Keeping Your Well Full
A leader in any community organization runs the risk of running out of steam often. The needs of your community, your staff and family never cease because humans are frail and need care as we traverse the journey of life. It seems that stress, anxiety, depression and fatigue are much greater in our culture today than even ten years ago. I attribute it to the rancor of our politics, the distance between people and their extended families and the increasing use of media that keeps people “on the job” and on-call for longer hours of every day. I often hear people say they never get a vacation or break from their job because they are expected to constantly check emails and texts or they just can’t shut down and let it go.
I have gone through numerous periods of my life where I realized I was not relaxing even on my off day and could not mentally disconnect from my job even when hundreds of miles away. I often felt like I had cheated myself or my family when I did not rest and connect just with them when I was supposed to be “off the clock.” When we never get off the fast track eventually it catches up with us and we hit the wall. I see many people who suffer from this and it shows in their physical health, emotional well-being and spiritually they are spent and often in despair rather than thriving in God’s hope and promises.
Jesus gives us a very good pattern to balance the demands of calling, job, family and personal needs. He is the Son of God, fully divine and fully human, full of the Holy Spirit and cared for by angels. Yet he retreated from the fast track and got away often to rest, to be renewed and listen intently to his heavenly Father. If Jesus needs this on a regular basis, so do I and you as well! No one can run at 100 MPH 6-7 days a week be content, on top of their game, rested and fun to be around. We are not wired to be constantly in high gear and producing results.
We read in Luke 5: 16, “Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” It is obvious to me that Jesus loved being with people and was drawn to crowds, the hurting and hopeful because of his compassion and sense of mission. He came to seek out the lost, the lonely, the broken and hopeless. I believe he was energized by the crowds, sharing with them the good news of God’s love and healing them of their sicknesses and diseases.
Yet Jesus demonstrates wisdom and balance in getting away to rest, pray and listen to God’s voice. I also notice in scripture that he was exercised regularly, was careful to not overeat and he observed the Sabbath for worship, rest and to connect with his community of elders and friends in the faith. He knew and valued the influence of the community of faith.
If you are a business leader, a pastor, a teacher, government official or medical professional, it is vitally important that you develop and practice healthy habits. If you or I ignore or neglect practicing healthy habits we will not be able to sustain our health and focus for the long haul of community service. I have found that these habits sustain and even insure I can thrive in my vocation:
- A good balance of work, rest and play. I find that a hobby or sport can be a healthy distraction when going through stressful days and busy times.
- Eat smart and watch your weight. When I am over-weight I am usually prone to fatigue, more susceptible to sickness, sluggish and have a hard time staying focused. If you suffer from poor nutritional habits or are overweight, talk to a nutritionist and get on a smart diet. You should not starve yourself, just eat smart and make healthy choices.
- Exercise 4-5 days a week. Recently I started wearing a Fitbit that tracks my steps and encourages me to monitor weight, my water intake, sleep patterns and to read more about healthy habits. Monitoring my steps and exercise motivates me to make my goals and I feel much better than I did 6 months ago.
- Start the day in reading scripture and prayer. I like having a worship guideline like Seedbed.com This website sends me a daily devotional to read, meditate on a theme and has a prayer focus. Then I pray for my family and colleagues by name and pray over my schedule for that day. I now look forward to this 30-45 minute retreat. I even get up before my family so I can enjoy the peace and quiet before the day starts.
- Have an accountability partner who will ask you about these healthy habits and speak truth to you in love if you revert to working overtime, neglecting your family, your health, not taking time off or not observing Sabbath rest and worship.
- Take a day off every week. No one is indispensable. Organize your work so you can disconnect at least one day a week (2 is best!). And take at least 2 weeks of vacation even if it’s a stay-vacation where you enjoy your home town and just rest at home and around your town. Vacations don’t have to be expensive to be restful and meaningful!