EP 201 -BRAIN FOG AND MINDFULLNESS
Welcome back Bootcampers! We hope you are doing well. Every single one of us has on occasion dealt with the challenge of “brain fog” and struggled to do even the most simple of tasks. Why? Pastoring is a 24/7 job and we never are fully disconnected from the weight of ministry. Brain drain and fatigue are real, you have to be proactive and get rest.
In a recent survey Pastor’s said:
A study conducted by Soul Shepherding, a Christian leadership training ministry, found the following:
- 75% of pastors report feeling extreme stress;
- 90% work an average of 55-75 hours per week.
- 90% feel fatigued each week
- 70% struggle with depression.
- 80% say their ministry has negatively impacted their marriage and family
- 85% have never had the opportunity to take extended time off.
What can a pastor do when they are just totally exhausted? The guys break down some practical realities and then offer some solutions. If you’re tired, worn out and struggling to do the next thing, give this EP a listen.
- We love to work-get stuff done and it feeds us (ego, drive, sense of accomplishment)
- We love to feel needed.
- Ministry is exhausting-it is never finished
- We were not made to work and work and work (God mandated a day of rest, for reflection and renewal)
- Set a sane work schedule
- Focus your work according to your wiring.
- Delegate and elevate – you cannot and are not supposed to do it all
- Establish a daily quitting time (of course respond to emergencies)
- Fellowship with Jesus (prayer, devotion, meditation)
Don’t let your lack of inspiration or knowledge keep you from getting a handle on your church web presence. Get with our great sponsor, One Eighty Digital. They have the know how and expertise to get you up and running. Let them know you are a Bootcamp listener.
JimBo Stewart: [00:00:00] Here we are back at the bootcamp. Bob, are you hope? Are you ready? I’m gonna, I gotta start over. That was not good.
JimBo Stewart: Here we are, back at the bootcamp. Back at it again, Bob. I hope you’re ready for the next episode, episode 201, as we move beyond the horizon of 200 episodes, up into the up upper echelons of Replanting podcast.
Bob Bickford: You know, Jimbo, I, I don’t know about you, but maybe I’m feeling a little groggy because the air is so thin up here with, 200 plus episodes now, and. The way you fumbled that previous intro. I’m wondering if you’re gonna be okay or do we, do we just need to shut this thing down or take a break?
JimBo Stewart: You know, we’ve got 200 episodes in. Surely there’s nothing else for us to say. I think, just enjoy, enjoy the archives, guys. It’s been good. I’ve enjoyed it.
Bob Bickford: But what do we know?
JimBo Stewart: What do I know? What do I know? No, let’s jump in, [00:01:00] man. It’s, in the heat of summer, man. Talk about mental fog and brain train. let’s, let’s jump into that because I think it’s, that’s a real thing, man.
When you, when, when too many things are going on at once and there’s pressure and there’s, the nonstop and, you know, you’ve preached the last. 47 Sundays in a row and, you know, it’s, it can, it can start to really overwhelm you.
Bob Bickford: It Sure can. Jimbo, I and I get the sense that, you know, maybe some of us are there. Like, last night I was here. Here’s a little tip before we jump in. I got a new propane grill for kind of birthday Father’s Day combo.
JimBo Stewart: Was it from ikea? Because I saw that and.
Bob Bickford: No, they use solar ovens cuz they’re from Sweden or whatever. Right. So they don’t use any, any evil propane. But I, I made the mistake, Jimbo and I purposed in my heart, but I, I. I failed. I purposed in my heart to never [00:02:00] buy an assemble it yourself grill ever again. After assembling, I would say probably 95% of my grills and, Jimbo, I looked at the instruction sheet and the parts, and can I just tell you?
My heart sank. Like I just, I went to, I just went to a, a discouraged place immediately. I mean, I’m in the back, I’m sweating. There’s mosquitoes, my pit bulls are barking. I can’t get my TV to work, cuz, I mean, it just was all conspiring to make me really have a bad moment, Jimbo. And I thought, man, I, I think this is it.
Like, I think we’re just, just stop, just everything right here.
JimBo Stewart: Never gonna grill it. Just put a George Foreman on the back porch and.
