Spiritual Leader Burnout reason number 4:
Neglecting the “body” versus achieving holistic wellness
The role of a spiritual leaders can tempt us to focus too much on and idealize our mind and spirit while discounting our physical dimension. This often has to do with one’s religion’s discounting of the “flesh” as the inferior dimension of life. Having the daily task of preaching, teaching and leading others in spiritual matters is a rewarding and difficult job. Some spiritual leaders neglect their own physical health because they identify completely with their spiritual role and regard it the most important, over and above their own physical well-being. Some actually falsely believe that sacrificing their own bodies as part of God’s calling or will. Others would like to take care of their bodies, but are being swept away with the stress of a 24/7 job of being “professional care providers”. They are aware of their physical needs, but regret and suffer from stress that leads to their neglect or complete lack of self-care.
How do spiritual leaders overcome such internal and external obstacles to physical self-care and well being? The first step is to admit that one’s physical wellbeing is indeed the basis for everything else. Without a healthy body, none of our emotional or spiritual care will be possible over a long period of time. The second step is putting physical self-care in one’s calendar and regarding it as important as everything else. Finding a wellness coach who can design a personalized plan can be a new beginning, or joining a community that focuses on healthy life style choices like healthy eating or exercising. If alcohol or drug addiction has become a secret regular coping mechanism, joining a regular AA group will be the first step of a physical recovery. Here in Atlanta spiritual leaders are fortunate to have access to an amazing resource in the wellness coach Karen Webster who is specialized working with clergy to improve their physical wellbeing. She is the executive director and co-founder of the Healthy Seminarians Healthy Church Initiative.