Caring for your health in times of Crisis
Current Thoughts & Reflections by Stanley Jn Philippe
We have no control over what is happening in the world right now. That is why they call it a crisis. A crisis, by definition, is everything that happens that you cannot control.
Crises are highly stressful—especially if we are at the center as leaders or catalysts. Personally, my normally busy life has become even more full. As leaders, we find ourselves having to readapt and learn new ways of doing things almost overnight. At the same time we are dealing with loss, stress, and the emotions of those around us. These strange days of massive disruptions trigger so many emotions in people and in us. It can be an emotionally desolate place.
In times of crisis, the future is unclear and uncertain. People are stressed, more defensive, deeply uncomfortable and tense—trying to navigate the unknown. People are in shock, denial, and mourning—they are paralyzed by fear. In times of crisis such as our current one, people look to leaders for vision, hope, wisdom, and direction. And as leaders or catalysts, we feel responsible.
We feel we must do something.
When circumstances are changing weekly, even daily, our responsibility as leaders isn’t just to react to what’s happening—it’s to encourage and lead people in light of what’s happening. This means that we must check our emotions and do what is best for others, not just us. We may not have control over the crisis, but we have the power to choose the way we respond to it. If we don’t control our emotions, our emotions will control us and we will be ineffective.
If we are to bring our best selves into the crisis, we need to care for ourselves. 3 John 1:2 says: “Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul.” Effective leaders take good care of themselves especially in times of crisis and change.
Parker Palmer puts it this way:
Self-care is never a selfish act – it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on the earth to offer others. Anytime we can listen to our true selves and give it the care it requires, we do so not only for ourselves but for the many others whose lives we touch.
This raises some questions: How exactly do we care for our souls in times of crisis? How do we take care of ourselves in order to lead more effectively?
A holistic self-care approach focuses on your mental, physical, social, and spiritual self. Here are some things you can do to make sure you’re taking care of yourself:
Sleep well. I like to get eight hours of sleep every night as this gives me renewed energy and helps me make better decisions. You may need less, but make sure you recharge your batteries on a regular basis. A tired leader is less effective.
Spend time with Jesus. Start every day spending time with JESUS. We need time in solitude with God. This allows us to recalibrate – to restore a true perspective on God’s activity and our work. Effective spiritual leaders pray, meditate on scripture, and surrender their lives and problems to God.
Process your emotions. We also need to look after our emotional health. Processing your emotions as you help others process theirs will make you a better leader, a wiser counselor and help you make better decisions. How do you process your emotions? Who do you talk to? Who makes you laugh? Who encourages you? The longer I live, the more I understand how important loving relationships are and how important it is to be in community with one another. We need to invest in loving relationships with friends and with family.
Exercise regularly. Want to feel better, have more energy and even add years to your life? Just exercise. Even a 30-minute run or a brisk walk will help. The health benefits of regular exercise and physical activity are hard to ignore. Everyone benefits from exercise, regardless of age, sex or physical ability.
Eat healthy. The foods you eat have big effects on your health and quality of life. It's easier than you think to start eating healthy! Take small steps each week to improve your nutrition and move toward a healthier you.
Call a friend who you can talk to. In a crisis, you need people who don’t need anything from you. You need people who deeply know you and deeply love you. You need people with whom you can be your complete and true self, without fear of judgement. Call a friend.
Read regularly. Leaders are readers. Leaders read because they understand that reading has a significant amount of benefits. Regular reading helps with stress reduction, analytical thinking, writing skills, broader knowledge, ect.
Spend quality time with your family. It is ok to be goofy. I love to play with my daughters and I enjoy laughing with my family. Your family needs your leadership and friendship just as much as your church or organization does.
These are just some of the things that I do in order to be my best self so that I can lead well and encourage the people under my care. In times of crisis, leaders must be fresh in their thinking and self-care is the name of the game.
What about YOU? What have YOU done? What do YOU do for self-care?