Bob Bickford: Yeah, yeah, yeah. So, uh, you know, I got to thinking, well, what do we need to talk about here in the midst of the hot summer? And probably we need to talk about just this, this idea of fatigue and brain drain, like you mentioned, like it’s a real deal.
So I looked up some statistics, Jimbo, that was, this was a [00:03:00] research, study by soul shepherding. And, here’s some of the findings that they found in their survey. 75% of pastors report feeling extreme stress, not just stress, but extreme stress. 90% work an average of 55 to 75 hours per week. That’s a pretty wide range, you know?
Uh, I think, you know, 20 hours there I think. But
JimBo Stewart: I wonder with that, how many of those answering that are bi-vocational and like that’s on top of their
Bob Bickford: There you go.
JimBo Stewart: other ways of making funds.
Bob Bickford: You’re, you’re exactly right. I, I would say quite a few. Here’s, here’s the part that I think really caught my attention. 90% feel fatigued each week and they just are exhausted. Right. So we we’re kind of, I was exhausted last night when I looked at the parts list and the, the. Prospect of having to put that grill together.
and I’ve talked to some other pastors recently and they’re thankful for the summer, but they’re just exhausted. So I thought, you know, we probably [00:04:00] need to talk about that. And so one of the passages I often think about and go to is Mark chapter six. Where Jesus is sent his disciples out, man, they’re doing ministry and Mark is is the go as a gospel is.
And they did this and immediately they went here and then they did this. And it feels like there’s so much action and you can read it and you can either be. Really excited about it. Or you can go, whew, that’s a lot.
Right? So, and I think that’s true for us, Jimbo, that we, we have one of two responses. So let me read the, the verse here.
What Jesus says to them after they come off the min, the ministry field, here’s what he says to ’em. Come away with me. Let’s go alone to a quiet place and rest for a while. And this was because many people were coming and going and they could not even eat. Right. So Jimbo, have you ever been having, have you ever had a meal, that you just felt like you couldn’t eat it because you were so busy or there’s so many things going on?
JimBo Stewart: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. I mean, especially if I were helping cook it or, there’s just so many people going, [00:05:00] you know, going around. We, we have, you know, large gatherings and or events at the church and, I have definitely experienced that before.
Bob Bickford: Or even you’re so busy, you, you have to get out the door before breakfast. You have to work, you have to work through lunch, and then it’s like late in the afternoon and you’re thinking, oh man, I gotta, I gotta stop by a quick trip. Or Wawa, get some nachos, get a slice of pizza. You know, something like, I’m gonna, I’m gonna crash.
If I don’t, I is Wawa, that’s your place, right? That’s your kind of, your quick trip.
JimBo Stewart: We have, we, yeah, we have Wawa down here now in, in Florida. I think Wawa’s originally like a Yankee thing, but it, made, it made its way down to, to Jacksonville in the last several years.
Bob Bickford: Yeah. So all that to say is, is, uh, Jimbo, I, I have a hard time believing that our Lord wants us to work so much and be so busy and so drained that we don’t even have time to take food to nourish our bodies.
JimBo Stewart: no. Definitely not. I, I, [00:06:00] I think it, and it’s so easy, because in ministry the work is never done. I mean, there’s always someone in the hospital, someone’s house you need to visit, some marriage that needs counseling. Some committee that needs to be met with, some contractor that has to be negotiated with for your AC or your copier lease or something like, there’s always.
Something there and, and I mean, there’s always a sermon that you gotta have ready. and so it’s really easy to get so consumed with all the things that you just never take a moment to sit and,
Bob Bickford: Yeah.
JimBo Stewart: recover.
Bob Bickford: Yeah, so I, I think you’re right. I think let’s point out a few truths about this exhausting nature of ministry and kind of work through those before we get to some applications. So let’s, let’s maybe dive a little bit deeper on the realities and the, the issues,
JimBo Stewart: Before we dive too, too deep, I have a to share with you.
Bob Bickford: okay. All right.
JimBo Stewart: So we’re sitting here and I’m a little bit brain drained [00:07:00] cuz it’s been a busy week. I took a couple weeks of vacation and now I’m trying to catch back up. My daughter has decided in her entrepreneurial spirit to start making stress balls, Bob, and, and she’ll sell them to you.
