Fatigue can make even the best of leaders introspective and far from her best. In a state of deep fatigue you will have an unrealistic perspective of situations requiring your leadership and you won’t be as competent as you could and should be. This was certainly my experience last month. In addition to my father passing away, which is a huge emotional drain, we made the decision to drive the 16 hours one way with two kids and a dog. What was I thinking? 🙂 Proof that good decisions are difficult to make under heavy emotional stress! After returning for two days we went to our pastor and spouse retreat which was great but during the weekend my 12 year old got sick. What I assumed to be a 24 hour bug turned into 3 weeks of flu that our family experienced. I was sick for two weeks and don’t recall ever feeling such intense fatigue with an illness. Though I had a “to do” list with deadlines a mile long, I had no choice but to let everything go. My kids bounced back much sooner than their parents so they did require feeding and oversight but for 3+ weeks I accomplished very little other than sleeping and resting a lot. This post is not to talk about how healthy the time was as God slowed me down so that I could begin to embrace grief and loss. The purpose is not to talk about the importance of taking extra time to reflect and surrendering to your limits. What I desire to do today is share a few healthy ways to move from a state of fatigue to a state of rest.
1. Be with God. I have strong convictions that we need to take time to be with God daily. Some call it a quiet time or devotional time. The purpose is not to read books or do Bible study but to sit at his feet, read a little scripture, pray, listen and reflect. This requires time and though I avoid suggesting how much time it is difficult for me to imagine not spending from a half hour to an hour. Can you imagine what your relationship woud be like with your spouse or children with just 5-10 minutes of alone time a day? Sometimes in our busyness our time with the Lord is the first thing we let slide. A result of neglecting this is fatigue, depression and burn out. Our activity for God can only properly flow from a life of being with God. You cannot give what you don’t possess.
2. Get extra sleep and rest. Sometimes the best prescription for fatigue is just to sleep every spare minute until we are fully rested—no television, no hobbies, no social life, nothing.
3. Revise your “to do” list. By making a revised list of all your responsibilities, large and small, you can schedule them for another time and get them out of your mind for the time being. When we are in a state of fatigue we can feel overwhelmed by even little things on our list. Acknowledge that when you are at your best you can knock them out quickly but for now you are going to postpone.
4. Delegate. What responsibilities can you delegate to others? What items on your list could someone else do at least 80% as well as you? Even when you do not have fatigue doing these things yourself is probably a waste of your time.
5. Physical Check-up. When is the last time you had a physical check up? Keeping this a priority is a must for every person who wants to function at her best.
6. Vacation. When is the last time you had extended vacation time? Get out the calendar and schedule it as soon as possible. Often deep fatigue is due to our failure to take regular vacation time. Can’t leave for a week? A 2-4 day get away can do wonders for you. If you have been in full time ministry for 20+ years consider scheduling a sabbatical. These have to be planned for in advance but are sometimes needed for God to renew and refresh us.
The sooner you deal with fatigue the greater your chance of not totally burning out. Whenever you feel fatigued or burned out, let this list help you regain vitality.