I was in a Clergy Boundaries training the other day, and a quote, which no one knew who to attribute it to, went something like this:
"If you don't take time for your wellness, you'll be forced to take time for your illness"
Let that sink in a little. Our culture has often taught us that self care is selfish. To take time to rest, to do the things we love, to get a tattoo, a massage, attend a concert...whatever it might be that helps us to rejuvenate, is seen as not caring for others, not serving others, not being there for our responsibilities.
The culture continues, and in my opinion, is even worse due to the pandemic. Many of us began working from home. In my situation, I mostly stayed in the office throughout the entire last two years, but the opportunity to work from home did become a reality. What I've found is that when I am sick, I continue to work, just not where I can infect anyone. This does not add to healing.
Many employers do not see the benefit and importance of Mental Health days, the idea that you take a sick day, not for physical health, but to promote your mental health. Aren't these supposed to be Vacation days?
Clergy have a difficult time with this, like most professions I think. Those who have good and clear boundaries regularly take a minimum of two days off a week. These days are for rest, for sabbath, for rejuvenation. They are days where the work of being a clergy does not enter their minds, and their congregations know that these are their days of rest, so unless it is an emergency, they do not call them.
I wish I had these boundaries. I feel like I have an interesting situation. Being a pastor is not my first or only vocation. I have a full time job that pays the bulk of my income and benefits, including health benefits. It is a Mon-Fri gig. Pastoring comes at the times before this job, after this job, during breaks, during lunch. I can't tell you how many lunches I do not get because I am having lunch meetings for the church. But this is what I signed up for.
So, to take at a very minimum 1 day off is essential. I realized this early on, but didn't take it seriously until I had burned out one too many times. Now, Saturday's are my day off. On Saturday, I don't answer my phone. If it's an emergency, those who are closest to me in the church know how to get ahold of me to let me know. Typically, Sunday's after church also become my "day" off, but not so much.
It's easier to preach it than to listen to my own words at time, but I'm doing better. What do I do for self care? A month ago, I got another tattoo. Next week, I have a planned massage. On the weekends, when the wind or rain doesn't come, I ride my horse. I run, take my dog out for a walk, hang out in the garden. And sometimes, I take a nap.
Don't wait until your body gives out to take the time that you need. Make the time for self care.