with toil and grasping for the wind. (Ecclesiastes 4: 6, NKJV)
Then I returned, and I saw vanity under the sun: there is one alone, without companion:
he has neither son nor brother. Yet there is no end to all his labors, nor is his eye satisfied with riches. But he never asks, “For whom do I toil and deprive myself of good?” This also is vanity and a grave misfortune. (Ecclesiastes 4: 7-8, NKJV)
The scriptures match research again, noting that hard work is essential–but noting also the need for rest, gathering together, and disconnecting from our labor. These scriptures note the vanity of chasing riches. They teach that working excessive hours in pursuit of wealth rarely leads to satisfaction, comparing it with grasping at the wind.
The scriptures match science in terms of establishing healthy work mindsets and habits. Humility, openness to correction, recognizing others’ talents are useful in creating healthy team dynamics when embraced by workers and leaders alike. Adopting a strong work ethic and mindset, embracing challenges as training opportunities, and finding a sense of purpose in your work boosts mental and physical health and protects against the stress inherent in various occupations. Finally, rest and recuperation with a balance between work hours and hours spent on positive recovery activities improve productivity and health. All of these principles have been taught throughout the scriptures for thousands of years!
Resilience Against Stress: Genetics or Lifestyle?
Claro, S., Paunesku, D., & Dweck, C. S. (2016). Growth mindset tempers the effects of poverty on academic achievement. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 113(31), 8664–8668. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1608207113
Dhabhar F. S. (2018). The short-term stress response – Mother nature’s mechanism for enhancing protection and performance under conditions of threat, challenge, and opportunity. Frontiers in neuroendocrinology, 49, 175–192. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.yfrne.2018.03.004
Diao, H., Song, L. J., Wang, Y., & Zhong, J. (2019). Being Passionate to Perform: The Joint Effect of Leader Humility and Follower Humility. Frontiers in psychology, 10, 1059. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.01059
Hsu, Y. Y., Bai, C. H., Yang, C. M., Huang, Y. C., Lin, T. T., & Lin, C. H. (2019). Long Hours’ Effects on Work-Life Balance and Satisfaction. BioMed research international, 2019, 5046934. https://doi.org/10.1155/2019/5046934
Luken, M., & Sammons, A. (2016). Systematic Review of Mindfulness Practice for Reducing Job Burnout. The American journal of occupational therapy : official publication of the American Occupational Therapy Association, 70(2), 7002250020p1–7002250020p10. https://doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2016.016956
McGonnigal, K. (2015). The upside of stress: Why stress is good for you (and how to get good at it). London, UK: Penguin Random House
Morris, H. M. (1997). Can Order Come Out of Chaos? Retrieved from https://www.icr.org/article/can-order-come-out-chaos
Salvagioni, D., Melanda, F. N., Mesas, A. E., González, A. D., Gabani, F. L., & Andrade, S. M. (2017). Physical, psychological and occupational consequences of job burnout: A systematic review of prospective studies. PloS one, 12(10), e0185781. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0185781
Superville, D. J., Pargament, K. I., & Lee, J. W. (2014). Sabbath keeping and its relationships to health and well-being: A mediational analysis. International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, 24(3), 241–256. https://doi-org.lopesalum.idm.oclc.org/10.1080/10508619.2013.837655
Yang, B., Wang Y., Cui, F., Huang, T., Sheng, P., Shi, T., Huang, C., Lan, Y., & Huang, Y. N. (2018). Association between insomnia and job stress: a meta-analysis. Sleep & Breathing 22(4), 1221-1231. doi: 10.1007/s11325-018-1682-y
Zoupanou, Z. E., & Rydstedt, L. W. (2017). Do Work Beliefs Moderate the Relationship Between Work Interruptions, Wellbeing and Psychosomatic Symptoms?. Europe’s journal of psychology, 13(2), 214–230. https://doi.org/10.5964/ejop.v13i2.1169