It’s not just tires. Leaders can ‘lose air ‘ too.
Intense demands, overwhelming expectations and the daily challenges of leading can easily conspire to emotionally deflate a leader.
The symptoms are short-term (unlike an on-going and much more serious depression). They include feeling down, lower energy, being negative or irritable, clouded thinking, sensitivity to fears and many more.
Six Questions To Ask Yourself When You Are Feeling Flat
1. How’s your energy gauge?
The level of our physical energy is directly linked to our emotional energy. Football legend Vince Lombardi said, “Fatigue makes cowards of us all.” If you are feeling flat, it may simply be that you are tired and physically depleted. Do what you have to do to get caught up on sleep for a few nights.
2. What’s going well?
Too often leaders keep their eyes exclusively on shortcomings. Counter this by taking a few minutes and make a list of what is going well – extend the timeframe to the last few weeks or months if needed. Reflect on big and little positives. Don’t stop until you reach at least 10 things. Take a few moments and give thanks – this is an act that can change your perspective and attitude.
3. What could bring life?
The whisper of entitlement is often heard when leaders are feeling flat – “Things aren’t going well, I’ve been working so hard, I’m entitled to xyz.” Usually, these entitlements at best only numb the flat feeling. Instead ask – what could bring me life? A leisurely coffee with your spouse? A workout? An afternoon outdoors? Tinkering in the garden? Some time with God? Then, do it.
4. Who could you connect with?
Keeping our feelings isolated internally rarely breeds life. Identify a safe friend who can listen, encourage and even challenge you. Share how you are feeling, your current challenges and pray together.
5. Is there a pattern?
When I served in pastoral ministry, I renamed Mondays “Christian hangover day”. Mondays often felt like the aftermath of something I’d done wrong the day/night before – except all I’d done was pour myself out through service at church.
Identifying this pattern allowed me to plan for more rest ahead of Sundays and to book my Monday schedule with low energy output and life-giving input activities. Is there a time of week, month or year when you regularly feel flat? Reflect on why. What could you do differently to prepare or counteract this pattern?
6. What are you going to choose?
At kilometer 18 of a recent half-marathon my legs felt like lead weights. Thoughts like, ‘you won’t finish – why did you even attempt this?’ and ‘why don’t you just quit?’ began to fill my mind. When those thoughts started, I knew I had to choose to shut them down asap or I wouldn’t finish the race. So, I chose to think about the finish line, the drive home, my family, the next step, etc.
As Deuteronomy 30:19-20 challenges, we need to reject death and curses and ‘choose life, so that you and your children may live…’ For Christian leaders, acting on this point can mean praying to reject negative thoughts, memorizing and repeating this verse, focusing on God’s character, engaging worship, etc.