Before a new year begins, I choose a one-word focus for the year to come. For me, the chosen word serves as a declaration of sorts: "In the new year, no matter what, I will be/will have ___." For example, my word for 2014 is "bold." In 2014, no matter what I am facing, I will be bold.
A few years ago in 2011, my word for the year was "healthy." I had just completed a three-month sabbatical from my pastoral leadership role at my church. My life in leadership had led me to a pretty unhealthy place emotionally, physically, spiritually, and relationally.
While I was on sabbatical, God did significant restorative work in all areas of my life. On January 1, 2011, I was staring down re-entry into my demanding job with all kinds of new challenges and old triggers. I was scared that it wouldn't be long before I was completely unhealthy again: stressed, exhausted, overweight, and overworked.
I'll be the first to admit I was far from perfectly healthy in the year that followed. However, I was able to maintain a certain level of my healthy habits along with a healthy fear of the alternative. Here's what staying healthy in life and ministry leadership looked like for me:
Emotional: I had finally accepted my limitations of time and energy as God-given, not weaknesses I needed to overcome. This helped me not walk around feeling guilty all the time for not doing more. I also learned to recognize when I needed to slow down to feel the feelings instead of numb them through "comfort" foods or an extra glass of wine. These tools would serve me well to maintain a level of emotional health in the stressful year to come.
Physical: A year prior, I realized I had a long list of diseases, medications, and lifestyle restrictions in my future if I didn't make some changes. I envisioned the kind of leader I wanted to be in 30 years—strong, healthy, and physically able to go on a long hike on a whim. I started focusing on the factors I could control in the equation: healthy fuel going in, plenty of sleep, and moving my body every day, just to name a few.
Relational: My counselor helped me come to a new perspective on several unhealthy relationships. She gave me tools to replace my old relational habits (like taking on responsibility for problems that weren't mine) with wise boundaries. She also helped me see the buttons people pushed in my life, and how to diffuse them in order to maintain healthy relationships moving forward.
Spiritual: Through my time away from the demands of my job, I reconnected with my Creator by establishing new rhythms (for me) like spiritual direction, Sabbath, and silence and solitude. I knew maintaining these rhythms would be critical to my long-term spiritual health.
How do you take care of your health? What helps you lead in a healthy way?
Julie Pierce empowers leaders to change the world through coaching, consulting teams, and communicating with groups. You can follow her on Twitter at @julie_pierce or read her leadership blog at www.empoweredbypierce.com.