Burnout is a huge problem among missionaries and intercultural workers. There are the big stressors, like medical or security issues, and then there’s the low level constant stress: not understanding the language or social interactions, not knowing how to get around or the best place to shop, etc.
A big part of our CMS training has been helping us to think about stress relief: developing an arsenal of coping mechanisms. There are the things I do to relax (watch DVDs, cooking, reading, etc.) and then there are the things I do to let off steam – aerobic classes. There’s nothing like pushing the body to clear the mind! But that might not work in Tanzania.
Apparently there is a gym in Dodoma, but it’s mainly just for weights and it’s not really appropriate for women to go. That’s OK: women can play sport and I’ve also got a stack of aerobic DVDs that I can do at home.
But even the best laid plans need to be flexible. I haven’t been to the gym in about a year. I was sick for almost 9 months. And now, I discover, sustaining another life with my own body is quite a bit of work and if I don’t rest, Elliot doesn’t eat! So the exertion of high impact aerobics or perhaps even team sport is out of the question, at least for the next few months. Despite hopes that I would return, I’m about to cancel my gym membership here.
I’ve heard other mums talk about this – that high level fitness just isn’t that achievable in their childbearing years. Even once that pesky relaxin gets out of their system and their risk of injury decreases, there may be less than a year before they fall pregnant again. But knowing that this is normal doesn’t change the fact that I need some outlet for stress, given the context that we’re going to. For now, walking with a 6.5kg baby will have to do.
What are your suggestions? How do you work off steam?
Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.