I’m probably about to give her a public review. That’s not good though. This is gonna be a, a Yelp elite. That’s not good. She, she makes these stress balls with balloons and fills them with flour. And so, uh, as we started recording, I was fidgeting with this balloon. if our listeners could see, I would show you, but I’ll show you, Bob, what just happened.
Bob Bickford: Jimbo. Jimbo. Looks like the thing exploded on your stomach.
JimBo Stewart: It did. It’s exactly what happened. I don’t know if you heard that pop about a minute ago. That was, a balloon full of flour that just popped all over me. and so that’s this, this is the level of brain drain and fatigue I’ve hit is, [00:08:00] uh, I can’t even use a stress ball properly right now.
Bob Bickford: Man, that’s hilarious. There’s so many things I wanna say right now that I can’t, but I think, I think you should leave a review before she takes this thing public and goes on Etsy,
JimBo Stewart: Yeah.
Bob Bickford: that won’t be good.
JimBo Stewart: I mean, they’re cute looking, but, there’s, there’s a flaw in the design.
Bob Bickford: yeah, yeah. Maybe you have to like double or triple balloon
JimBo Stewart: Something, something.
Bob Bickford: All right.
Let’s talk about, let’s talk about the truth of why we, uh, get into place where we’re just exhausted and we work and work. Here’s, here’s the first one, Jimbo. Here it is. We love to work and we love to get stuff done,
right? There’s a rush when you complete the checklist or even when you’re doing ministry, right, and ministry is just.
For us, those of us who are called to it, man, we just love it and we engage in it. So I think that’s one of the truths is like you can love your work so much that, it exhausts you. And I heard somebody say this one time, we shouldn’t love the [00:09:00] ministry that we have for, Christ More than we love Christ.
I think you might have said that, uh, as well on some podcasts previous to this. so I think that’s, and here’s another one, and then I’d love to kind of have you. toss your thoughts in. But Jimbo, we also love to feel needed
and ministry is one of those things where, where we are needed, for what we bring to the table.
JimBo Stewart: and I think we’ve gotta be really careful that. this, this is a heart check. I think you’ve gotta do where, why are you busy? Are you busy because there are that many things that are actually important and urgent and have to get done? Or are you that busy because you’re trying to justify.
Your existence and your role, or because you are trying to, whatever it is, earn earn your approval.
And I, I’ll be really transparent and, and at a time in my ministry when I felt like nothing was going good spiritually. I would make myself really busy just to like, in my mind at least justify that I was at least given my [00:10:00] best effort. And even if, even if everything wasn’t going good, you couldn’t say that I was being lazy.
Right. And I, and I would think, and, and I would take pride and somebody would say, man, you’re the hardest working pastor I’ve ever met. and I would take pride in that. but what it ultimately came down to is I was putting my hope in my own chariots and my own ability and my own strength and not in, resting in the Lord.
And, this is such a huge temptation and it’s so easy to get deceived into this. and so we’ve gotta make sure we’re checking our heart and our motivations as to why we’re busy and why we’re overwhelmed. What is it? What is it that we’re doing that the Lord has actually called us to do? And what is it that we’re doing that we have allowed ourselves or others to pressure us into thinking we have to do?
Bob Bickford: Yeah. I think one of the ways you, you really, can find out who you’re doing it for and why you’re doing it is what if it never goes, or what if, what if what you’re doing goes without recognition or reward? So are you doing, are you doing this to feel good for yourself? Are you, are, are you doing this to feel like other people should notice how hard you’re working?
All those sorts of things. but man, you, [00:11:00] you pointed out some really, really key things that we have to think through. We’ve already said this ministry is exhausting. It’s never finished. So that, that’s a true truism that, that we have to deal with. But here’s, here’s one last truism that I wanna share is we were not made just to work and work and work.
God mandated. A day of rest for reflection and renewal. This is hard for us as pastors because the Sabbath day for us is often associated with the, the one of the heaviest work days for us in terms of, you know, Sunday, the Sunday gathering, the. Maybe we’ve got some meetings, maybe we have to get there early.
