Life can wear us down, especially when working in church ministry. When stress is high and there’s too much to do, how can we stay energized and ready to face each day?
For some time, I have believed that keeping physically healthy involves keeping three things in balance with each other: diet, exercise and rest. While I have a great need to improve my strategy with the first two, I am finding that ignoring my down time tends to have the most devastating effect on my health and well being because of the impact it has on the other two.
My ideal morning routine includes time for exercise, a healthy breakfast (eaten at the kitchen table, not in the car) , showering and getting dressed for work plus several minutes of personal time to get a mental/spiritual set for the day. To make this happen, I need to head for bed around 10-10:30 pm and be up somewhere around 6-6:15 am.
I find that eight hours rest is mandatory in order to make this routine work effectively for me. The entire day can unravel pretty quickly if I find myself barely getting up in time to shower, dress and be out the door with a protein bar in hand. I miss my exercise time, which causes me problems at work and everywhere else because my energy level drops off faster, making me less efficient at every task in my daily routine. I’m also likely to gain weight because I haven’t burned off any calories by exercising. What’s more, I miss the opportunity to connect with my spouse before the workday begins.
All this can become a rapid downward spiral physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually if not quickly recognized and corrected.
I’ve spent some time thinking about the various things that keep me from getting to bed on time and am learning to “head ’em off at the pass.” There is one that predominantly rules over the others: being engaged in screens when I should be in bed or at least getting ready for bed. If it’s not social media on the smartphone, it’s watching a movie on the TV or else maybe surfing with the laptop. In your world, it may be something totally different. Whatever the distraction, it keeps me from getting all the rest I need , and then it’s keeping me from being at my very best.
Consequently, I’ve learned that even though I rely on the clock alarm in my smartphone to wake me up in the mornings, I have to leave it on the dresser so it’s out of reach. Putting it on the nightstand next to the bed makes it just a little too easy to be checking in with friends on Facebook when I should be asleep. I also don’t want to encourage them to maintain bad habits by doing this sort of thing themselves.
If my wife and I watch a movie, we have to make sure we start it early enough to be done by bedtime.
It’s okay to sneak a 20-30 minute siesta on a lunch break to pick up a little extra steam for the rest of the workday, but getting to bed on time helps the most by far. Short naps don’t give you the kind of deep sleep your body needs.
It’s the seemingly little things like this that often pay the biggest dividends, and it’s not coincidental. I find I have to be intentional about it.
Harvard.edu has compiled a nice summary of why a good night’s sleep is so important – “Importance of Sleep: Six Reasons not to Scrimp on Sleep”.