Have you ever come home from work and felt like you’re still carrying the weight of everything from the day? Has what happened at youth group affected your entire day and kept you from sleeping? Have you struggled to not let work occupy your mind during your days off? Has work ever kept you from engaging or fully engaging with family?
Let’s be honest with each other: ministry is more than a job and due to various reasons we tend to give it more space in our lives than we should. I don’t believe the reasons we may do so are inherently wrong, but we have allowed them to take precedence. When this happens it actually interferes with our relationships, our decompression and time away from work, and it may also affect our relationship with Jesus and the church.
Ministry is an important calling but it is never meant to keep us from our relationships with God or our family, nor is it meant to keep us constantly working and never pausing to catch our breath and refresh. That means we must create boundaries and space to decompress and center ourselves so we can continue to do the work to which we have been called. Today, I want to share some ways that help me to decompress in an effort to help you create space and opportunities to do the same. These are not a one-size-fits-all approach, but perhaps these observations may be helpful and give you an opportunity to create your own boundaries and ways to decompress.
1. Turn your phone on “do not disturb.”
This is something I’ve been doing for the past year or so and let me tell you, it has been one of the best decisions I have ever made! Well that and deleting social media. Not having the constant tension or phantom leg vibrations from your phone going off and wondering what is happening is such a relief. Aside from the release of your phone continually going off, this also allows you to be wholly present in whatever circumstance you find yourself. You can focus on relationships over the electronics in your pocket, and you can let go of the tension that being “always on” cultivates in your heart and mind.
2. Leave your work stuff out of sight.
I find that if my work stuff (think laptop, sermon materials, etc.) is close at hand or always in my line of sight, I tend to be more willing to engage with it and do work even when I’m off. It seems that if something is visible, it then enters into our mind and never allows us to switch off. Instead, putting work stuff in a specific spot like an office or spare room or even leaving work stuff at work will be a huge help. I keep all of my stuff in my backpack and only take it out if, and only if, it is a necessity. Sometimes I even leave my laptop at work intentionally so as not to be distracted from the relationships at home and from decompression time.
3. Find someone to talk to other than your spouse.
Let me say this clearly before assumptions are made: you should always communicate and share what is going on at work and in your heart and mind with your spouse. You shouldn’t keep things from them. What I am advocating for is having someone you can go to who is a trusted third party. Ideally, this person isn’t connected to your church and is someone who you can speak with honestly. This should be someone who will also speak honestly with you and give you helpful feedback and critiques when needed.
4. Change your setting.
No, don’t quit, unless that would be the best thing for you and your family. But think about taking a break or vacation. It doesn’t have to be long or far away, but changing your surroundings and getting away for a little while is healthy. In order to do that well though, you must not take along work and things to do for work. Instead you need to allow for your mind, body, and soul to rest and breathe. This may mean you need to do an unplugged retreat or you may need to find how many days it takes you to stop focusing on work so you can truly take time to rest after that period has elapsed. It may mean you just need to get out in nature and go for a hike on your own, with your spouse, or with close friends. It may also be simply not going into the office and spending the day at home in your space with loved ones without the distractions of work.
5. Be willing to say “no.”
No is not a four letter word. In fact it is a word we should utilize in our vocabulary more often. If you’re like me, saying no is not easy. Sometimes when I say no I feel like I’m letting people down or I’m not doing enough. But that isn’t the case. Saying no allows you to create healthy rhythms and establish a balance that is necessary for anyone, but especially those in ministry. Saying no to additional hours to spend time with family is a good thing. Saying no because you’re at capacity is a good thing. Saying no to some things is not saying no to everything. It is about being intentional in what you say yes to, which means having to say no to other areas. It is about identifying priorities and what is most important and putting those things in the appropriate order.