Maybe we we’re talking to some guys who are like, man, I’ve gotta, not only do I have to preach, but I have to make the coffee, I have to unlock the building, I have to lock the building. I have to, make the copies. I, you know, do all of these sorts of things. And so Sunday, Does not feel like a day of rest.
It feels like a day of extended work. And then it rinses and repeats, it starts [00:12:00] all over again on Monday. Right. And so, especially our bi-vocational brothers man, they are hitting the ground Monday, doing their, their work week stuff. They’re, tent making kinds of responsibilities. And so it seems like it’s really hard for us to find a, a space and a place to pull back and just renew and reflect.
JimBo Stewart: Yeah, it’s really fascinating that, you know, God chose to rest on the seventh day when obviously he does not need rest. And as you see, Jesus even addressed the idea of, I mean, the Sabbath can’t become an idol in and of itself. And that’s what we see Jesus address with the Pharisees and the Sadducees. but neglecting the necessity of rest is I think I. And this is in my own life, a a sinful attempt to put ourselves on the throne. and it’s a, a way to go, you know, I’ve gotta make this happen. I’ve gotta do the work, I’ve gotta feel needed. and it’s the opposite of humility. And man, James tells us they, God poses the proud. But he gives grace to the humble, [00:13:00] and I think in humility, part of humility is biblical self-awareness of recognition that I, this is not dependent on me.
God does not need me to do this work. he’s allowing me to be a part of it, and it’s a privilege that I get to serve him and his bride in this way. But in that I have to trust and you know, I was having a conversation with a guy when I was in Colorado and he was bringing up this kind of pressure that he was feeling to do just a ton more outreach, right?
And he was feeling like, you know, he is got this church, mostly senior adults, and we gotta get out there, we gotta do this and we gotta do this and we gotta do that. And just, when do I find time to get all these things done? And I was like, man, you don’t, like, you’re, you’re not, you’re not going to. And so you gotta.
Relieve that pressure a little bit and you’ve gotta recognize there are a few things that you know, God has called you to do, in shepherding this flock. And you do those as well as you can. And then whatever margin you have left after that, you figure out one baby step towards some outreach and discipleship, and you take those.
And then you just let it cook [00:14:00] slowly. Like a crock pot, right? Or, or like a smoker, not like a propane grill. you, you, you have to figure out how to do this thing at a pace that leaves you dependent on the power of the Holy Spirit at work in you.
Bob Bickford: Yeah, it’s a good word. And, and I think a word that helps us transition to the application part. We talked about the, the realities. Now let’s talk about maybe some, Application in terms of, if this is true, what do we do now? And I think the first one is to set a sane work schedule, right? So I, I, I think you have to set your schedule or your schedule will schedule your life, right?
You’re, you, you’ve gotta take control of your schedule. So you’re good friends with Jordan Rayner, he talks about scheduling and priority management. We’ve talked about block scheduling here before. and so whether you’re full-time, part-time, bi-vocational, you have to take control of your schedule so your schedule doesn’t take control of you.
And so I, I would say this, you need to think through in a given week, what, what are the [00:15:00]hours that I can commit and when can I commit them? And. Let your spouse speak into that. Obviously you’re gonna have some accountability with your church and those sorts of things. and just to think through your schedule.
Now here’s, here’s the reality. Some people, Jimbo, man, they can get up super early in the morning and work all day, right? And then take the evening off. Or some people need to sleep a little bit later and get up and work and then maybe continue work. In the evening after family’s gone to bed, you, you just kind of figure that out, right?
You’ve gotta balance that. Not neglect family, not neglect your social responsibilities and your home responsibilities, your work responsibilities. But some people work all the time because they love working and that’s just not the the’s, not a good practice, right? So our schedules, you’re, you and I have different schedules.
We keep different schedules. We, we are flexible. You know, for, for instance this morning, we had some storms go through and I was awake like at 4, 4 30. And so I was like, you know what? I just gotta get up and get some work done. I’m awake. And, uh, rather than [00:16:00] battling sleep, you know, trying to go back to sleep, I was like, I’m just gonna get up and work.
