A life of ministry collects stress like a house collects dust.
That’s why Spring cleaning isn’t t something that should just happen in our homes. Each Spring you and I can de-clutter our lives to eliminate the stress and make sure we’re maximizing our time at work and with those we love most. Here are a few ways to relieve your life of stress and refresh your attitude so you can be happier and more productive this season.
- Start Your Day with a Simple Prayer –Have you noticed that a good start to your day will often affect how the entire day goes? Then grab the reins on your day by choosing to start it well. Try saying this simple prayer as you rise out of bed and before your feet even hit the floor: “God, today is Yours. Help me to please You in all I do.” That simple prayer will remind you what matters most in life and ministry and may help you, throughout the day, to remember where your priorities are. Of course, the longer you spend in prayer the better your day will go. But start with something simple to reign in your very first thoughts of the day and you may notice how the conversation — with you and God — grows and deepens from there.
- Get Outdoors – It’s easy for a pastor to hibernate. Don’t do it. Especially if the sun is out or the wind is blowing or even if you’re experiencing rain. Walk whenever you can, breathe the air that is around you, notice the flowers, listen to a birdsong, admire the sunset. Appreciate the colors of nature. It will refresh your soul and remind you that “the earth is the Lord’s and everything in it” (Psalm 24:1).
- Find Your Resting Place – There’s nothing more refreshing – and needed for a minister — than times of silence and reflection. And you need a place to get that silence and reflection. Can you find it? If not, make it. Get creative. Walk to a nearby park. Sit in your car during your lunch break if you have to. But get quiet. Let your thoughts slow. Listen for your heartbeat. And relish in the sounds of silence — even if just for a moment. Studies show an occasional “slow down” (from an intentional calmed pace to a mid-day nap) will decrease your stress level and increase your overall productivity.
- Find Your Song – The Bible says, “In everything give thanks, for this is God’s will for you…” (First Thessalonians 5:18, NASB). I like to paraphrase that by saying “In all things sing.” Sing out a thank you to God that you’re alive. Practice the art of praising God for everything that comes your way, good or bad. Once you become a person who is able to give thanks “in everything” you are living out God’s will for you. There is no one more joyful and content on this earth than one who is living out his or her divine purpose. Also, the more you sing, the less you stress, worry or complain. Singing lifts the heart and lightens the load. Try it.
- Keep Good Company – There are two kinds of people: the builders and the drainers. Which one are you? Which ones are you spending most of your time with? As a minister to others, there are situations with draining people you might not be able to avoid, but collecting more “builders” in to your life who encourage you and brighten your day will most likely rub off on you and make you a builder and encourager, too. Limit the time you’re around people who deplete you through a critical spirit, whining and complaining, or just being high maintenance. Yes, we need to be sensitive to people’s needs, but we need boundaries as well. Who is a positive, building force in your life? And how can you spend more time around that person than the drainer.
- Clear the Clutter. I had my daughter take me through a “What Not to Wear” session in my closet and although it looked like she completely cleaned me out (five trash bags full of donated clothing items to the thrift store) I can’t tell you how nice it is to have more room in my closet and far less choices every morning. It makes me happy just walking in there. More space often equates to less stress. What can you toss from your office or just straighten up from around your desk? How can you lighten the material load at home or in your bedroom where you need to relax rather than feel closed in? Creating some open space in your home, car, or on your desk at work, will do wonders for your stress level.
- Limit the List. We constantly say we have too much to do, while we continue adding to our to-do lists. So start limiting your list. Plan open space in your schedule by refusing to book every time slot. Reschedule appointments into a less busy week if you can see the overload coming. Prioritize the few people that matter most in your life and let them have the appointments over others who haven’t yet earned your time. Psalm 90:12 says “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” If you realize you have limited days on this earth, you will be more careful to spend them wisely. Limit your list by focusing on the few things that matter most in life: your relationship with God, your responsibility to care for what He’s given you, and the legacy you will leave behind for those you love.
- Toss the Trash – Is there something in your life that’s harming you or others? If so, you probably already know what it is. An unhealthy addiction? A critical spirit? A prideful heart? A habit of pointing out what’s wrong, rather than what’s right? Maybe it’s just something that distracts you from doing what you really need to do. There’s no better time than now to just toss it. If your New Year’s Resolution was unsuccessful by mid-January, make it your Spring Challenge and start living lightly and freely.
Cindi McMenamin is a national speaker and award-winning writer who helps women and couples find strength for the soul. She is the author of several books including When a Woman Inspires Her Husband and When Couples Walk Together, which she co-wrote with her pastor/husband, Hugh. For more resources to strengthen your soul or lighten your load, see her website: www.StrengthForTheSoul.com.