People ask me all the time how I do it. How do I teach high school and pastor a church? Well, I am not sure I always do it as well as I would like. I try my best but I often feel like the picture on my desk of me juggling. The only reason that I have been able to manage two careers for the past twelve years is that I understand the huge importance of rest and recovery. I take a lot of breaks throughout the day, each week and every year. However, there is a break that I neglected to take and it nearly wiped me out.
Back in 2015, I was burned out as a Pastor. Tired, frustrated, beat down and I felt like giving up. I needed some kind of break. Not just a day off or a week off. I needed months off. Thom Rainer, President of Lifeway Christian Resources, wrote, “A Pastor has emotional highs and lows unlike most other vocations. A Pastor is on 24-hour call and does not have an off switch.” I read that and hollered a huge, “Amen.” Thom also said that Pastors who have sabbaticals have longer tenures at churches. Honestly, I did not want to quit. I just needed some serious time off. So, I went to my church and explained my situation. I showed them in Deuteronomy 15:12-14 that every 7 years it was necessary to give leaders paid time off. They agreed and I used my time wisely. I rested and I recovered. Honestly, I would not still be pastoring today if I did not take that break.
An Unhealthy Habit of Pushing Through
Every generation seems to differ when it comes to work ethic. I know that Baby Boomers have a reputation for being workaholics. They pride themselves on working 7 days a week and 12 hour shifts. Unfortunately, many of them are retiring and experiencing multiple health problems. I believe it is because they kept pushing through the days and weeks. My generation X learned a great work ethic from our parents but I feel we value more our overall health. We will work hard and push through when we need to but not if it costs us in the long run. The biggest problem with always pushing through and working long hours is that other healthy habits suffer. If you come home exhausted, then you will be too tired to make a healthy dinner. If you do not get enough sleep, then you will consume unhealthy amounts of caffeine. Pushing through day after day will not bring you a long, healthy life. There is a better way.
Each and Every Day
If your days are non-stop, that is a problem. You need to take 5 every 60-90 minutes. Switch up whatever you were doing with the opposite. If you were sitting, then take a walk or go exercise. If you were physically working, then sit down, lay down, read, pray, or stretch your muscles. While you take a short break remember to breathe deep to get that oxygen flowing. Also, during my regular breaks, I like to have a healthy snack and drink water.
Have you ever felt sleepy between 2 and 4pm? That is normal because of your circadian rhythms. Sometimes, I close my eyes and take a 20 minute power nap. That really rejuvenates me and I highly recommend it.
Do you typically go to bed and wake up around the same time each day? Studies show that it is not really possible to catch up on sleep on the weekends. Also, too much sleep does not help either. It is best to get 6-8 hours of sleep each night so your body can experience REM sleep. This is the deepest sleep when your body heals. I suggest you leave your phone in the other room, do not look at the time if you get up in the middle of the night and do not eat or drink 2-3 hours before you go to bed. Also, develop a routine each night where you can process your day and then shut your mind down. Sometimes I take a hot shower or go in the hot tub to loosen up my muscles. It really helps me fall asleep fast. Personally, I go to sleep around 10pm and wake up around 5am every day. Rarely do I veer more than an hour from those times.
Do you observe the Sabbath? It should not be just a religious thing. Back in the day, God issued a command for the Jewish people to take one day off each week. Their day was Sabado, our word for Saturday, which was the last day of the week for them. They were commanded to rest on the last day of the week. In America, our last day is Sunday which at one point was a day of rest for the whole nation. Sadly, over time it seems to have gone away. I really do not think we should ignore that command. You need a day off, right? One day to spend with your family and relax. I find it difficult to “do nothing” but my mind and body really thank me on Monday. I am much more refreshed and prepared for the new week. I find it interesting that Chick-fil-A is closed on Sunday yet makes more money than KFC. They purposely honor the Sabbath and it pays off. I bet that one day off a week would pay off for you too.
How often do you take a vacation? There are many affordable vacations that anyone can take. Heck, we have even taken staycations. We stayed home and it was great. The key to a good vacation is that it needs to be a week or more. The first couple days are always weird because you are out of your routine. Then, after a few days you find a new one and get into a relaxing groove. On vacation, you should unplug and do things you love to do. Just make sure you build in days of rest. My favorite vacation is the one my family takes at Christmas. We head to Cape Coral, Florida and rent a house on a canal with a pool. We fish and we swim. We barely go anywhere. We just rest. I do my best thinking on this vacation. In fact, my dream of starting 4D Performance happened on this vacation. Do not say that you cannot afford to take a vacation. The truth is that you cannot afford not to.
The 7 Year Sabbatical
How would you like a Sabbatical? I realize that this break is a stretch for many. Who can take months off from their job? Even though it may seem impossible, you should try to plan for it. As a teacher, I get the summers off which is a nice Sabbatical. If you ask any teacher, we need the break to survive. I have a cousin that stacks his vacation and visits a different country for a whole month. Just think what you could do if you had a huge chunk of time off. I already shared how my Sabbatical from pastoring saved me. I bet you could use a little saving too.
Taking your breaks is so important to your overall health. I hope that you are encouraged to start taking them. Stop trying to push through if it is stressing you out and affecting your health. Remember to take 5 minute breaks throughout your day. Try a 20-30 minute power nap. Force yourself to take a whole day off once a week. Schedule this year’s vacation and plan for that future Sabbatical. Remember that You Only Live Once.
I hope this helps you and please add your comments below.