This post, written by Joseph Kim Paxton, originally was published on November 4, 2016, on our previous website.
Congregational care and ministry can be exhausting. In addition to the demands of care and ministry, faith leaders must also keep up with personal responsibilities. Caring for so many people at the same time requires a lot of emotional energy and attention. Quickly, individuals can become tired, stressed out, and exhausted. In a tired state, individuals may begin to cut corners, especially related to self-care. These shortcuts can become unhealthy habits that facilitate fatigue and emotional exhaustion that can compromise one’s ability to care.
Aristotle once said, “We are what we repeatedly do.” What Aristotle did not say is, “We are what we do once or twice. . .” Wishful thinking may lead some to hope that habits can be created overnight, or that doing something once or twice will be sufficient to achieve a goal or outcome, like rejuvenation and renewal. Unfortunately, self-care cannot be packaged into a pill to be taken once or twice bi-weekly. Instead, self-care is a habit that must be done repeatedly.
Self-care is like exercise. The more you do it the better you feel, and the more likely you are to keep doing it. However, it is easy to get out of shape. Taking one day off can turn into two; two to three; and then an entire week has lapsed. Self-care, like exercise, can also become a burden – something else to do on the checklist. Whether you’re struggling to get back into the swing of self-care habits or looking to begin self-care habits, here are a few points that can help get you started.
1. Discover what self-care activities help you to feel rejuvenated.
Create rules for your self-care activities that can help you be more intentional and focused
on the quality of your self-care. For example, watching TV may seem like a self-care
activity, but you may be unintentionally wasting this time by flipping through channels for
thirty minutes, never finding a show you really want to watch, and getting frustrated in the
process. A simple fix for this might be to only watch recorded TV shows during this time,
rather than spending your valuable self-care time channel surfing.
2. Mark it down in your calendar.
Intentionally plan for a self-care habit.
3. Say “no” to one thing this week.
The flip side to saying “no” to requests or activities may also require you to begin to ask for
help. Asking for help builds relationships and strengthens relational bonds – most people
want to help!
4. Determine if you are an introvert or an extrovert.
If you are an introvert, schedule alone time for personal enrichment. If you are an
extrovert, be intentional in surrounding yourself with people who will energize you.
5. Set realistic goals that can quickly become habits.
Do not set a goal too high too soon. This can quickly lead to discouragement and leave
you feeling more exhausted and depleted. Start small and remember that habits happen
one small step at a time.
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