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10 Practices to Save My Sanity
Have you ever felt overwhelmed, disorganized, exhausted, stressed and overworked? I have, too. Over the years I’ve learned a few tricks to help me both start and finish the year strong with only a few moments of losing my mind in between! Habits ranging from handling administrative staff tasks to managing my personal life have been learned the hard way. Here are ten of those habits which help save my sanity. You probably know most of these practices, and perhaps you even observe them. I’m determined to experience the joy and simplicity of practicing all of them this time around! What about you?
1. Meet with Jesus. Everyday. I know I’m talking with people who love Jesus so much they’ve made him their profession. But sometimes we just get so busy and so overwhelmed, or we oversleep and have to rush to campus, or… life simply gets in the way. Make Jesus a habit and get in the Word everyday. Funny how it doesn’t matter how late I am, I still have enough time to get dressed. Perhaps it’s time to make sure I’m spiritually dressed (Colossians 3:12-13) before I step into my day, too.
Try reading through the Gospels a chapter a day, and then do it over and over and over again. Even if you’re studying some other book of the Bible, reading and rereading the firsthand accounts of Jesus in the Gospels is so good for your soul, especially as you introduce faculty and staff to the Hero in the Gospels.
2. Get Some Sleep. Seriously. I know sleep is super-important: better skin, better energy, lets the body repair and recuperate, strengthens your immune system, etc. But setting a bedtime to ensure that I get the sleep my body needs is a struggle. I love to unwind by reading a book or watching TV or talking on the phone with friends in different time zones. In one season when I didn’t love my job I used to stay up late (late!) on Sunday nights hoping to push Monday morning away, but somehow Monday morning always came and with it a new week. I, though, was worn out and exhausted from staying up way too late the night before. Regularly getting the rest my body needs is one of the most important “self-care” practices to enjoying a healthy year.
3. Eat Good Food. This is my newest kick, and since I’m evangelistic about the things I love, let me wax a little here. For years I was into “easy” and “convenient” when it came to food. Even better if I could eat it one-handed while walking or talking with someone. But recently I discovered that adding more fruits and veggies, eating real meals, and eating less fast food makes a huge difference in my energy, stamina and even the health of my gut.
Instead of eating all the pizza, bagels, and pre-packaged snacks that our students seem to thrive on, pack some healthy snacks like carrots and bananas to dip into almond butter for a protein packed burst of crunchy (or mushy) satisfaction. Eating whole foods and less processed foods will go a long way to helping you feel more balanced, stable and healthy.
4. Take a Monthly Half-Day with the Lord. It’s part of our job description, so why haven’t I practiced this every month for the 15+ years I’ve been on staff? It seems ludicrous that I’d skip this beautiful job perk because I think I’m too busy or I’m too “needed” on campus. Build it into your schedule with your team leader’s OK, and protect that day with all of your energy. It’s like a mini personal retreat every month! It’s good to step back and remember that Jesus is the hero (and I’m not!).
5. Separate Ministry and Personal Emails. I’ve asked my friends to email my @cru.org email account when it comes to ministry work and requests, and to email my personal account with fun events, personal updates, or anything wonderfully frivolous. This helps me stay focused on responding to ministry-related tasks when I sit down to do email, and lets me look for the fun emails when I have time to play with my phone.
6. Check Ministry Email at Scheduled Times. This is really important for me because I’ve forgotten to reply to some important emails and I’ve neglected to add important dates into my calendar by checking my ministry email account when I was bored or when I only had a moment before I met up with someone. When I’m bored I seldom feel like putting in the sufficient time and reflection to respond to ministry emails which need a prompt and thoughtful reply. Instead, I just read the email, feeling important because it was in my inbox, but delay responding until I “feel” like it. But if I set aside small time chunks throughout the day to tackle incoming mail, I’m in a better mind frame to tackle each request and fulfill it, and am less likely to miss something important simply because I already read the email but didn’t make time to respond.
And that’s one reason why I don’t prefer to use the “All Mail” filter on my iPhone. When I use that filter, then all of my ministry, personal and junk emails are visible at once. Instead, I prefer to look at each account when I have time to do something (delete, reply, etc) with it. All my junk emails, discount offers, invitations to great get-aways for a low fee go into one email account and I can quickly delete the uninteresting ones. Personal emails from real people go into another account, and ministry emails are at my @cru.org account. That keeps it clean.
7. Unsubscribe from Junk Email. By unsubscribing to junk email lists and to all wonderful local deals which I never take advantage of, I’m able to reduce a lot of clutter in my inbox and the little white number in the red circle which tells me how many emails I have waiting for me to deal with will be smaller, too. And that creates a bit more space and breathing room in my life!
8. Move Around. Make exercise a regular part of life. I know, in the age of reality shows like The Biggest Loser it seems obvious to make physical activity a priority. But I don’t always like to do it when I’m tired. Remembering that exercise is also good for my mind, not just my body sometimes motivates me to move around a little bit more. It releases stress, and endorphins, so you’ll probably feel better when you’re done. Try taking a walk instead of watching that reality show, and let’s be honest, do I really need to watch both hours of The Biggest Loser every week? Maybe I can take a walk for one of those hours.
9. Read a Good Book. For me, engaging my mind in good book helps me stay mentally sharp, creative and focused, and even makes me seem more interesting when making small talk. I go through phases of reading ministry-related books, books for personal-spiritual development, wonderfully engaging fictional stories and fantastic biographies of fascinating people. I love utilizing the local library for real (paper) books, as well as for ebooks to read on my nook and kindle apps on my phone and iPad. And I love a free download!
10. Make Friends Outside of Work/Ministry. Depending on where I’ve lived, this one has been a challenge. Sometimes it seems like my only friends are the people I disciple or the people on my team. And while there’s nothing wrong with that (in theory), I think there’s something really healthy about having friends from church and friends in your neighborhood. Even better if you’re able to develop caring friendships with people who don’t agree with your political views or your faith. And here’s the kicker: having strong relationships outside of my local staff team is often a good indicator of the health and balance in my life. Building relationships takes time, and if I have the time to invest in people who I’m not obligated to see at a team meeting then I’m probably living by some good, healthy boundaries.
So that’s my top 10 practices for enjoying a healthy, balanced life. It’s hard for me to practice all of those at once, but here’s to giving it the “ol’ college try” once again!
Do you have a habit or practice that helps to keep you sane and healthy? I’d love to know about it. Please post it in the comments below.