Last year while driving through the high mountain desert of Eastern Oregon, the silence of the long, rather mundane journey was broken when a work associate asked the following question: “So what fills your bucket?” Though puzzled by the sudden inquiry, I answered with the usual litany of pursuits and hobbies that I have enjoyed since I was a kid: “Fishing, hunting, hiking, outdoor adventure of all kinds, the beauty and solitude of nature, prayer, spending quality time with family and friends, writing, photography, etc., etc.” He then asked, “So when is the last time you’ve done any of that?” The silence returned. It had been a loooong time since I’d done much of any of those things. His obvious point hit me like a devastating uppercut from Mike Tyson! It was no wonder I was so burned out, stressed out, and pretty much hating life at the moment. My bucket had been empty for far too long, and I was doing nothing to fill it…a recipe for disaster…personally as well as professionally.
Years ago during my time in seminary training, the faculty relentlessly instructed us to “Take at least one day off a week and do something you enjoy…NO MATTER WHAT!!!” The point they were trying to instill in us is that you cannot give to others what you don’t have yourself. And, if you are stressed out, burned out, and in a bad mood all the time, you will no doubt take that frustration and negativity out (consciously or subconsciously) on the people you serve, your coworkers, your family and friends, and even yourself. It’s a phenomenon that all of us future ministers were well aware of, as we all knew pastors and parish/church administrators who prided themselves on their work ethic (or work addiction in many cases) and the great success of their careers…who at the same time were total jerks who treated people like garbage and no one could stand being around them! What’s more, many such individuals were closet alcoholics (or worse) as they desperately tried (and failed) to cope with the overabundance of stress they subjected themselves to, and never took the time to process it in a healthy way. It’s no different in the corporate world or any other professional setting.
The Essentials of Self-Care
“Self-care” is a big issue these days and is preached about quite commonly in the workplace. Now I have to admit that I never liked the sound of it, as “self-care” seemed to me like some sort of new-agey, psycho-pansy nonsense. However, in reality, it is a vitally important issue and concept to be aware of and diligently practice. Self-care essentially boils down to being aware of your physical, emotional, relational, and spiritual needs (not to be confused with fleeting wants and desires) and making sure those needs are being met. No doubt, it can be challenging to fulfill those needs in the midst of the busyness of our lives and the fast-paced world we live in. After balancing our work and family responsibilities, we are often left with precious few hours to do much of anything. But, even if we only have a few hours for ourselves during the week, it is VITALLY IMPORTANT to use that time to fill our bucket with the things that give us joy, peace, restoration, healing, etc. It’s not “selfish” to take time for ourselves to fulfill those essential needs that we have as human beings. Quite the contrary. Time spent filling our buckets and regaining our emotional, physical, and spiritual equilibrium, in turn, has a HUGE positive effect in helping us be more productive, more loving, more positive, and more patient in our relationships with our family, friends, co-workers, and even ourselves. So take some time to reevaluate what fills your bucket and get out there and fill it! Everyone (including you) will be glad you did!
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