Low Soul Battery Alert: Self Care for Leaders

Laura Howe /Tuesday, May 3, 2022


*This article was originallly published in June of 2020 and has been republished with permission by the author. After the last few years, the importance of self-care has become even more evident, and we hope to encourage leaders as they live out this vital practice in their own lives. 

Low Soul Battery Alert

Shoot! I forgot to plug my phone in last night and I’m in meetings all day today. Ugh…

Has this ever happened to you? 

You pick up your phone in the morning only to find the battery almost drained. Or worse, completely dead. 

This is a regular occurrence in my life. In an attempt to limit my phone usage and screen time before bed I regularly leave my phone on the kitchen counter and plug it in. 

I can’t count how many times I wake up in the morning and find that my phone may have the wire plugged in, but it wasn’t plugged into the wall. 

On certain “special” occasions I find my phone replaced with a tablet or a watch. 

I wake up ready and my phone has no battery whatsoever. 

This has happened so many times that I purchased a portable charger to ensure I can access my phone when I need it. I want to rely on my phone to be useful and serve my needs, after all…

You wouldn’t let your phone battery run low why would you do it to yourself?

Like batteries, your body, mind and emotions have limits to how much they can do without recharging and refueling. 

But unfortunately, we don’t have the flashing symbol that tells us when we need to recharge. 

Or do we?

Must-be-nice Syndrome

I wrote previously on the “Must-be-nice syndrome”. You can find that blog here.

You know, when you hear of others’ use of self-care and boundaries and your internal response is “it must be nice”… Meanwhile, you politely nod your head and force a smile. 

Must-be-nice syndrome is a sign of a depleted battery. 

Another common sign is agitation or anger. 

I found that when I was busy and overwhelmed my family received the worst side of me. I became increasingly agitated when I didn’t rest or refuel. 

And I noticed that I became more forgetful and less productive. 

I would forget to respond to emails or complete action items from meetings. Or I would drive home and just zone out. I couldn’t remember if I stopped at that stop sign. Not exactly safe. 

I think we can all recognize the signs of being depleted and needing to be recharged. 

So why is it so hard to put self-care into practice?

Burns, Chapman and Guthrieon conducted research on what it takes for pastors to thrive in ministry. They produced their findings in the book, “Resilient Ministry: What Pastors Told Us About Surviving and Thriving.” This book condenses seven years of research and interviews into five themes for resilient, lifelong ministry. 

One of the findings is that self-care is necessary for building resiliency. 

In this same research, clergy also reported that because those serving in ministry have so many things to do and people are so needy, they can neglect their own health and believe that their calling to serve is of higher priority than their own wellbeing. 

There is a myth or false belief that self-care is selfish, that it takes away from serving and that the cost or effort of self-care is somehow wrong or they are not worthy of receiving it. 

This could not be further from the truth. 

And these lies are what is keeping ministry leaders exhausted, burnt out and depleted.

Before dispelling these myths, lets first establish what self-care is. 

Self-care involves taking time to tend to spiritual, emotional, physical, social and mental needs. 

It builds you up, strengthens you and enriches your body, mind and spirit. 

Self-care aligns with Philippians 4:8 where it says “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

Self-care is not selfish

Even though it seems to imply that in the name, the notion of putting yourself as the #1 priority and focus has really become popular in secular, humanistic thought. 

However, I believe that the concept of tending to your mental, spiritual, emotional, social and physical needs is founded in the Bible and like many other Biblical concepts it is distorted by the secular world. If the name is a barrier then change it to soul care. I don’t think the name matters as much as the concept.

The goal of self-care is not to indulge and fulfill selfish desires, but to live out the great commandment found in Matthew 22:36-40, which implies that we are to love one another as we love ourselves. 

God wants us to be kind to ourselves and the results of that are being restored and refilled. We, in turn, become strengthened to give to others again. Unfortunately, many Christian leaders treat the Great Commission of going and doing as though it trumps the greatest commandment of love.

Self-care is not selfish. It’s restoring. It’s loving. It’s God honouring. 

Self-care supports serving

It feels counter-intuitive to think that practicing self-care is helpful for serving others. It seems that when caregivers take time for restoring and refueling there is a battle with guilt. 

This guilt is not from God. 

It often comes from our own false beliefs or perhaps lies from the enemy. 

In 2 Timothy 4:6, Paul, describes serving as being poured out as a drink. Giving and serving from our cup that is full. God didn’t intend that we become exhausted and burnt out from supporting others. 

Service and caregiving come from a full cup. 

How to use an oxygen mask on an airplane is a common analogy. You need to put your own mask on before you assist others. You need to be equipped so you can properly assist others in need. When we empathize and care for others, we are giving of ourselves and we can only give out from the fullness within us.

Rest is needed for longevity in the hard work of ministering to people.

One of the most challenging mindsets to overcome is that of worthiness. 

“I am not worthy of care and others are more important or more deserving.” 

Have you ever thought that?

And although people don’t outrightly say that when discussing why they struggle with practicing self-care, it’s often an underlying theme.

God loves His children. A lot. We are His children. God loves you. A lot. 

Acknowledging when we need to refuel and taking the time to recharge is honouring to God and it is what He instructed us to do in Matthew 11:28-30. “Come to me all you who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

The first part of this scripture tells us to self-reflect and recognize if we are heavy laden and then we are to accept God’s rest.

In Psalms 46:10 it says "Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth." and in Exodus 14:14 we are told, “The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.” In these 2 scriptures, we are encouraged to sit back, stop working and being busy and allow God to move. 

Taking time to care for yourself and refuel is not about if you deserve it. It is about God wanting to love on His children. He wants you to know Him and He wants to refresh you. 

Self-care isn’t selfish, it’s part of the great commandment to love others as we love ourselves. 

Self-care is about restoring your body, mind and spirit so you are able to fulfill God’s calling. 

Self-care is having insight when we need to have rest that tends to our spiritual, emotional, physical, social and mental needs. 

Laura Howe, from Hope Made Strong, is offering a checklist of self-care options & ideas that don't take a lot of time to readers who subscribe to her monthly newsletter. You can sign up HERE.


Laura Howe is our guest blogger, and the founder of Hope Made Strong. With over a decade of experience as a registered social worker focused on mental health and addictions, Laura combines her skills with a passion for equipping and strengthening church leaders. Her online learning and in-person presentations create conversations that lead to hope, strength, and resilience in leadership. Laura equips staff and volunteer leaders with practical, scripturally-based strategies that align with proven results in the mental health industry. 




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