Tips for your own self-care

There is no one-size-fits-all solution to the challenge of maintaining clergy wellbeing. Each individual has their own personality, their own particular context and their own set of needs.

These needs change as life and work circumstances alter. However, for each of us there are areas of life that help or hinder our sense of wellbeing.

All clergy are encouraged to set up and regularly review their own portfolio of care. It is recommended that particular care and thought is given to ways in which clergy maintain their own spiritual wellbeing and growth.

As an exercise in self-awareness it is useful to regularly review the following and make adjustments, sometimes small, in our life and priorities:

  • what helps me to grow spiritually?
  • what helps me maintain a sense of meaning and purpose in what I do?
  • what gives me life, in both work and leisure?
  • how do I keep my body moving?
  • how do I keep my intellect exercised?
  • what helps me grow in resilience?
  • to whom do I talk to about my spiritual life, my joys and concerns, the challenges of my work, my health, etc? (This cannot be one person!)
  • how do I manage my time and my diary and who can help me with this? (This includes issues such as time off each week; time out of role; total hours worked each week; leisure time with family and friends; retreat time; conferences, including summer conferences).

Most of us appreciate the importance of maintaining our wellbeing but struggle to prioritise its. It is worth taking time to consider why this is so and to find others to help us as we seek to exercise responsibility in looking after ourselves.

'It is laid down that we should love others as we love ourselves. But were you to love others as you have hitherto loved yourself, I for one would not wish to be entrusted to your care. Learn first to love yourself, then you can love me.'  Bernard of Clairvaux

Recognising stress

A key part of clergy wellbeing is being able to recognise sources of stress and our response to such stress. Improving clergy wellbeing is not about the removal of that which is tough in life and ministry. Even if this could be achieved it would leave clergy unable to empathise with the people they are called to love, serve and walk alongside. Nor is improving clergy wellbeing about the removal of stress, which is a vital component of life. The aim of improving clergy wellbeing is to enable clergy to flourish in their role, maintaining some element of fun in life and connectedness with life beyond ordained ministry.

As clergy we have to manage both a very public role interacting with other people (eg leading worship, preaching, roles in the community, pastoral work, attending and chairing meetings) as well as a large part of our working life which is largely unseen by others, such as in prayer, preparation and administrative tasks. Some clergy relish both aspects of the role; others find one area particularly stressful. Both are vital to the work. Simply acknowledging which area is the more stressful and recognising when we are becoming stressed, because the balance is not right for us, can be helpful.

Individuals respond to stress, and varying levels of stress, in different ways. It is hoped that an encouragement to increase self-awareness, as one component of clergy wellbeing, will enable clergy:

'to know our own reactions to stress and to recognize when a level of stress is either too high, or too prolonged, to be healthy and to determine a course of action, before the stress is so overwhelming that it prevents clear thinking and the ability to have anything like a reasonable perspective on the situation.' Andrew Irvine: Between Two Worlds

Once we are able to name the sources of stress, to recognise our own response to the stress and to the level of stress, we have the possibility, often with the help of others, to reduce the stress to a manageable level.

Page last updated: Monday 15th January 2024 3:39 PM
First published on: 16th April 2019
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