Prioritise your own wellbeing
To best care for those around you, you must first make sure you are taking care of yourself.
A common characteristic we see in clergy is a tendency to put others first. We have observed clergy sidelining their own wellbeing to help those around them. We hear experiences of guilt and shame when taking time to relax.
Research into mental wellbeing tells a different story. It tells us that stress and poor psychological wellbeing are contagious and that humans are fantastically skilled at noticing subconscious cues in those around us. That is the reality. Remember the quote: ‘You can’t pour from an empty cup.’
- Think – what are the activities that bring you meaning? Perhaps the activities you put to one side because you are too busy.
- How can you bring those back? How can you refill your cup?
In difficult times, our mind often focuses on the negative. This is a survival response, designed to keep us alert to what could harm us. This can create a negative cycle of thoughts that has an impact on our wellbeing. However, gratitude is shown to be an effective tool in grounding us through challenging times. It is a way to remind our brains that not everything that is currently happening is negative. Negativity will still exist, but we balance the two perspectives by encouraging our brain to also consider the positive.
Every day or even just once a week, write down ten things that you are grateful for. These can be the big things in life, like our family and friends, or the small things, such as the sound of cars driving through puddles on a rainy day. There is no right or wrong way to do this exercise, it wholly depends on you.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, we need to make time for recovery. A recovery activity is any activity that replenishes our resources, something that we enjoy but that is unrelated to ministry. To keep a positive relationship with stress and navigate uncertainty, it is crucial to make time for our body to recover so that we do not become at risk of burnout or mental ill-health.
- What activities help you feel replenished?
- Is that still realistic given the current restrictions?
- What activity could you do instead, that is more accessible to you?
- What obstacles might you face in trying to find time for these, and how can you overcome them?
Read part 1 of this blog here
Jake Lovelock is a psychologist at Harley Street practice Cognacity. Cognacity partners St Luke’s to provide psychiatry and psychotherapy for clergy individuals and resilience training for groups of clergy. If you would like to know more, please click here to contact St Luke’s