This is new territory for all of us. New, unexpected, unplanned, uncertain, unpredictable, unwanted, and unsettling, all describe my feelings about this world created by COVID-19. As leaders, we step up, gear up, adapt, and adjust so we can lead our congregations through the uncertainty and change.
Unfortunately, we are making decisions almost hourly without having the luxury of time to think through the implications of such decisions. These leadership stresses will take a toll on our souls.
Here are some things I’m still learning about the necessity of self-care in the midst of crisis:
- Don’t underestimate the power or importance of prayer. This is literally your “lifeline”, your connection with God.
- Saturate your life with Scripture. Now, more than ever, you need God’s Word washing over your life. Wash your soul in Scripture as often as you wash your hands.
- Get outside on a daily basis. Birds are singing, and Spring has not canceled its bloom. Sunshine, clouds, a fresh breeze, and some greenery are good for the soul. Walking daily is also good for the body.
- Practice gratefulness. In our home, I ask this question: “What are you grateful for today?” We try to list three things daily. Gratefulness is one of the keys to overcoming anxiety. It reminds us to focus on God’s blessings and not our burdens. Gratefulness energizes hope.
- Stay connected with family and friends. Phone calls, text messages, and emails are helpful ways of staying in touch. Use this time to check up on neighbors who may be feeling especially vulnerable.
- Monitor your rest. This is part of keeping your immune system strong. Establish healthy sleep patterns by going to bed at the same time, practicing bedtime routines, and limiting your blue light (phone screen) exposure in the late evening. The goal is eight hours of sleep daily.
- Limit the information intake. It is not healthy to sit in front of the news cycle for hours every day. Get your daily update on the pandemic and then move on to something uplifting. It’s too easy for me to obsess over all the masses of information we are being given about the deadly nature of this disease. I do need information and updates. I don’t need a constant feed of fear.
- Be intentional about hydration. When we are distracted by all the news, we sometimes forget about the simplest things. Staying hydrated is good for the body and helps flush out toxins. Drink your water.
- Keep a journal or start a journal. It is surprising how much we gain from writing down our thoughts. Negative things are exposed and truths are affirmed. There is something about writing down our thoughts that brings clarity to our minds. I start with gratefulness in my journal. Then, I write down my Scripture reading for the day. Then, I write out my prayers.
- Do something fun. Play a game. Work a puzzle. Watch a comedy. Create a craft. Cook something special. Listen to your favorite music. Go through an old photo album. Sit, drink coffee or tea, and have a conversation.
It’s not possible to continue caring for others if you are not taking care of yourself. Be intentional about taking care of your soul. Self-care is not selfish, it’s healthy. Here’s more good news. Pastors, you don’t have to go through this alone. Reach out to us at careforpastors.org.