July 14, 2020

3 Key Strategies for Personal Wellbeing – Guest Blog: Dr. Chris Adams

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Guest Blogger: Dr. Chris Adams

Executive Director Center for Vocational Ministry Azusa Pacific University

Senior Research Associate: The Flourishing in Ministry Project University of Notre Dame

Keep perspective.

  • God is with us, no matter what happens. The hope of Easter resurrection is alive!
  • The Christian Church is the most resilient movement in history, having survived and even thrived during wars, famine, persecution, and pandemics.
  • View difficulties as challenges, rather than threats.
  • Focus on what is in your control, rather than what is not in your control. When circumstances are out of our control, remember that we were designed and empowered by God for self-control.
  • Remind yourself that this is time limited, and this situation will pass. It will not be indefinitely uncertain.
  • If we live in a developed country, we are privileged with enormous resources – other parts of the world are not as fortunate. Practice gratitude daily.
  • Think about what has helped you and your church cope well with crises in the past.
  • When there are unknowns, our brains tend to fill in the unknown with the worst-case scenario. Resist the tendency to catastrophize, and focus on the known facts.
  • Reflect on a healthy theology of suffering. God is a suffering presence, who suffers with and for us. God is present.
  • Allow God to remind you that the basis of your identity has never really been defined by what you do for God, but rather is defined by being In Christ.

 Process your feelings.

  • Make sure to pause, step back, and check in with yourself several times per day. How are you feeling physically, emotionally, relationally, vocationally, and spiritually? What is accumulating in my inner life?
  • Give yourself permission to be a person, and have your own fears and anxieties.
  • Allow yourself some limited time to dwell on your concerns, but do not remain stuck in a posture of fear.
  • Recognize the anxiety triggers in your own life that may be activated by this crisis, such as a history of trauma, and invite God into your fears.
  • We cannot grieve what we have not named. Acknowledge loss and grief for yourself and others, including anticipatory grief, and help create meaning and rituals to process through the grief – practice lament (which is not incompatible with hope).
  • Reach out for support frequently from family, close personal friends, clergy peers, and a coach or counselor.
  • Find other constructive ways to constructively express feelings, i.e. journaling, art, and music.
  • Ask for help and delegate some pastoral care. Ask God to use this season as a community building opportunity within your congregation.

 Create a consistent, healthy routine.

  • As much as possible, establish regular ministry work hours similar to your typical schedule.
  • Revisit your rhythm of spiritual practices, and prayerfully consider some contemplative practices.
  • Make sure to take regular breaks away from crisis response, and completely focus on something else. Take a physical and mental break from pandemic response and other ministry work.
  • Exercise every day for at least 20 minutes, at least at a moderate level of intensity.
  • Spend some time outside every day if possible.
  • Practice a relaxation exercise regularly, such as deep breathing. For example, try the 4-7-8 exercise. Breath in through your nose to a slow count of four…hold the breath for a slow count of 7…exhale through your mouth for a slow count of 8…repeat a minimum of 4 times.
  • Avoid excessive caffeine use.
  • Limit the amount of news and social media you consume. Too much exposure can exacerbate anxiety and create vicarious trauma.
  • Make sure to get as much sleep as possible, and return to an average of 7-9 hours per night as soon as possible.

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