Emotional Health – My Journey

By January 20, 2020January 25th, 2020Leadership

By the spring of 2017, I was worn out. We had just finished the remodeling of our facility, a process that took about six months and “allowed” me to learn much more about finance, construction, and door jams than I ever wanted to know.

Mark Scott, one of our former teaching pastors, had returned to the college classroom in 2014. This created a pastoral vacuum that largely went unfilled until we hired Dan Hettinger in 2015.

In 2013, we went through a very difficult senior pastor transition that ended in our elders asking for our senior pastor’s resignation. Prior to that, I had battled work-related discouragement for most of the first four years as my competence was under constant attack. This led to an erosion of my confidence for the first time in nearly 30 years of ministry.

I was 47 years old and knew and I had to start doing some things differently. If I wanted to be effective for the long haul, I had to create new habits and pay attention to my physical, emotional, and spiritual health.

The Beginning of Change

In the summer of 2017, the elders blessed me with my first-ever month-long study break. One of those weeks was spent serving at Opportunity Camp, a ministry I have worked with since 1996. Spending six days with 125 kids under the age of 14 isn’t the most restful experience – but it’s meaningful work.

The next three weeks were spent in various places of retreat, rest, and solitude here in Colorado. I decided to do the Daniel Fast during that same time and have remained largely vegetarian ever since (technically: I’m ovo-pescatarian). I also spent four days by myself at a Catholic retreat center with no WiFi, cell coverage, or television. I had my Bible and a few books.

One of those books was Restoring the Soul of Your Leadership by Ruth Haley Barton. The other impactful book was Emotionally Healthy Leadership by Peter Scazzero. This book literally changed my life. Here is one of the things he wrote:

Emotional health and spiritual maturity cannot be separated. It is not possible to be spiritually mature while remaining emotionally immature.

Unhealthy leaders engage in more activities than their combined spiritual, physical, and emotional reserves can sustain. They give out for God more than they receive from him.

They serve others in order to share the joy of Christ, but that joy remains elusive to themselves. The demands and pressures of leadership make it nearly impossible for them to establish a consistent and sustainable rhythm of life. In their more honest moments, they admit that their cup with God is empty or, at best, half full, hardly overflowing with the divine joy and love they proclaim to others.

Here are four things that I’ve incorporated into my regular routine that have significantly improved my overall wellbeing:

A Morning Ritual

I’m a big fan of Michael Hyatt’s work and he is a proponent of having a regular morning ritual. My morning ritual goes like this: I start each morning with 30-45 minutes of prayer, meditation, and silence. Next, I read two chapters from the Bible. This is followed by 10-15 minutes of reading another book. Then I eat breakfast.

Better Diet and More Exercise

I cannot expect my mind and spirit to be well-tuned and working efficiently if my physical health is neglected. For me, this has meant being mainly vegetarian (see above) and starting each new year with a 14-21 juice fast. I am not doctor and typically do not stay at Holiday Inn Expresses – so please do your own research before making any dietary changes.

The second change has been to increase my level of physical activity. As I approached my 50th birthday, I set a goal of running a 10K sometime during my 50th year. I still have ten months left but I’m making progress through a 10K training program.

Intentional Times of Self-Care

When I was younger, I treated self-care in one of two (mistaken) ways: I thought it was self-indulgent and that mature people didn’t do those kind of things or … I approached it haphazardly and thought squeezing five minutes of “down time” in every so often would do the trick.

Thankfully, I’m not only older but wiser, too. I am intention about my time-off and guard one full day to stay out of the office and avoid work-related items. I use my day off to do things that recharge me and allow me to disconnect. Learning to enjoy rest has been a blessing

Gratitude

Emotional health is just that … emotional. It’s comprised of thoughts, feelings, and attitudes. Not surprisingly, when we allow unhealthy thought patterns to take root, our overall wellbeing suffers greatly. If the lens through which we view the world is distorted and out-of-focus, then the way in which we move through the world will always be slightly off.

In my Full Focus Planner (another hat tip to Michael Hyatt), I write down things I’m thankful for and there is never a shortage of blessings. This simple shift rearranges my perspective, which is an important part of being emotionally healthy.

These are just a few of the things I’ve been doing. What works for you?

 

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  • 25+ years of senior leadership experience
  • presenter at the WFX National Conference
  • presenter at DisruptHR Colorado Springs
  • former president, Church Planters of the Rockies
  • masters in management and leadership
  • helped start 2 for-profit tech companies

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