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“Sanity Sessions” Wring Out Ministry Stress

Pastor Amy Stewart and the staff of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church take care of themselves so they can better take care of the people they serve — and they petitioned the local gym to be a part of fitness center discount so they can save money while doing it.

Pastor Amy Stewart
Good Shepard Lutheran Church
Manchester, Missouri
April 2015

Athletics have always been a big part of my life. I was a competitive swimmer from age 4 through my sophomore year at the University of Tennessee. I have always appreciated the discipline and physical rewards of exercise, but it wasn't until later that I understood just how important it was for my mental health.

A couple of years ago, I had a shoulder injury that made it difficult for me to work out. After a short time, it was apparent that the lack of exercise was not only affecting me physically, but also that the stressors of my job and life were piling on more than usual. Without a healthy outlet, I felt like a sponge that had absorbed everything around me, but I felt helpless to wring myself out.

Eventually I was able to get back into my old routine, but with a greater appreciation and awareness of all that it offered me. Exercise became a sort of bodily diary, allowing me to "work out" whatever was on my mind. I even found that certain exercises helped with certain emotions: I craved a run when I was angry, a swim when I was sad, and yoga when I felt my life was out of balance.

Exercise continues to be a priority for me, as a large part of my self-care. As an ordained pastor and director of youth ministry, it's no secret that I expend a lot of mental energy during the week. Between teaching confirmation, engaging in deep faith conversation with youth, and giving pastoral care, at the end of the day, sometimes I'm emotionally and intellectually exhausted! I find that if I start the day with a good workout, I have a lot more positive energy to take with me throughout my ministry. I call it my daily "sanity session!"

It is incredibly encouraging to see my church staff colleagues at the gym every day, too. It's wonderful to know that we care not only about ourselves, but about those we serve, because they also benefit from our good health. That was what encouraged us to petition our local gym to join the fitness center list. We are so grateful it did, because now we are able to do what we enjoy at a discounted rate.

Thank you for caring about your leaders, ELCA!

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