Avoid burnout this holiday season, maybe for the first time ever. The holidays are such a busy time in the church. On the one hand, it’s a series of weeks that hold fun, tradition and connection. And on the other, the unrealistic demands placed on church leaders can make the “most wonderful time of the year” kind of a nightmare. Come January, you’re depleted, frustrated and wondering if you can keep doing this to yourself and your family.
It doesn’t have to be this way! Read on for a list of ideas we’ve come up with to help you avoid burnout and cultivate wholeness. Don’t forget to share in the comments what you have found helpful in your own journey!
How to Avoid Burnout at the Holidays
Take care of yourself. Self-care is so important in order to avoid burnout. First, make rest a priority. Second, eat a variety of healthy foods to give your body the fuel it needs to do its work. Additionally, avoid foods high in sugar, which cause inflammation and fatigue. Third, exercise by doing something you enjoy. Fourth, unplug. Fifth, be still in the presence of the Divine through prayer and meditation.
Look to God for approval. You are already good, worthy and loved deeply to your core. You can only do your best, and how much or the quality of what you produce doesn’t increase any of these. Though there is helpful constructive criticism, you are incapable of satisfying all people. Remind yourself of this often in all situations, whether things are going amazingly well or you’re receiving criticism.
Do non-ministry activities. First, throughout the holiday season, get involved in things that are not associated with the church. When you’re busy and much of your energy is required, carve out time to enjoy something outside of ministry. For example, take bike rides, make art, color, read a book, do yoga, cook a favorite meal, write poetry, go see a movie.
Delegate. You cannot do it all on your own. First, you will find energy and avoid burnout doing the things you’re naturally gifted to do. Second, there are countless people in your congregation who are incredibly gifted and would find purpose in being a part of tasks. So, invite others to become involved. You likely need to do far less than you have on your plate.
Lower your expectations. Often times we are our own worst critic and hold ourselves to an unrealistic, Pinterest-driven standard of perfection. Stress can come from our own demands. First, in lowering your expectations, you invite yourself to be more realistic in their expectations. Second, we encourage awareness in ourselves and others of the true priorities of the season.
Understand your place as pastor. The church you serve isn’t your church. Theologically and historically it’s God’s church and practically speaking it’s your congregants’ church. Consequently, you, as a ministry leader, are a guide and facilitator of God’s work. But, it is up to the people in the pews to be the church they hope for.
Place your work in perspective. You are one person in the long life of the Church working within a deeply rooted institutional culture. During the holidays, and always, make decisions for the long-term health of the faith community. Moreover, understand you won’t alone shift its course. And find peace in realizing that you’re important but not necessary for the evolution of any church community.
Find time with family and non-church friends. The holidays can be a season of such demand on ministry leaders’ time. Make it a priority to spend time with your family to avoid burnout. Additionally, block out time with friends who don’t go to the church. This keeps you grounded and restores your energy. Furthermore, it simply helps you enjoy the holidays for what they are rather than the work they require of you.
Say “No” more often. In spite of what you or your congregation might assume, you aren’t needed at every holiday activity. Decide where you do need to be, then where you want to be. And say no to everything else. You have the power to set boundaries that invite your own flourishing. And consequently, you’ll be even more effective in your work.
Unplug. Take time every week to turn off all your devices and be present to your surroundings. Fill the time with something restorative. And be sure to tell the important people when this is happening. This unplugging practice lowers anxiety and will increase your sense of groundedness in a season that can feel frantic.
It’s our hope as you move into the months ahead that you find rest for your mind, body, and soul. We hope you avoid burnout but even more that you experience joy and wonder. We all hold some power in creating the life for which we long. So, be protective of your time, energy and relationships. This upcoming season is a gift for you to relish, too.