If there is a word that I have heard (and used) over and again these last many months, it is this one: exhausted. Whether you have verbalised it or not, you must have felt that way at least once these last months. It has indeed been exhausting to live through the constant pressures of the pandemic.
Many researchers have confirmed that people’s mental health has suffered because of the presence of COVID 19 in the world. Everyone has been affected by the anxiety and stress caused by constant changes and having to learn to communicate and relate in different ways. Even now, as we put our hopes in vaccinations, numbers are slowly rising, again. We are tired, frustrated, and yes, exhausted.
What can we do then, with the emotions that have been weighing us down for so long? We must find a way to let them out. And that is a challenge for us, pastors. As caregivers, we tend not to help ourselves. We often and quickly tell our people that it is okay to seek support during difficult moments, but we seldom follow our own advice, right?
The best way to deal with our exhaustion is to tell someone we trust that we are exhausted and share further the causes and results of it. It is important to express our frustrations, anger, confusion, and discouragement to someone, even if we feel uncomfortable doing so. By verbalising our emotions, we tell them we control them and not the other way around. So go ahead, find this person who can be another pastor, a spiritual director, a therapist, or a close friend not in your church.
When we take the time to share what is going on inside, we become more effective with our own people. As we discover how to cope with our own exhaustion, we can share it with others. Henri Nouwen calls this being a wounded healer. It is by our own brokenness and acknowledging the same that we best allow the Spirit of God to heal others. (If you have never read this small book, now is a good time to do so: Henri Nouwen, The Wounded Healer: Ministry in Contemporary Society. Doubleday Image Book. ISBM 0385148038.)
A UBC study found that there were several good mental health resources available online but few people using them. Have a look at them and use them because as leaders of people, we do them a favour when we care for ourselves. A healthy mind helps us have a healthy soul.
- https://bounceback.cmha.ca/ A free resource for all Canadians
- https://www.mindbeacon.com/guided-cbt-programs A service free to Ontario residents
- https://wellcan.ca/ Another free service for Ontario residents
- https://www.workhealthlife.com/ This is our own Employee and Family Assistance Programme (EFAP) through Morneau Shepell. Our organisation is Canadian Baptist Ministries. It is free to use, and you can access a real person as well as other resources.
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go (Joshua 1: 9).”
 For example:
- Mental Health Impacts of Covid 19 – UK research with Canadian input
- Covid 19 Leaves Lasting Impact on Mental Health
- A portrait of the early and differential mental health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic in Canada – Important research on Canadians