Working at a church can feel like an around-the-clock gig.

Most of the events you put on happen nights and weekends.

You love doing it. It is rewarding and a privilege to be able to share the gospel, help develop people’s faith, and get paid to do it.

But sometimes you’re tired. You need a break. Because guess what… you’re human. And you weren’t built to go 100 mph.

And the best way to prevent this sort of burnout is by taking care of yourself.

We’re not talking joining a Cross Fit gym (to each his own). But church health first starts with the health of its leaders. So here are five simple ways you can begin to live a healthier lifestyle for yourself and the health of your church.

1. Schedule in time for things you enjoy.

Rick Warren has a saying that has really stuck with me and it’s “divert daily, withdraw weekly, and abandon annually.”

Everyone’s schedules look different. Some people enjoy the grind. Some people enjoy clocking out and being “off” at 5. You can pick whatever your style is.

But to avoid burnout, you need time away from “work” at some point.

Diverting daily could look something like:

  • Reading a couple chapters of a book you’re enjoying.
  • Taking your dog on a long walk, run, or to the dog park.
  • Playing a game with your family after work.

Withdrawing weekly could look like:

  • Rounding up a group of friends to play a game of soccer at the park.
  • Going out for a beach or lake day.
  • Exploring a neighboring city.

And then, of course, abandoning annually could look like your typical “vacation.” Getting out of your city (on fun-related business) is a great way to recharge and remind yourself what you love about your city. I am almost always homesick at the end of my vacations!

If family trips are more of a pain than a pleasure right now, see if someone can watch the kids while you and your spouse go away for a few days so you can actually relax on your time off.

What are some daily, weekly, and annual things you can start putting on the calendar to help you prevent burnout and remain stress-free?

2. Stop eating junk.

Look, we love #tacotuesdays as much as the next person.

But you are what you eat. And that’s not just an expression.

The current generation of U.S. children are predicted to be the first in history to live shorter lives than their parents. Why?

Well, one of the big reasons is the rise of fast and processed food.

Did you know 80% of your immune system is located in your gut?

That means what you eat doesn’t just affect how comfortable you are in a bathing suit during beach season, but it affects your short and long-term health as well. From joint pain to mental health to cancer, clean and unprocessed foods have incredible nutrients and minerals that were made to help us fight these ailments and live long and healthy lives.

Chris Wark beat his stage 3 colon cancer for good by changing his diet and lifestyle alone.

There is a reason Hippocrates said “Let food be thy medicine.”

Diet change can be somewhat overwhelming. Start with eating out less. Or stop buying one boxed/canned food item a week. Heck, just start reading your ingredient labels. You’ll be shocked to notice what’s lurking in seemingly “healthy” foods.

Try to eat one new fruit/vegetable a week. This is the best way to promote a healthy gut microbiome and therefore a healthy body.

3. Spend generous time with God.

Not for sermon prep. Not for 10 minutes on your phone before you have to run to work.

Just for fun.

And for the purpose of being still… without distraction.

Maybe this looks like getting outside once a week for you. Or retreating to a quiet room of the house.

We’re sure you know plenty about the Bible. But the big thing here is to not listen to podcasts, self-improvement talks, or anyone else. But to just come before God and be in His presence.

Pastors are often the people that feel the most pressure from everything surrounding them. Remember to take your burdens to God in prayer and petition. Don’t let business win.

4. Get movement in.

Did you know one of the things we have most in common with dogs is that some form of exercise reduces stress and anxiety?

That’s why you’ll see a dog that has torn the house apart at home.

They aren’t getting adequate exercise, so they become anxious and take it out on your house. And we can become this way too.

We may not take it out on our houses, but we can get stressed out and burnt out easily. We take it out on our spouses, our kids, our friends. We get poorer sleep quality and become overwhelmed by the day-to-day.

Choosing the type of movement that is right for you is a great way to manage this.

You can walk, bike, swim, jog, play soccer, basketball, jump rope, do yoga, dance, play fetch with your dog, or play a game with your kids. There are SO many options. Choose the level that you’re at and start doing it until you find something you enjoy. It can be different or the same each day.

5. Get some sleep.

I’ve always hated the saying “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.”

I’ve pulled my share of all-nighters, but I’ve never been a night owl. And I think there is a reason for that.

Sleep is the only time when your body engages in the restorative process of tissue repair and regeneration. That’s why sleep deprivation hits us so hard. God designed us to need that time of rest.

So, I think it’s dumb when people boast about how little sleep they got. It’s the equivalent of saying, “Hey, look at me. I don’t take care of myself.”

I’d encourage you to make sleep a priority during your day-to-day. If you’re a night owl, set a goal of getting to bed before midnight. You’ll start to see a difference in your overall energy and functionality during the day. And it’ll have great benefits on your long-term health.

I understand not everyone has the luxury of falling and staying asleep easily. Here are some things you can do to work on your sleep quality:

  • Drink a cup of tea before bed. Some of my favorites are chamomile, lavender, or a bedtime tea mix. We used herbs before we have pharmaceutical medicine and they do a great job at creating a calm, stress-relieving feeling.
  • Evaluate your diet. Diet impacts everything. Look at your caffeine and alcohol consumption and how many carbs vs. fats you’re eating on a regular basis. If you’re waking up at 2 a.m., chances are you’re having a blood sugar crash from eating too little carbohydrates. Eating a well-balanced diet will get you falling and staying asleep.
  • Manage stress. Chronic stress contributes to sleep disturbances. Stress produces this hormone called cortisol, which disrupts your circadian rhythm. See points 1, 3, and 4 for managing stress. There’s also great benefit to therapy.
  • Get off your phone. Our circadian rhythm is influenced by alternating periods of light and darkness. With the rise of technology, we’re exposed to blue-spectrum light (the kind that keeps us feeling “awake”) while we are lying in bed. Switching your screens to warmer light is a great step, but eliminating light exposure in general as the evening approaches is going to set you up for better sleep.
  • Create a bedtime routine. This could be reading a book, journaling, having some tea, or playing some guitar before bed. Do something that helps you “wind” down, technology-free, and get in the habit of doing it. It’ll trigger your body to get into a “restful” state.

Which one of these changes can you begin taking away this week and beginning to live a healthier lifestyle? Let us know.

Take a Next Step

The #1 barrier to church growth starts with you.

If the senior pastor, or church leaders, are not intentionally taking the time to get better, no one else will follow suit.

We know it can be difficult to know where to begin or even where to go to grow personally. That's why we developed a FREE resource for you. The personal growth plan. All of us on staff at Church Fuel use it because it's that useful.

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