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We don’t have to do a boatload of things to stay healthy emotionally, just a few.

Over the last three weeks, we’ve been focusing on how to build a healthy emotional infrastructure that helps us lead better, lead longer, and enjoy it more.

We explored the foundational practice of loving yourself, and how important it is to stop being your own worst critic and start becoming your own best friend.

We tackled the challenge of telling anger where to go. We discovered if we don’t tell anger where to go, it takes us to places we don’t want to go.

And last week we dove into the often-ignored subject of protecting ourselves from abuse. We unpacked five safeguards to help us guard against abusive and/or toxic people.

Today we’re going to put a bow on the subject of emotional fitness. There’s one more building block we need to incorporate into our life.

A Barna 2017 report revealed that 37% of U.S. lead pastors are at medium-to-high risk of burnout. Not surprisingly, we’re experiencing a wave of exhausted leaders knocking on our door at Converge Coaching

Their exhaustion concerns us for many reasons, but one major reason is it’s so much easier to do something stupid when we’re tired. So today, I’d like us to chat about another building block that helps us build emotional resilience: refueling emotionally

Jesus said in Matthew chapter 11: Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  Let’s be honest, sometimes His “yoke” seems anything but easy. But I wonder  . .  is that because we take on some things God never intended us to?

When it comes to refueling emotionally, there are three baselines we have to know:

First: You cant give what you dont have

If you have no fuel in your emotional tank, it’s difficult to keep running the race you’re called to. Not because you’re a bad person, but because you have nothing left to run on.

Second: You are an emotional being

We’re not just body and spirit. We’re 3-part beings—body, spirit and soul. And the soul component includes our emotions.

Third: you must pay attention to three key emotional indicators

These indicators reveal how much emotional fuel we have in our tank. Wouldn’t it be great if we could invent an emotional Fitbit that would alert us when we’re running low on emotional fuel? Until that happens, we have to rely on other indicators. Here are three:

Indicator 1: Your pace (schedule)

A quick glance at your calendar gives insight into your emotional fuel level. It’s important to remember: your value to God has nothing to do with how fast you’re running.

Many leaders operate in extremes when it comes to pace. They either work a hundred hours a week or five. If you lean toward workaholic tendencies, we’re not suggesting you overreact by swinging to the opposite extreme of laziness. If you’re lazy, repent and start producing. If you’re a workaholic, repent and stop trying to do what God’s called you to do in your own strength. Laziness and workaholism are unhealthy twins. Emotional fitness is found somewhere in the middle.

Indicator 2: Your people (friendships)

Eccl. 4:9: “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work.”   Leadership sets you up for isolation, and isolation is good only in small doses. Extended isolation leads to emotional trouble. If you want a full emotional tank, block off time in your calendar to spend with healthy, replenishing people. There is no substitute for the power of relationships to fill you up emotionally.

Indicator 3: Your plan (emotional maintenance plan)

Most of us have a maintenance plan for our car. We change the oil every several thousand miles and rotate the tires. The purpose? To extend its life. Very few of us have an emotional maintenance plan. Here are some emotional maintenance plan items:

  • Laughter – Proverbs 17:22: “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” Ever felt better after a good belly laugh? The feel-good rush of a belly laugh is chemical in nature. It lifts our mood and tamps down our stress.
  • Exercise – Much like laughter, exercise burns off nervous energy and reduces stress. Recent research indicates exercise may actually help to create new brain cells.
  • Boredom – Refueling emotionally requires you to occasionally inject a little bit of “boring” into your life. Not a lot of boring. Just a little. Leading a ministry or a business is important work, but God did not wire you in-utero to be on high alert 24/7. Here are some boring ideas…
    • Plant some flowers . . . boring
    • Play 18 holes . . . boring
    • Take a walk on the beach . . . boring
    • Go to an art museum . . . boring
  • Sleep – 7-9 hours of sleep each night gives your brain the space to repair itself. To flush toxins. The right amount of sleep is a leader’s cheat code. The negative effects of sleep deprivation are so great that people who are hungover outperform those lacking sleep

In Mark 6:30-32 we read: “The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place.”

Jesus prioritized rest. When you observe His life, you discover He was never stressed out (except for Gethsemane).  One reason why? He had this refueling thing figured out.  If we figure it out too, we’ll be able to lead longer—lead better—and have more fun along the way.

We don’t have to do fifty things to stay healthy emotionally, just a few! Here is the infrastructure required to enjoy sustained mental and emotional health:

  • Love yourself
  • Tell anger where to go
  • Protect yourself from abuse
  • Refuel emotionally

You may be thinking, “depression will never happen to me. I hope you’re right. But statistically, if you’re a leader of an organization, you’re a likely candidate for it. If you’ll take action now, build a healthy, preventive approach now, you’ll reduce the likelihood of needing an emotional root canal down the road.

I’m rooting and praying for you.

John Opalewski

Author John Opalewski

John Opalewski is a graduate of Oral Roberts University. He served as a pastor for fifteen years. He has worked in the business world for nearly two decades, serving in multiple leadership roles. John's experience as a leader in both the church and business arenas has made him a sought-after international speaker, coach and mentor.

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