Mental Health Tips for Church Communicators

Mental health was an issue long before this global pandemic or the swell in racial and political tension. Those factors have only made self-care more needed than ever before. As a society, we’re now more anxious and isolated than perhaps ever before—without a clear end in sight.

That can be a daunting prospect. Your church has likely recognized this fact. You’re probably working hard to find mental health resources for your congregation and community. Your church leadership is relying on you to communicate all of this to everyone.

But what about you? Church leaders like you are not immune to the stress and anxiety caused by the onslaught of global events. You need those resources and solutions just as much as anyone else. But in your scramble to help others, you might be ignoring your own needs. Don’t.

Consider this a friendly reminder that you have mental health needs, too. Consider this your permission to dedicate some time and attention to your self-care. Not sure how to do that? Unsure of where to begin? I’ve got you covered there, too.

1. Take a rest

You know one of the best things you can do for your mental health? Sleep.

Seriously, just getting the recommended eight hours of sleep per night helps decrease stress levels, anxiety, depression, and our ability to become distracted during the day. Despite that, most adults don’t get enough sleep. So this seems like an easy place to begin.

During the quarantine, it might be more challenging to get enough sleep because work is now readily accessible at all hours of the day. Do yourself a favor and turn off work before each evening. Set a hard cutoff time and stick to it. And don’t take your phone to bed with you.

Here’s the hidden benefit of doing more work from home (if that still applies to you)—you can occasionally sneak off to take a quick nap during the day. Find a few minutes during a lunch break or during a lull in the afternoon to catch up on some much-needed rest.

2. Take care of your body

Diet and exercise might be the furthest thing from your mind right now. You’re just lucky if you can still put together a meal at the end of each day. And you’re still worried about going to a public place like the gym. Or maybe that’s just me.

Either way, there’s a clear connection between your mental health and your physical health. It’s much easier to be positive and happy when you’re feeling good. To get started, break this into some simple steps that won’t overwhelm you. Start small and grow from there. Find a few healthy habits amid the chaos.

Drink more water during the day. Go for a walk outside after you’ve finished work for the day. Take short breaks every hour or so, and do a physical activity for one minute. Or substitute those unhealthy snacks for a piece of fruit. Those small steps start to add up after a while.

3. Learn something new

There’s a reason why the pandemic has been so draining on many of us. We’re stuck inside most of the day with the same people doing the same things. The days run together, and we feel as if we’re caught in a time loop.

Break out of that trap by learning something new. You may not be able to travel or go to many public places. But you can explore all new things by reading a good book, taking an online course, or attending an online conference. Expand your mental horizons by investing in yourself.

COVID-19 has done a lot of terrible things, but it’s also allowed us to improve ourselves. It’s when we’re out of our comfort zone that we have the chance to grow. Don’t miss out on this opportunity. When we’re helpless to make the world better, we can make ourselves better.

4. Get a hobby

Author and speaker Jon Acuff recently spoke at the online Orange Conference about how this crisis is an accidental classroom. That fact applies to the point I made above. But there’s something he said during the live Q&A session of that breakout that gave me another idea.

Acuff said that you should always be adding to your personal de-stress list. That’s a list of things you do to help calm you down—things like reading a book, going for a walk, doing a crossword puzzle, building model airplanes, or singing karaoke in your bathroom mirror.

These things can be better known as hobbies—an interest or activity undertaken for pleasure or relaxation. In our fast-paced and side-hustle culture, we’ve lost the art of hobbies. Any time spent not on productivity is seen as wasted time. But think of it as a time not driving yourself insane.

Find a few things that you enjoy doing just because of the joy they bring you. Write those things down on a list. Do one or more of those things when you’re feeling stressed. Try to do one of them every day. Get creative. Recapture the lost art of the hobby.

5. Rely on relationships

The COVID-19 pandemic has been unlike any crisis we’ve experienced before for several reasons. But one thing that has made it exceptionally cruel is that it’s isolated us from one another. Usually, crises bring people together. By its very nature, this one has kept us apart.

Sure, we have Zoom calls—but if you’re like me, the exhaustion from Zoom calls outweighs the benefits of talking to the person on your screen. We need to continue to seek other ways to say in touch with people and maintain personal relationships.

Part of that is investing more heavily into our closest relationships—namely, our family. This is the tight-knit group of people with whom you’re spending most (if not all) of your time. The people you feel safe enough to come into contact with and be around.

However, you can also take time to text or call a friend once per day, or a few times per week. Make a point of walking around the neighborhood and talking to the neighbors you see from a safe distance. Check on your people to make sure they’re doing well. This has a reciprocal effect on you, too. Pouring into other people also serves to fill you up.

There’s one relationship that hasn’t been impacted by the social limitations of a quarantine. That’s your relationship with God. Even if we can’t gather to worship together yet, we can all still spend more time praying, reading the Bible, and growing in our spiritual walk.

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