So, man, I, I get a lot of stuff done about by 6, 6 30 and was great. And that may mean later this afternoon I may have to take a break. I may have to take a nap as I’m prone to doing. Cuz Jimbo, I’m an older guy now, so I have to take naps. but man, you, you gotta, you gotta get that schedule under control.
JimBo Stewart: Yeah, absolutely. mark Hallick in his book Leading Church Revitalization says our time is short, so we wanna be good stewards of our time and wise with the days that we have if we don’t control our schedules. Everyone else will. The most important things that need to get done won’t get done.
And when this happens, we will be reactive in our leadership versus proactive, and we’ll be purposeful, purposeless, and not purposeful. We need to think carefully about how to take control of our schedules to bear the most fruit in our lives and our ministries for the fame of Jesus Christ. This is such a key issue and it’s so hard.
part of that is you have to free yourself up from external expectations that are not. From God and are not real.[00:17:00] and then two, you’ve got you part of it. You really do have to work hard to manage your time and your task. I’ve been working really hard on that for the last year or so, trying to get better at that so that I can do well.
And I would tell you, I’ve been implementing a lot of the Jordan Rayner stuff and what’s been helping me, I would say the greatest fruit I’ve gotten from it has not been that I’ve been more productive, although I have been more productive. It’s that I’m more present. When I, when I walk away from work, because I, I’ve built this system, this commitment tracking system where all my commitments are there and they’re stored, and so my brain’s not trying to hold on to these things, which is part of what creates.
Brain drain and, and fatigue is our brain is trying to make sure we don’t forget to do this and this and this and that thing. And the neuroscience has shown that like when we’re doing that, we don’t know the difference between the weight of those assignments. Our brain, our brain expends just as much energy trying to remember to take the trash out tomorrow as it does write your sermon.
[00:18:00] like and, and so. I was talking with Jordan Rain recently, and I haven’t told you this yet. Bob, this is gonna be fun news for you. but he, Jordan has an online course that really takes the content of his book, redeeming your Time, and goes much, much deeper. I’ve yet to promote that course on this podcast because it’s like $250.
now hear me, I think it’s worth $250 and I honestly mean that cause if you’ll, if you’ll use it.
so I asked him for a discount code. Not only did he give me a discount code, it’s the best discount code that’s ever existed on the internet. The discount. Are you ready for this? If you go to Jordan Rainer, if you go to Jordan rayner.com and you sign up for the redeeming your time course, a $250 course and worth it.
Cause you also get a digital copy of the book when you do it. So if you haven’t bought the book for you, can you get the book and the course? The code is Jimbo, think. I think for the first time in the history of the internet, I don’t know that Jimbo’s ever been a discount code before. but,
Bob Bickford: Maybe at the beef jerky store.[00:19:00]
JimBo Stewart: but it is now. Uh, so you go to Jordan raider.com, sign up for the redeeming your time course, or, or send me a, a, send us a message. I’ll send you a link to the discounted one, and it knocks $200 off. So it’s like, So it’s like 47 something dollars, $47 some change, and that’s the course. And you get a digital copy of the book.
it’s a lot of work to put in, but it’s, but it will, it’ll reap a lot of good in your life and freeing up your brain if you’ll put that stuff into action.
Bob Bickford: Awesome. Hey, here’s the next one I wanna share. Focus your work according to your wiring, and here’s what I mean by that. find out when you work best at developing content and your creative work, your sermon planning, what time of day and what time of the week is that? Think about admin and Jimbo. I try to do admin when I’m just tired.
Like, admin doesn’t usually require a lot of thinking. It just just requires doing. So, I pretty much put those, admin [00:20:00] task at the end of my day rather than the first of my day. Cuz admin can become a black hole, right? It is. You know, one thing leads to another, leads to another. Also, think about this.
Do, when do you. Connect with people. When are you refreshed enough? When you’re present enough, when, when are you not looking at your watch? When are you ready to, to interact with people? When can you be fully present? And that’s gonna be maybe a particular day, a particular time. And then also, I would say this, you need to have a time when you just get alone and you meditate.
And you evaluate, right? You just, you think about the Lord, you think about your work, you think about what’s important, and then you evaluate, you give critical thought, to how you’re doing. And I would always do this at the end of my week, Jimbo, after the sermon and administration was done and all those sorts of things.
