How’s Your Sleep Hygiene?

January 30, 2014

We all hear of the importance and benefits of good sleep each night, yet it seems few of us get it. Here are some helpful thoughts toward improving this vital area of health:

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Taken a Look at Your Work Hours Lately?

January 29, 2014

NBC News did a short piece tonight on the price we’re paying because of overwork. It doesn’t mention those in ministry, but it might as well. Pastors are as susceptible, if not even more so, than non-Pastors, especially given that most of us work through the weekend.

Watch and be challenged:

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Rest That Sleep Can’t Provide

November 4, 2009

Josh Patterson, Executive Pastor at The Village Church in Highland Village, Texas, wrote this great post recently on the topic of real rest …

I spent the last two weeks away from work and one of those weeks in Jamaica on vacation. I had no agenda and not a lot of responsibility. I didn’t have e-mails to return, no pressure to return calls or make meetings. My most pressing decision was which book to read. It really was a great couple of weeks.

But, there is a kind of rest that sleep cannot provide. There is a kind of rest that a vacation or time away from work doesn’t produce.

During my time away, I reflected on the nature of rest and what is necessary to quiet the soul and rejuvenate the spirit. I was reminded of three things: 1) sleep always helps, but is not the panacea. It is important for me to have adequate sleep each night in order to function optimally. That said, sleep alone doesn’t cure a tired soul; 2) time away from the normal routine allows me to disconnect, but doesn’t ensure I will connect with the Lord. I can turn off my phone and e-mails to help quiet my mind. This is necessary and beneficial. It was great for me to simply engage with my family and not consider all the responsibilities at work. That said, time away and a vacation means that you will have to face your weary soul either at your house or on vacation. Your heart goes with you; 3) the rest that revives and rejuvenates is the rest that is promised in the gospel. God has promised His children that we can cast our cares on Him because He cares for us. He has promised His children that He is greater than the world. He has promised to exchange my burdens for His easiness. He has promised His children that there is contentment and peace in His promises. So, in the gospel of Jesus Christ I am promised rest today and for all eternity.

In the end, I am reminded that most nights I can make a decision to get adequate sleep. Each day, I can do the necessary things to unplug and disconnect from work. Each week, I am afforded a day that is completely and wholly undivided for the sole purpose of rest, worship and connection with the Lord. Vacation and time away has reminded me that rest is a grace I overlook daily. And, that’s the kind of rest that I truly need.

If You’re Getting Very Sleepy….

June 12, 2009

I’ve posted about sleep before here. Napping, in particular. Numerous studies show that most of us are NOT getting the amount or the quality of sleep that we need to be have our internal batteries restored to full usage each morning.

While none of us will have perfect sleep, we all have habits that can be utilized to improve this crucial area of our lives. The Wall Street Journal had a great column on this, including some good tips and some incredible, albeit somewhat costy, tools. One quote that encouraged use of monitoring devices that was really good, stated, “If you can measure it, you can manage it.”

Read the article here.

Study & Planning Break

February 4, 2009

One of the practices I learned about through my burnout experience several years ago is the importance of getting away regularly for the purpose of clearing my head and heart, being with God, and hearing His voice. It’s not as intense as it may sound by the title I give it, but I call it a Study & Planning Break.

I try to do at least two of them each year, though the one I write from now is long overdue. It’s been about a year and a half since my last one. Sometimes, the personal pace of life, family, both spouses working, kids school schedules, let alone church life and schedules, just get in the way.

Matter of fact, doing these is like leaving home for vacation ONLY in the sense that trying to get out of town and away from home can be a big hassle. All kids of things to arrange, tasks you want completed before you leave so your mind can be free, and the like. This one was certainly that way when I left on Monday (today is Wednesday).

You can do these almost anywhere that they work for you. This one happens to be at a friends place in at Lake Tahoe, about 400 miles north of my home. Since I love to drive,and that’s one way that really helps me clear my head, the drive is part of what I need and enjoy very much. It may not be that way for you, so maybe that wouldn’t work.

I try to schedule them so that I can have AT LEAST 3-4 days of time. So, for this one, I drove on Monday and will drive home on Saturday. That gives me four full days, Tuesday – Friday.

I always plan for the first day (yesterday, Tuesday) to be a day of decompression:

  • Lots of sleep
  • Lots of quiet (I read this week that it’s good for preachers to remember that God’s first language is silence! It takes time to get acquainted with it. You have to do it on purpose.)
  • Moving slowly
  • “Mind Dump” (writing down tasks coming to mind that haven’t made it to my to-do list yet)
  • Light reading (usually something NON-ministry related – you can see a review of the book I just finished here)
  • Taking a long walk
  • Seeing a movie

Then, on the 2nd – 4th days, I’ll focus on mapping out my message direction for the next few months. This week, I am preaching Sunday, so I’ll use some time to write this weekend’s message. I’ll calendar, read (usually something related to an upcoming series or two, as well as reading larger chunks of Scripture than I normally do when  at home), write, take walks.

