As we start firing up the emails for 2021, the opening statement often goes something like this.
Hi Joe, How are you? I hope you’re feeling refreshed after your summer holidays. [then onto business]. It’s nice. We like to start in an upbeat tone. Connect with the person, not just the task.
Unfortunately, despite having ‘time off’ over the Christmas period, many of us find ourselves returning to work just as tired as when we left.
And that’s a problem.
Leah Kearney. Operations Manager, ALID.
Approximate reading – 7 mins
We refresh in a variety of ways; better sleep, rest, nature, walks, time with God, exercise, nutrition, social gatherings, alone time, shopping, outings, church, quality time with family, time away from home.
But with so many of these banned or limited for a good part of 2020, many didn’t take their usual leave, or if they did, were not refreshed in the way they might have expected. While you may be ‘on leave’ your brain remains engaged with work, so the issues bothering you when you walked out of the office in December plagued you through rest times in January.
It’s like your brain has a ‘tab’ open that can’t be closed until it has an outcome. It keeps that tab active, all the time, chewing on it, rolling it around – at times consciously, but mostly unconsciously. That drains energy in your mind and body, like hungry software draining your laptop battery.
We’ll skip the highlight reel of what happens to leaders when they burnout, I think you have a pretty clear idea of what that scenario can look like. What we are going to do, is seek Jesus’ way back to rest and refreshment for the sake of ourselves, our families and those we lead.
Center on Jesus.
Truthfully, most Christian leaders go through seasons in their life where they struggle to feel connected to Jesus, to his Word, and their faith. Acknowledging when you are in one of those seasons is your first step. Each person connects with Jesus in differing ways, it is your responsibility to create that time and space. If you know that you need to be in nature with your bible to reconnect, then make time for just that. If you know that you need a Quiet Time routine each morning, then make time for that. Don’t be afraid to ask your questions to Jesus, he is not surprised. Sometimes, it’s our consistency in meeting with Jesus when the feeling isn’t there that brings out the richest growth of our faith.
Do a ‘Burnout Check’.
It’s helpful to know the signs of burnout in yourself, have a candid conversation with a trusted friend or your GP and make sure you are on a path towards healthy leadership. If you’re doing OK, then at least you’ve identified your signs and if you’re in need of support, then you’re in the right room to get a support team behind you.
Find your Self-Care Routine.
Each leader requires self-care to invest in their health, the health of their leadership and the impact they have on those around them. Some items on popular self-care routines are listed below. Take a few minutes to list out how you are caring for yourself in each of these areas. Be realistic, but do set goals, for example, “I will go for a 30-minute walk outside each day.”
- Prayer & journaling
- Community & friendship
For leaders, there is often an unspoken expectation that you will be constantly available. This is both unrealistic and unhealthy for any person. Unplugging is important for your mind, body and soul. Human beings were not created to have their faces glued to screens and in meetings all day. When all our devices are switched to ‘off’, we can breathe and reconnect with the elements around us. Some leaders go on regular retreats to both ‘unplug’ and are immersed in a different geographical space, especially in nature. Don’t just dream about this, be intentional, set aside half a day, a whole day or a few days, lock in into your diary and protect it as a regular event.
Assess your Calendar.
Over-commitment creeps up on us, especially if we are the type of person who likes to get things done efficiently. The temptation to keep adding to an already jam-packed schedule is easy to succumb to. So, take a moment and really look at your calendar. Are there items on there that can be removed, pushed back or delegated? If so, do it.
Check your Joy.
This has two aspects to it. Firstly, take the time to assess how you’re feeling about the work that you’re doing. Is it aligning to your calling and passion still, or has it drifted? Sometimes a conversation is all that’s needed to realign your work so that it’s sitting in your sweet spot. Other times, it requires a more in-depth review with senior leaders or boards that see hard decisions occur, like changing roles or leaving a workplace. Secondly, we need to make sure we are not doing ministry to the detriment of our own lives. If our lives are so consumed with work that we’ve lost time for passion projects, hobbies or joyful activities, then something is amiss. When was the last time you engaged in a hobby or activity for pleasure? If you can’t remember, then much like your ‘retreat’ time, start to schedule it in without guilt.
From one leader to another, we can do this! Self-care is sometimes the best thing we can do for our leadership. I bless you in your leadership, ministry and most of all, your self.
Best, Leah Kearney.