As I was moving in, into, uh, kind of the weekend time when I would take a, a, you know, half a day or more on Saturday, I would spend Friday morning just. Thinking about my work and thinking, about, and, I’ve heard pastors say this, you don’t just need to work in things like [00:21:00] in ministry, but you also need to work on ministry.
So what I mean by that is you, you need to take some time to think about your thinking and thinking about your work and do some reflection. And so figure out. When those times are, when you can exercise those things, and I, I think that’ll, that’ll be helpful to you. One other thing, let me, let me share another thing and then we can kind of chew on this a little bit.
Delegate and elevate. Here’s what I mean by that.
JimBo Stewart: Yeah.
Bob Bickford: Delegate something and then you take the next thing that’s a l of a little higher importance. I can, if it’s not administrative, that sort, but also delegate and elevate the responsibility of those. Whom you’re delegating things to give them enough parameters and boundaries and permissions to say, I believe in you and I’m trusting you to handle this for us and for our church.
Now it’s gonna be, maybe you’re gonna have to test some things out to make sure that they’re dependable and responsible and they’ll, they’ll make decisions. Align with your church’s mission, vision, values. You know, guidelines, et cetera. But when you delegate, man, truly delegate and let people lead and [00:22:00] let them make a decision.
And then give, give, try to give things away permanently, so that you don’t have to do those, those things over and over and over again.
JimBo Stewart: Yeah, we’ve done a couple episodes on kind of related topics to that where we, uh, have talked about, discerning the difference between what’s important and what is urgent. we’ve had, Bob Bumgarner on here to talk about situational leadership, which is kind of how to delegate and develop, in the right way.
But I think it’s key in understanding like this is not on all, all on your shoulders. And, I have practiced and have coached others to practice Bob when you’re in a really hard season where it’s just overwhelming and there’s just too much to get done, just be okay with some things not getting done. like, and figure, figure out what are the things that have to get done, like truly, really need to be done and do those well, and I mean, I’m not talking about being lazy. Do those well and then just like come to peace with the fact that it’s not all gonna get done. Yeah. And that’s, that’s, that’s okay. you don’t have to get all the things done.
there are things you do have to get done, and you need to do [00:23:00] those, but. Just free yourself up a little bit, take some time away. take, do some things that refresh your soul. I like what you talk about, like, kind of figure out how you’re wired. you know, everybody has a certain amount of energy burst in the day.
and nobody can run it full tilt all day.
I mean, you just can’t, I mean without like performance enhancing drugs. And then eventually that runs out as well and probably probably gets you fired. hopefully gets you fired. But
Bob Bickford: use, people could use stuff like coffee. I mean
like a lot of caffeine, coffee,
JimBo Stewart: use coffee regularly,
Bob Bickford: drinks, you know, that sort of thing,
JimBo Stewart: but you only get so many energy burst in a day. And so, figure out how you’re wired. Figure out and, know that God didn’t make a mistake when he wired you and trust him and, put your hope in him and not in your own chariots.
Bob Bickford: Yeah. Last two things I’ll share, Jimbo is establish a daily quitting time like this on Mondays. This is when I shut things down all the way through the rest of your week. you know, this is when I, when I end the workday. And then, the last and most important thing that takes us back to our verse when [00:24:00] Jesus invites them away, he doesn’t invite them just to come and.
You know, play video game, video games and renew themselves, or watch tv or just, you know, what does he invite them to? He said, come and alone with me. Like, come and spend time with me. Right? And so some of the guys that are listening to this, the reason they’re tired is, is they’ve been doing ministry for Jesus and not spending time with Jesus.
JimBo Stewart: Yeah, absolutely. And uh, you know, you get so busy doing the ministry, you forget that the whole thing was about you coming closer to Jesus and helping others get closer to Jesus.
Bob Bickford: Yep. There you go, Jimbo. I hope you’re encouraged, and I hope you also have the flower off of your shirt at this point.
JimBo Stewart: Well, I am encouraged, but it’s gonna take a good bit of effort to clean up this mess that I’ve made. So once, once we’re done, I’ll uh, be getting a vacuum cleaner and changing
Bob Bickford: you go.
JimBo Stewart: All right. See you guys.