On these breaks, I follow my body clock. I’m a night owl, so I enjoy working late and sleeping in, which doesn’t happen at home very naturally. That means I’ll take naps when I feel them coming on.

I use Time and Newsweek magazines for some research, so I’ll let them collect for weeks and then fly through them, tearing out what I want to use and file. I’ve got a box of them to go through while I am here.

I do a lot of relfection on these breaks, and enjoy long periods of time just talking to the Lord and listening for what He wants to say as well. Sometimes I go home with a strong word and other times not. Either way, He and I have had some good, long periods of time just being together.

That’s kind of what the Study & Planning Break looks like. I’ve done them alone, but they’re always safer and more fun to do with a friend. On this one, a friend who I haven’t connected with in a long time was able to come with me.

It’s important in selecting your “break-mate” that you both understand and are not awkward about the need to give each other a lot of silence and solitude. I always look for someone who I know I won’t be a distraction to and he won’t be to me either.

I also purposely look for someone who I know I’m going to have fun with. I am too reflective and not very funny naturally, so it helps me to have someone who I know is going to get me laughing!

Any habits you’ve developed along these lines that you can share? I’ve had a number of Pastor-friends who have made mention that they wouldn’t know what to do with themselves on a retreat like this. Maybe sometime, if enough interest is generated, we’ll do a small group “Pastor For Life” Study & Planning Break. Would you be interested?

A Video Tell-All On Us Pastors?

November 29, 2008

ht: Anne Jackson

Adrenal Letdown

October 27, 2008

I’ve heard it said that preaching for an hour can equal the energy output of 3-4 hours worth of work. Multiply that for Pastors who preach at multiple services by the number of services they preach at each weekend.

Arch Hart, in his book, “Adrenaline & Stress”, lays out his study on the impact of adrenaline on a person’s body. He emphasizes the impact it has on Pastors in the book, as well as in many of his talks to groups of Pastors.

Over the last few years, with Arch’s help, I’ve grown to identify much of the awful after-effects of preaching as adrenal letdown. Preaching demands the use of adrenaline and I find that many Pastors either have no idea, or they completely deny, its impact. You know, we’re Superman/women/people, right? What might impact others negatively, God will protect us from! (In case you’re wondering, yes, my tongue is in my cheek as I write that!)

Arch contends that when you expend an inordinate amount of adrenaline, like we Pastors do when we preach, you are bound to experience a letdown of the adrenaline so that the system, the body, can recover and restore itself back to a normal state. There are various brain chemicals involved in the cycle, including serotonin, which can drop low as adrenaline restores, resulting in a feeling of depression at different levels.

How much time it takes to recover and what the symptoms of the recovery are can be different for everyone. For me, I find that on Monday, it’s common for me to develop a low grade headache right behind my eyes. I call it my “serotonin-low” headache. And there’s a general malaise that I often experience.

Have you identified the impact of adrenaline recovery after you preach? What are your common signs?

Do You Need A Nap?

September 9, 2008

Think what you will, but everyBODY needs a nap, at least once in a while, if not almost every day. In reality, this post should probably stand on its own in the “Your Personal Pace” series. The topic is sleep, and you may think it a luxury. It may be a necessity.

Justify it to your heart’s delight. Actually, it’s probably to your heart’s terror and dread. I went for years bragging on how I could live on 4-5 hours of sleep a night. Until my body said, “No more!”

Read about any sleep study you can get your hands on. You need AT LEAST 6-8 hours of sleep every night. We all have to go without some of what we need, but we want that to be the exception, not the norm. If you lose some of it tonight, studies will also tell you that we can’t “catch up” on it.

However, we CAN follow our bodies. They’re usually smarter than we are and tell us what we need when we need it. The problem is we think we are smarter than the body God created us in. He uses MANY avenues to speak to us … how about our body? When we need rest/sleep, it is sure to tell us.

So, if you’re reading this with toothpicks in your eyes to keep them open, go take a nap. You want to find out how it feels to “Pastor FOR Life” and “Pastor WITH Life”, go take yourself a nap!

When I encountered burnout several years ago, one of the symptoms was insomnia. My adrenal glands, according to my doctor, were exhausted. They no longer knew when to spurt adrenaline into my system and when not to. So they did whenever they felt like it, and sometimes wouldn’t when I really needed it.

Over the years, I’ve used a number of sleep aids. Even to this day, I currently use Lunesta on a regular basis. (NOTE: Only use sleep medications with a doctor’s prescription. That’s not legalese, it’s common sense!) I also use an eye cover, as I’ve discovered that even a little light can wake me or keep me awake. When I travel, I use ear plugs.

If you’re looking for some good napping help, here’s a little primer from the Boston Globe:

Help When You Hurt

Who ministers to the Minister when you're hurting? Many do, and they can be found on this listing. Please find a friend in your area and seek the help you need today.
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A Place For You

Many Pastors are not aware that all over the country are a number of places you can retreat to for a number of given reasons or purposes. Find some of them here, get there, and find your pace!
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