Avoiding burnout during the holiday season

November 29th, 2023

Clergy are entrusted with the spiritual guidance and support of their communities. Ironically, with increased demands at the holidays your own well-being and family can get left out. The pressure to meet the needs of the congregation, prepare special services, provide emotional support, and make the season feel spiritually significant is overwhelming. This leads to fatigue, stress, and even burnout. Unfortunately, when you neglect your own self-care, it hinders your capacity to make a positive impact.

Self-care and family time are not personal luxuries. They are essential for effective spiritual leadership. While congregations and communities should be mindful of the toll the holiday season can take on spiritual leaders, leaders must make self-care and family non-negotiable. In this week’s blog, I explore how to avoid burnout during the holiday season. 

Avoiding Burnout: Establish Healthy Boundaries

Leaders who are successful at achieving a healthy work-life balance set and maintain boundaries. By setting and maintaining healthy boundaries, you prevent burnout and stay enthusiastic in your ministry. Remember, taking care of yourself allows you to serve others better.

Here are some tips to help you establish healthy boundaries between your professional and personal life:

  1. Clearly define your workspace. The pandemic saw us all have an ever-increasing amount of work coming home. A dedicated workspace can help create a physical and mental separation between work and home life. This will define a clear distinction between work time and personal time.
  2. Prioritize self-care. Make time for activities that bring you joy and help you relax. Take time for your favorite hobbies, cherish moments with your loved ones, and take adequate breaks to rejuvenate yourself.
  3. Learn to say no. Don’t take on more than you can handle. Prioritize your commitments. Learn to delegate to others so that all the work doesn’t fall on your shoulders.

Avoiding Burnout: Communicate Your Needs

Leaders must communicate openly and honestly about their needs to the personnel committee during the holiday season. This is not about complaining but informing them about family commitments, just like everyone else. By doing so, you are setting a healthy example for them to follow.

Here are some tips to help you communicate your needs to those around you:

  1. Communicate your availability to those around you. Avoid taking work-related calls, text messages, or emails outside these designated hours. Clearly define your work hours and stick to them.
  2. Let others know your limitations. You are human and have personal needs. By communicating to those around you where you need assistance, it allows them to know where they can help and cements spiritual community and belonging.
  3. Communicate the importance of self-care and work-life balance. Educate your community about how this makes you more present and effective in your ministry. Encourage them to join you in this practice. Set an example and incorporate it into your sermons and teachings.

Avoiding Burnout: Nurture Your Spirituality

Amidst the busy holiday season, it may be tempting to prioritize doing over being. However, nurturing and maintaining spiritual grounding is vital for your well-being. It allows you to step away from the demands of ministry and connect with a deeper sense of support and understanding.

Here are some tips to help you nurture your spirituality:

  1. Spend quiet time with God. By finding the inner strength in these moments, you will be better equipped to support others. Cultivating this relationship will refresh your spirit during a season that has many external demands.
  2. Immerse yourself in the hymns of the season. There are so many rich and meaningful hymns to help you reflect on your personal journey of celebration. Allow the message of these praises to build your spiritual grounding.
  3. Practice Centering Prayer. Finding your own deep connection to love and faith to God will guide you to the support and intention to be in God’s presence. This will open divine action inside yourself and allow you to better serve those around you.

Next Steps

Embracing a holistic approach to ministry is crucial for clergy. Avoid burnout during the holiday season by establishing healthy boundaries, communicating your needs, and nurturing your spirituality. In this way you can achieve a more harmonious and gratifying holiday season while staying true to your spiritual calling.

Go ahead, be selfish. Remember that these steps are not only beneficial for you but for the communities you serve. By prioritizing your well-being, ensure that you can continue to fulfill your sacred duty to guide and support others. Your congregations and communities will thank you for it.

If you’re a leader feeling the weight of this season, know that you are not alone. It’s okay to seek help, to ask for support, and to prioritize your well-being. Here’s my invitation to you. I invite you to reach out to schedule a one-on-one with my team. You don’t have to navigate this journey on your own. Even leaders need help, particularly during the holiday season. Burnout not required!


Excerpted from Rebekah Simon-Peter's blog, used with the author's permission.

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