Up and down. Up and down. One week you’re feeling energized. The next you’re feeling beyond drained. At least that’s been the bulk of my experience during the Covid-19 pandemic.
I’m sure the same is true for you.
The pastoral stressors you are dealing with are numerous:
- You’re working more. Much more.
- Video calls are becoming leeches that suck the energy out of you.
- Your congregants are stressed and you know it and it’s hard to do a ton about it.
- You’re watching your church’s finances more closely.
- Writing sermons is becoming harder and harder with each passing week.
- Preaching to a camera is exhausting you.
- Your spiritual disciplines may be slipping.
- The amount of learning in regards to technology you’re packing into a small amount of time has been like drinking from a fire hose.
- Your staff is feeling drained right alongside you.
- You and your leadership team are suffering from decision fatigue.
I could go on, but you get the picture. You’re living the picture. I don’t have to convince you that things are stressful right now.
So let’s get to the purpose of this article. Let’s talk about some things you and I can do to refresh our souls during covid-19.
5 Keys to Refreshing Your Soul During Covid-19
Listen, I get it. You know to pray. You know how to pray. But in seasons of stress and busyness, you may be tempted to choose an increase in activity rather than an increase in prayer. Why?
Because in uncontrollable circumstances, many of us leader-types opt to grasp at anything we can control. So we increase our doing rather than increase our praying. We can control what we do. So we do more. We try harder. We read another article. We watch another how-to video.
But what if the thing we need the most in this time of our lives is the same thing we’ve been preaching about to others? What if that is true about us too?
So maybe this is a time to re-stoke the flame of your prayer life. Maybe it’s a time to mix up your routine. To try something new like journaling or contemplative prayer or silence or solitude.
If you want to refresh your soul, press refresh on your prayer life.
Your outlook will be better. Your energy will be greater. Your preaching will be deeper. Your creativity will be sharper.
In 2019, I read a couple of books that helped me rethink the way I look at one of the ten commandments that oftentimes is overlooked by Christians today.
After reading both Emotionally Healthy Spirituality and The Emotionally Healthy Leader by Pete Scazzero, my wife and I began adjusting our lives to make observing the Sabbath a weekly rhythm. And let me just say, it’s an amazing blessing.
One of the things we need the most of right now is rest. We’ve been hard-charging for months now working through all the challenges that we have faced. And as we make plans to begin gathering again in person, the complexity and emotional toll is going to rise. So prioritize rest immediately.
Otherwise, a crash may be coming.
If you want to refresh your soul, press refresh on your habits of rest.
You’ll be less irritable. You’ll experience more delight. You’ll avoid burnout. You’ll have enough in the tank to travel through the many challenges that lay ahead.
Yes. You read that correctly. Number two = rest and number three = sleep. These two are connected but they are also different.
You can rest while awake but that doesn’t change the fact that your body needs adequate sleep.
There are many tips on how to sleep better which may help you if you have trouble feeling rested when you wake up. You also may find it helpful to download a sleep app on your smartphone or take advantage of that functionality on a smart watch. When you can see how well you sleep or don’t sleep, you can make better decisions on changes to your routine.
If you don’t already get adequate sleep, it would be worthwhile to try upping your sleep time by an hour. Go to bed an hour early or wake up an hour later. Another option would be going to bed thirty minutes early and waking thirty minutes later than normal.
The simple point is this: you need sleep especially when you are living and leading through difficult and stressful times.
Refresh your soul by pressing refresh on your sleeping habits.
Sleep more. You’ll be glad you did.
This is a hard one for a lot of us.
We have a lot of excuses (er, I mean, reasons) why we don’t exercise:
- I’m too busy
- The gym is closed
- I don’t even know where to begin
- I’m too busy
- I’m too busy
- I’m too busy
I get it. I struggle quite a bit in this area too.
But maybe this will help…
Change the way you think about exercise.
Change the way you plan your exercise.
Change the way you… exercise.
Don’t like running? Try cycling.
Don’t like lifting weights? Try push ups, sit ups, and chin ups.
Or just go ahead and get a punching bag. It’s quite stress relieving, really.
You don’t have to have it as a goal to get ripped. Just get moving.
Has your reading habit gone by the wayside in the last couple months?
If so, it’s not really surprising. As we’ve already admitted, we’re quite a bit busier and more exhausted now than we were three months ago.
BUT, that doesn’t mean it has to stay that way.
We can decide to make sure that we’re filling our own tank through reading Scripture and reading good books.
It’s our responsibility to prioritize learning in our own lives. If we don’t, eventually we’ll try drawing from an empty well. And that day will not be a good day.
Be Intentional and Pay Attention
If I were to sum up this entire article, I’d say this: be intentional and pay attention.
Choose to make the most of each day. Approach your week with a plan. Don’t let your own care for yourself be sacrificed on the altar of “pastoral care.” In fact, part of pastoral care is caring for yourself.
So be intentional and pay attention. Notice when your tank is being depleted and then make a change.
Odds are, your weekly routine needs to be shifted. Your priorities need to be renewed.
This has been a tough season, but understand this: God is still working and He wants to walk with you through this. It’s not all up to you. It doesn’t rest on your shoulders. It rests on His.
Where to Go From Here?
At this point, I’d encourage you to pause for a couple minutes and consider what your days and weeks have become lately.
Give grace to yourself as you evaluate this. Don’t beat yourself up. Just assess what has become the norm.
Then, make a simple plan to refresh your soul.
You may find the energy and time worksheets in The Intentional Pastor’s Toolkit helpful (in addition to the other tools). Or you could just opt for a simple pad of paper.
Regardless, make a plan and then put it into action.
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