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Self-Care 101 for Youth Ministers

Sometimes in ministry you need to make time for yourself. Self-care is important for balance in Youth Ministry. Before you start implementing rules in your life for self-care, you need to start with time management. Creating a work calendar will help keep you organized and hold you accountable to your appointments set up for the day. People ask me at work how I’m able to be so productive, and the truth always come from my skills in time management.

I create an excel spread of my entire week (excluding my Sabbath day). On my calendar, I even have a half-hour set aside to set up my following week’s schedule. I calendar everything. Most people say I’m obsessive, but I find a lot of down time in my life for things that I love to do. I can only find the time when I can visually see it on a schedule in front of me. So I encourage you to take a half hour and create a calendar of all the activities you do from day to day. Once you have your calendar, you must follow some simple rules to keeping balance in your life.

Ten-Minute Break Rule

Let’s start with the take a ten-minute break rule of self-care. I remember sitting in my office chair for hours, sending emails and making phone calls without realizing the hours had past. I now set a timer. Every 50 minutes, I take a ten-minute break. Yes, a ten-minute break, but it’s not a break where I do nothing but sit on a couch and rest. A healthy brain can focus on one task per hour. After 50 minutes, you should switch to another task, and it should include physical activity for stimulation even if you walk and take a bathroom break, step outside for some fresh air, or take a walk to the church and pray for a few minutes.

My job encourages us to bring in our dogs (so does Google) to work because there is a study that proves people are more productive when they have their dog at work. Why do you ask? Well, it’s a fact that a dog will need to take a walk (don’t forget to bring your doggie bags) and have mental and physical stimulation. If a dog needs mental and physical stimulation, can you imagine what our human brain needs?

Take Your Lunch

Take a lunch, and turn off your phone during lunch. I also encourage you to eat outside if possible and away from your work environment. Never eat at your desk. I know during retreat week it’s difficult to follow this rule and people will come and bring you food at work, but it’s really important that you try your best to refresh yourself by moving away from work for a half-hour or hour. You have to shut down your ministry brain for lunch and nourish your body. Your brain needs to reboot at times and just focus on the task at hand: Your lunch. Trust me your body and your brain will thank you for it.

Honor the Sabbath Day

Take a Sabbath: a true day of rest. Why? Because God said so. Really, though, you need a day where there is no ministry going on, and if there is, it does not require you to be there. A day that you can have to yourself. Take some time to reflect on your week. What can you do better? How can you improve your self-care or time management? Also, celebrate the Sabbath of how great of a job you did that week. Treat yourself to something small and make a habit of it. I choose to get my nails done every two weeks, but in between my two weeks I will splurge on getting a hot fudge sundae from McDonalds. (Their only $1…yikes).

Exercise

True self-care is caring about your physical and mental needs, so get outside for a bike ride or jog, go to the gym or workout at home to P90X. The endorphins you receive when you exercise are necessary and will leave you being a healthier and happier youth minister. You will sleep better at night, you will be less stressed, and you will find yourself having more energy. An added plus, your metabolism will boost.

Find another local youth minister or a Core Member to hold you accountable as a gym buddy. Remember to schedule your gym time. Pick how many days per week you will workout and then schedule it on your calendar. It is recommended to workout as early as possible, and not to work out any later than 3 hours before you sleep.

Sleepy Time

Get 7-9 hours of sleep every night. Stay in-tune with the needs of your body. I have always been a person who needs 8-9 hours of sleep to function. I am a walking zombie at retreats on Sunday, but I do my best to sleep right away at lights out. It’s best to turn off all electronics one hour before you sleep. I like to wind down with some chamomile tea. The idea is to shut off anything that might keep your mind from being stimulated.

I also begin my time in prayer to unwind and relax just before bed. It takes the average person 15-20 minutes to fall asleep. Therefore, it’s important we give our brain the time it needs to transition into its restful state. It reminds me of how you have to click “shut down” on your laptop, and you can’t just “turn it off” by clicking a button. Your brain needs time to close up all those programs that have been running all day.

Remember that following these rules will actually make you happier, healthier, and more productive. Also, know your limits and be okay with saying “no” to things. When your health is being affected, whether it’s mentally or physically, feel free to take a mental health day from work and do what you need to do to be healthy. Seek spiritual direction, seek a therapist, and make your appointments with your physician and dentist. Never neglect your health. The teens need a healthy youth minister to lead them closer to Christ.

 

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About the Author

Cheyenne Vasquez

Cheyenne is a Marriage and Family Therapist Intern who works with severely emotionally disturbed adolescents from Southern California. On her spare time she enjoys singing, exercising, eating ding dongs, and napping (not in that particular order).