On Monday I went in to see a doctor. It had been months since my last appointment, so there were the usual things to check up on – breathing, heart rate, blood pressure, etc. In addition to the usual things was also a minor amount of back pain I received from the car accident I was in nearly two weeks ago. Doctor also asked about neck pain, but, despite being a “fender bender,” I never had any neck pain.

And yet there was one other thing I wanted to ask the doctor about. Ever since November I have been feeling stomach pain in my lower abdomen. It’s never been anything more than an achy feeling, so I’ve never really thought much of it – let alone why I might have been feeling it. I told the doctor about it and she asked a couple questions about what I’m doing in life and I told her that I’m in seminary. She nodded in understanding and said, “It’s very typical for seminarians to have this pain; it’s due to the stress.”

I had never really thought about what I do as a seminarian as stressful, even though my body tells me otherwise. Of course, when I think back over the past year, I have had a lot of stuff going on outside of seminary; changed cars twice over last summer and I’m currently shopping for a third, moved everything I own (practically) in a single day, worked part-time in retail through the holiday season, had my grandfather pass away, and I was in my first car accident. Throw in hours of reading, research papers, translations of Hebrew, and finals and one could imagine why the stress would be there.

As I discussed last week, I’m not the best at minimizing my stress; putting research papers off until a week before they’re due doesn’t bode well for a stress-free life. So if there were one major thing I’d say that I learned from this first year of seminary is that there is stress – even though it doesn’t look like it. And the best way to counter the physical effects is to budget time wisely (like laying off the Doctor Who marathons or cutting down the amount of times spent on Twitter, Facebook, WordPress, etc.), commit to doing what you can when you can, and to eat healthy and exercise regularly (even if it means, sadly, cutting dairy). Regular life will happen outside of seminary, so that must always be factored in.

Needless to say, I’m looking forward to a much more relaxed summer break.

In your experience as a seminarian, what areas have been the most stress-inducing? What did you do to help ease that stress? Or is it still present? If so, what do you think you might do to help make it easier?