What do you do to protect yourself to function at a sustainable level of time and energy when things are unsettled and stressful?
This is a season of unsettledness in the world and in the churches I’m serving in as well. There’s a lot of unsettledness in search process and other churchy kind of things that lead to instability. There are a few things I’ve found that are important to do to maintain my own capacity to function in the midst of the instability, and not be overwhelmed or overtaken by it, and really become a contributor to the instability.
One thing my wife and I do is that we walk morning and evening most days. Very first thing in the morning when we wake up. Sometimes we’re walking before 6:00 AM. There’s a little loop in our neighborhood we do in about 20 minutes which wakes us up and gets the blood flowing and gets the cortisol happening.
We walk in the evening and that’s more of a cool down for the day. It’s a relaxing way to end the day, usually around sunset, which is getting quite late where we live right now. Where we live right has mountains in every direction, so it’s a beautiful, beautiful way to end the day. That walk does a lot for your mind. We don’t talk a lot and maybe take some pictures. In our neighborhood, there are deer having fawns and we saw a skunk yesterday. You see all kinds of things, so it is an enjoyable way to begin and end the day.
Another very important thing I’ve done is I’ve tried to be really careful with my eating. Now we have a fairly good routine of eating with a breakfast smoothie and for lunch I have my typical wrap of egg salad with romaine lettuce. With the wrap sometimes I’ll have one of my wife’s power balls, which is our replacement for protein bars and contains a lot less sugar.
Sometimes I’ll have a Bulletproof coffee or just coffee, and then dinners are our bigger meal right now, but not overwhelming. I like to eat at a level so even if I’m not exercising with big workouts, which for us are hikes, canoeing, and maybe workouts on the TRX, that even then, I’m not putting on weight because I’m eating at a sustainable level.
And I would say tied to eating, just having an understanding of what your Achilles heels or your potential addictions are. It’s really easy for a lot of us, for me for sure, to eat too much of the wrong stuff. I’ve told my wife very clearly, “You need to help watch me in this area!” I’ve got to be careful not to eat the wrong stuff, which is partly why we don’t snack after dinner. That has made a world of difference. I go to bed just a little bit hungry, wake up starving, and I’m ready, ready for breakfast, which is not a bad thing.
The sleep issue is huge. Doing whatever you can to sleep. One thing I’ve done is that I try not to schedule morning appointments in this time. The reason for that is if I happen to wake up in the middle of the night and I can’t get really back to sleep, as sometimes happens in stressful seasons, I will get up for an hour and read, pray, do some planning and then maybe I’ll go back to bed after a couple hours. At that point, I want to be able to sleep as long as I can sleep and so I might go back to bed at 6 or 6:30, and if I can sleep for another two hours, I let myself do that.
I don’t want to be bothered by an alarm clock or by the need to get up for a meeting or obsessing about a coming meeting in the morning. I just want the freedom to sleep and make sure it can happen and in this season where I’m working from home, and even when I’m not, that’s something pretty easy to do.
And then the other thing is, make sure there’s someone you’re talking to. Maybe your spouse or a colleague or maybe somebody at a distance. It’s just good to have someone to talk to.
I had someone call me the other day and ask, “How are you doing?” This doesn’t happen to me very often. I usually have people calling me and they have some issues and some challenges and need some counsel. But this person said, “I know a lot of people call you or you contact people to find out how they’re doing, but I don’t know if many people ask you how you’re doing.” And I was fortunately doing fine, but it was so encouraging to know there’s someone else out there who’s got my back, who is concerned, who I could call and I could talk to if I wasn’t doing so well. So make sure you talk.
Those are just a few things on dealing with stressful unsettled times, taking care of your own capacity and making sure that you don’t contribute to the stress of the season.
Hope there’s a nugget or two in there for you. Wisdom to you in these days. God bless, press on.