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Resilient Leadership: The gift of self care

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For leaders, Christmas brings a medley of excitement and challenges. While numerous opportunities arise for connections with our congregations and workplaces, community and neighbours, we often experience heightened levels of stress, obligations, and weariness. Let’s talk about how we, as leaders, can care for ourselves during this season.

Physical Health

Christmastime presents infinite opportunities to serve and extra duties surrounding the traditions we cherish. We often push ourselves hard, trying to get everything done. Perhaps we get less than optimal sleep due to burning the midnight oil. We may work through mealtimes and try to gain energy from caffeine and sugary snacks. Or maybe we skip our workouts to make time for additional work.

Responses: Focus on healthy habits that support your well-being, enable you to work at your peak performance, and empower you to feel your very best.

Eat healthy meals that nourish you. Whether this means packing a lunch or picking up takeout from a restaurant that supplies fresh, wholesome meals at an affordable price, nourish your body with healthy foods.

Book your workouts into your schedule. Easy ways to bring exercise into your daily routine include going for a walk at lunchtime or transforming one meeting each day into a walking meeting. Implement five-minute fitness breaks throughout the day by doing sets of pushups, squats and planks right in your office. These quick bursts go a long way to improving your energy and focus.

Mental Health

During December, we tend to engage with people who are suffering. They entrust us with their stories and look to us for help. Loads of extra pressures and expectations present often expressed with less than adequate grace. All of this can add up and cause leaders to feel inadequate and stressed.

Responses: Taking care of your mental health is essential for ministering for longevity. You must establish methods to help you keep your mind healthy, focused and clear.

Spend time in Scripture. Romans 2:12 says, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Memorize Scripture and recite it often to renew your mind continually.

Set aside time daily for mental health respite. One of the most effective ways to do so is getting into nature. Abundant research shows nature has a calming effect on our minds and bodies. Simply being in nature changes the way we think. Find an outdoor sanctuary where you can get away and commune with God daily.

Emotional Health

There is no time like Christmas to bring out people’s emotions. Grief from personal and professional losses hurt from broken relationships, and anger from pent-up frustrations tend to come out at this time of year. As leaders, we are not immune to the energy people exude. Nor are we immune from our emotional conflicts.

Responses: Build emotionally healthy practices into your life to deal with the emotional energy you experience during this season.

Spend time daily experiencing and expressing your emotions. Suppressed emotions remain stuck and can smoulder for years. Practice journaling to pour out your feelings on a page. Speak to a coach or counsellor to learn new coping strategies. Combine a physical, mental, and emotional outlet into one by going for a walk in the forest while talking to God about how you are feeling.

Find ways to release your emotions creatively. Do you love music? Play an instrument or sing to your heart›s content. Do you enjoy creating? Become absorbed in drawing, painting or woodworking. Engaging your creativity invites peace, calm and tranquillity into your being.

Spiritual Health

Christmastime offers an opportunity to speak about faith openly to a world that desperately seeks hope, fulfillment, and meaning. Additionally, the pandemic has caused much isolation, vast mental health struggles, and financial worries. People deeply desire spiritual insight, yet there is much opposition to the theology of one God, one hope, and one saviour. As leaders, we may experience these contradictions pointedly, along with the spiritual opposition from the unseen realm.

Responses: Rooting yourself in Christ is vital to your spiritual health and critical to your effectiveness.

Ephesians 3:14-19 says, “For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” Spend time daily reading Scripture, praying, and listening to God›s voice. Rootedness in Christ gives us the power to minister and live an authentic life of leadership.

The above Scripture passage continues with Ephesians 3:20-21, “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen.” You may feel pressured to find solutions to everyone’s problems, including your own. Keep pointing to God as the answer. His power is adequate to sustain and flourish you and others beyond what you can even imagine.

Relational Health

There is no time like the holidays to bring out the rifts in relationships. Unsettled conflicts and unresolved inner struggles come to the surface during this time of year. As leaders, we hear countless stories and witness innumerable squabbles related to perennial issues. And we carry our battle scars that tend to become more noticeable when we are weary. Additionally, we can become so absorbed in our increased workload and elevated relational challenges that we have a little reserve left for our families and friends.

Responses: This year, make your closest relationships a priority.

As a leader, you will always have more work than you can accomplish. An important skill is learning to work on the most significant tasks and becoming okay with letting the rest fall to the wayside. Discern your most important responsibilities and schedule them in your planner. Become comfortable with letting go of what is less valuable. By doing so, you will maintain greater reserves to foster relational integrity with your family and friends.

Too many leaders have lost their most significant relationships because their focus was consistently on those they serve at work. Deeply invest in your family and close friendships. Schedule weekly time for those God has given you as your primary ministry.

Financial Health

Endless opportunities arise in December to spend money. The world loves to tell us that money buys love and prestige. We may feel stretched by our family›s desires, needs, and donation goals. Meanwhile, many households struggle with the ability to feed their family and pay their most basic bills. Many come to our churches and institutions for hope and help.

Responses: Making healthy financial decisions allows us to invest in the causes we care deeply about while maintaining peace of mind.

Evaluate your financial position accurately and create a budget based upon current reality. Determine an appropriate amount to spend, so you experience the joy of giving without stretching yourself thin.

Open conversations with those you exchange gifts with to find creative gift-giving alternatives. Perhaps set limits or exchange homemade gifts rather than purchased gifts. If your loved ones are on a similar wavelength, opt to donate to churches and charities rather than exchange gifts.

Professional Health

We tend to find ourselves overly stretched during the Christmas season due to the extra responsibilities and pressures of the season. This time of year is perfect for taking stock of how we are living our lives.

Responses: Take time between Christmas and the New Year to evaluate what has worked well and what needs to change to flourish.

Use the Year In Review guide to reflect upon your past year and evaluate how you aspire to grow and change in the coming year.

Prayerfully examine how you have lived this past year compared to how you wish to live in the future. How have you struggled? What would you like to change to attain greater peace and fulfillment? Who can you approach to develop you in these areas? Reach out to a mentor or coach to help you reach your goals, dreams and vision.

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