Preventing COVID Burnout

On our first “Networking & Support Hours” Zoom call in January, several faith leaders on the call spoke about their exhaustion after 11 months of dealing with COVID-19 and the many demands of leading and living in a virtual world. Some even spoke of how they feel like they are burning out, which makes sense because that state of physical, mental and emotional exhaustion we refer to as “burnout” is caused by excessive and prolonged stress, something we all saw a lot of in 2020. 

It was Fred Harrell, Senior Pastor of City Church San Francisco who launched his church over 23 years ago, who gave us some of the most helpful advice about how to navigate boundaries and self-care during this pandemic. He recommended focusing your leadership based on this one spiritual question:

“What are the ways this COVID moment gives us a unique inroad into pastoring and leading people spiritually?”

How would your leadership change if you focused this season’s programming with this question in mind? What would you let go of? What would you lean into? 

In addition to these theological questions, Fred and several others on the call shared some practical ways in which they set boundaries and prioritize self-care and spiritual growth for themselves and for those they lead. Below are a few reminders from the group, as well as some connections to resources and people we call friends or partners in the Launchpad network. 

If you feel you need someone to help you put some of these practices into action, reach out to us. Launchpad coaches are available to help you at every stage of your ministry journey, whether you are discerning the future as a leader of faith, actively launching something new in the world, or needing support further along in the journey. We’ll customize a package to meet your needs. Connect with us to learn more. 

We hope these reminders and resources will offer a moment to hit refresh or to embrace a new spiritual practice during these long winter days.

First up

  • Find out if you can get vaccinated. In some states, faith leaders can qualify as frontline workers. Keep a close watch on your state’s vaccination rollout and watch your neighboring states as well. (Some states do not care if you are a resident.) Get educated about the vaccine and speak to your people about getting it. Though getting vaccinated early may not change much about your lifestyle, it will ease some of your anxiety.

Leadership Strategies to Live By

  • Cut things. Remember if you are burned out, then the people you work with and serve are probably burning out too. Do the things that bring you joy. Let go of the things that are a struggle (if/when possible). If this is hard for you, hire a coach to help.
  • Delegate. Check in with your people and delegate to those who have the energy to do things. This is not the time to do everything yourself.
  • Set boundaries. This is even more important while working from home. It’s important to take a Sabbath. Create a work routine, communicate it clearly with others, then stick to it.
  • Offer Zoom spiritual care calls. Be intentional about connecting with your people on a deeper level. This is the thing they need most right now, much more than your next overplanned program or blog post.
  • Schedule time outside. Go exercise or simply get out and walk. This can be harder during the winter months, but if it’s warm enough to get out for even 10 or 20 minutes then just do it. Your body was created to engage with nature and exercise everyday. 

Take Time for Self-Care

  • Get to know our network. You can start by signing up for our monthly Networking & Support Hours. We know it can get very lonely as a progressive faith leader. Our network of partners and friends is filled with people who share your values and can relate to your struggles. 
  • Schedule social interaction. When was the last time you connected with a best friend or shared a drink with colleagues? Get creative and schedule ways to see or speak to the people who know you best. 
  • Get a therapist and/or a spiritual director, someone who can hear what you’re going through on a regular basis. Read here to learn a little more about what a spiritual director can do for you. At the end of this post you’ll find a list of professionals who share our values.
  • Worship or meditate with another community. The one advantage of everything being virtual is that you can participate in the good things your colleagues are doing across the country. We highly recommend Jenny Morgan’s weekly prayer practices at Highlands Church in Denver or the gorgeous Weekly Laments of The Many on Facebook Live. They are good for your soul. 
  • Practice breath work. Launchpad’s Co-Director Aaron Bailey has found breath work to be a life-giving practice over the past year. He recommends the app Breathwrk or Wim Hof’s Youtube channel to help you get started.
  • Develop your hobbies. About three years into pastoring at Forefront Brooklyn, I realized that reading fiction, drawing, and coloring were small hobbies that actually helped me turn off my brain and get a break. These days I love gardening. Focusing my mind on searching for weeds or watering every plant on a regular basis has become a spiritual practice for me now.
  • Be intentional with the space around you. Light a candle, fill the room with a scent you love, play music that puts you at ease. Treat your home workspace like a sacred space.
  • Finally, find something you can fully indulge in, like a warm bath filled with bubbles, or a delicious new recipe you’ve never tried before. Slow down, savor your senses, and keep the grief and stress at bay by delighting in what you are able to enjoy today.

Self-Care Specialists We Trust

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