This MY STORY post is a guest post from YM360 contributor Richard Parker.  To read the remainder of the post, visity YM360 at: http://youthministry360.com/training/stress-depression-and-anxiety-in-the-life-of-the-youth-worker/.

Experts say that the most stressful work environment is one in which the worker has low control over his/her situation (in other words, a lot of bosses to answer to), low pay, and high expectations. Welcome to the modern day world of student ministry! The highly stressful atmosphere surrounding some youth ministers can lead to a variety of physical and emotional problems, including anxiety and depression. I’ve been a youth pastor for over three decades now and I’ve had battles with both anxiety and depression.

This is my story, one I hope will help you find peace in your daily life and increase your tenure in student ministry.

I was at my first church almost four years when our second daughter was born. At the time our church was without a pastor. I was the only full-time minister on staff. I was also working on my Masters degree. Needless to say there was a lot going on in my life. One night I was sitting in class when suddenly it just felt like someone opened a big hole in the floor and I was falling through. I was in the early stages of a bout with depression.

Fast-forward a year-and-a-half. It was the month of December and our youngest daughter was about to have some sinus surgery at a hospital two hours away. If the stress of that situation were not bad enough, the night before the surgery we were staying at a hotel when a tornado struck less than ten miles away. Between the anxiety of the tornado episode and the stress of watching my 18 month old child being wheeled into an operating room, it was not long until I sunk into a very deep, depression which took about four months to start lifting, but took a good year for a complete recovery.

The next seven years were depression free. But in the winter of 1993 I tackled a new enemy: anxiety. I had been called to another church in 1989 and late in 1992 both our pastor and music minister resigned. Once again, I was faced with being the only full-time staff member at a rather large church. Then to make matters worse, I decided to ask the pastor search committee if I could serve as interim pastor. Now there was a great plan! About three months into this arrangement the pressure of what I was trying to do caught up with me. I started having panic attacks and developed some major symptoms of anxiety.

Finally, I decided to seek some professional help. A fabulous Christian psychiatrist worked with me and helped me discover some things about myself and my line of work. His insights and medicinal intervention not only helped me recover but gave me some tremendous coping skills which I have relied on time and time again over the past sixteen years.

What I Learned
My experience with depression and anxiety were linked to two things; a family history of the illness (genetics), and stress. I discovered that there was a history of both anxiety and depression in my family. I also learned about stress, which is the way the body responds to change. It doesn’t matter if it’s good change (like a better job) or bad change (like the loss of a loved one); the changes around us create stress reactions in the body. There were times in my life when the changes could not be avoided and there were times, like taking on the responsibility of leading a church for five months, I could have avoided some stress.

Here’s what you can do to be more proactive in addressing depression and anxiety:

Click HERE to read the remainder of the post at YM360.com