Since the beginning of this year, my schedule has been filled to the brim. The work in front of me with immediate needs seemed more important than taking the time to take care of myself; so the first thing that went out the door was my self-care. Who has the time to exercise, eat right, sleep enough hours, journal or spend time with the Lord with limited schedule, especially at the end of the day when you’re dead tired?
After several months, I had become noticeably irritable, critical, and worst of all, a complainer! I couldn’t care less about what other people had to say or do. Then I was down on myself for being always tired and not being loving and gracious to others.
As I was speaking with my supervisor, she suggested a test to see if I’m experiencing compassion fatigue (AKA “burnout”). While my score wasn’t catastrophic, it made me realize how much I neglected self-care and how crucial self-care is. So I prioritized the time to spend time with the Lord, eat right, and said “no” to extra things.
And it was as simple as that. Irritability and “who cares” attitude dissolved as I valued and took care of myself. I was back to more balanced self who can love and give grace through Jesus!
I want you to know the importance of self-care, especially for those of you who are missionaries or ministers.
Compassion Fatigue AKA Burnout
We often hear the word burnout in church and ministry settings as well. Burnout is defined as below.
It is associated with feelings of hopelessness and difficulties in dealing with work or in doing your job effectively. These negative feelings usually have a gradual onset. They can reflect the feeling that your efforts make no difference, or they can be associated with a very high workload or a non-supportive work environment (B. Hudnall Stamm, 2009-2012).
Why We Need Self-Care
When you take care of yourself,
- You are more productive because you’re not drained.
- You have more to give to others because you are quenched.
- You like yourself.
- You last in the field long-term.
When I was going through my own neglect, my mom reminded me that God says to love others, but he told us to love others as we love ourselves. How could I love others when I was denying my own needs?
It’s funny because I would never tell a friend to “You don’t have time to eat lunch! Finish the work first!” or “Are you tired? But they need your help so why don’t you just push through and take on more responsibility?” That would be pretty mean.
But I was telling that to myself all the time. At one point, the Lord pointed out the logic of Matthew 7:2: “For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” But if I judge myself for not prioritizing work, then I’ll start to judge others so harshly.
How to Self-Care
You can google it but here it is.
Take care of yourself physically. Exercise. Eat right. Drink plenty of water. Meet your emotional and social needs. Talk to mom. Spend time with friends. Have a date night with spouse. Take care of your spiritual needs. Pray. Worship. Have fellowship with one another. Allow yourself the time to do what you want to do rather than what you need to do.
What’s important is planning it in your schedule – and keeping it. If you decided to have a workout session, say no to the last minute request for a meeting. Of course, there’s also value in being interruptible in the same way Jesus would have compassion on people and change his plans (Mark 6). The problem is when being interrupted becomes the pattern instead of an exception.
The Pro-QOL measurement (Professional Quality of Life Elements Theory and Measurement) is a tool for people who work to help others, such as health care professionals, social service workers, firefighters etc., to understand the aspects of helping others with trauma and suffering, so they can better serve them and also to keep your balance (The Center for Victims of Torture, 2018). Basically it’s a way to see if you’re experiencing burnout or secondary trauma.
Take it when you want to check in on how you’re doing, especially when you are questioning, “Am I getting burned out?” It can also tell you about your work environment satisfaction as well. It’s translated to many languages, including Japanese. Maybe it’ll be a great tool for Japanese people to know how much overwork affects their mental health…
In conclusion, be nice to yourself please.