By Michael Cooper
As pastors, it’s important to be active in maintaining our mental health.
Unfortunately, many of us push ourselves past our limits to the point of mental breakdown. Emotional burnout and discouragement can be the results of failing to maintain proper care of our bodies.
I’ve learned the hard way the importance of maintaining mental health and I pray you’ll be aware of yours. Here are keys to help you stay attentive to your mental health.
1. Maintain Your Walk with Christ.
Before we’re pastors, we’re children of God. Maintaining a vibrant walk with Christ through spiritual disciplines is a key component of sustaining mental health.
Scripture says, “be transformed by the renewal of the mind.” I’m not advocating that being anxious or depressed is necessarily a sin. Nor am I saying you can just “pray it away.”
But I am saying walking with the Great Physician helps mental health become more of a reality for broken folks like us.
2. Become Active.
Physical movement can aid in maintaining our mental health. Many pastors take care of everyone else to the point we actually fail to take care of ourselves.
Since God created us to be a whole being, the body is part of the process. This can also relate to what we eat and drink.
Science has shown that what we eat and drink affects our mental and emotional states. Make an attempt to eat right. Cut back on the coffee. Drink more water and get out of your desk chair for a bit.
3. Talk It Out.
As pastors, we maintain a level of confidentiality with those we serve. We vow not to discuss their problems with others while praying for them in private.
Sometimes, however, we take this to the extreme and fail to discuss our own problems. We must be willing to open up and talk to people about our struggles.
By doing so, we verbalize our pain and speak what we feel. Personally, this is one of the most helpful ways I’ve found to manage mental health.
I tend to suppress how I feel until I explode. This is why I confide in my pastor and seek his wisdom.
Some may also seek professional counseling. There’s no shame in this at all. We all need help and—praise the Lord—there are people who desire to help.
4. Say No.
We’re pulled many different directions during the day. From making visits to preaching sermons, from attending meetings to going to community events—if we aren’t careful, we can be stretched too thin.
I had a pastor tell me some time ago, “Your favorite word should be no.” Initially, I found this odd, especially coming from a pastor. I mean, we’re supposed to be ready to “preach, pray, or die.”
But while we seek to “die so others may live,” we must do so within reason considering our human limitations. Be willing to say no to things that aren’t the most important to your pastoral work.
We don’t have to go to every event. We don’t need to speak at every opportunity. We don’t need to serve on every denominational committee.
We must be willing to sacrifice things that are good, but not necessary, to do better at the things we’re called to do.
5. Take A Sabbath Rest.
If Jesus needed a break, so do we. If Jesus needed time alone from the chaos of ministry, we do also.
While I’m not a strict Sabbatarian, I do believe pastors must cultivate a day of rest without ministry obligations. The church will continue to function without our 24/7 oversight.
We must remember it’s Jesus’ church and not ours. Work to rest and rest to work. This seems to be the pattern God set out for us as humans.
Spend time doing normal things like watching TV, kicking the soccer ball around the front yard, and eating a nice dinner with your family.
While we slumber, God never does. Resting is good for our mental health.
6. Find a Hobby.
Another way to manage our mental health is to find a hobby. It may seem odd, but there’s a connection between our hobbies, bodies, and emotions.
Since God created us to be a whole people, what we do (our will), how we think (our mind), and how we feel (our emotions) are connected. Hobbies don’t simply distract us; they can change the emotional and mental chemistry of our brains.
We place emotional value in our hobbies. While we shouldn’t obsess over them, we must find joy outside of pastoral ministry.
If we want to be used mightily by the Lord as pastors, we need to take seriously the need to allow Jesus to pastor our mental health.
Submitting this to Him and taking the proper steps to maintain our mental health can prevent us from entering into burnout and discouragement.
As pastors, we must remember we’re humans serving out of our weakness. This is why it’s vital to maintain our minds, emotions, and bodies for His glory.