The results are in - the Selah Stress Management trial finds practices powerful enough to reduce stress symptoms during emotionally charged times
Burnout is on the rise for UMC clergy. In 2021, the Duke Clergy Health Initiative found that 21% of clergy now score as having high levels of emotional exhaustion. When stress is high, pastors don’t have creative energy for what really matters, like responding to crises and building new ministries.
In the Selah trial, the Duke Clergy Health Initiative rigorously tested three stress-reduction practices: the Daily Examen prayer practice, Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction (MBSR), and Stress Proofing. The results showed significant declines in stress symptoms. All practices are scalable and, based on the outcomes achieved, are relatively inexpensive. Each intervention is safe to do. Some have clearer outcomes than others.
Heart Rate Variability (HRV), the measure of the body’s ability to recover in moments of stress, was measured prior to workshop attendance and then again 3 months into practice. Findings from this biomarker were particularly important to our outcome analysis as this data is not susceptible to one’s expectations or self-reporting bias.
MBSR was the only intervention to create statistically significant improvements in HRV at 3 months, with an average 14% improvement in HRV.
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“Often the expectation for clergy is that we are the calm in the center of the storm. Learning practices that help me connect with the calm center and de-stress has been invaluable. I have been sharing them with people in my parish so that they too can better deal with our chaotic world.”
Amy Rio, WNCC UMC pastor