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Fight the Holiday Hype: How to Avoid Burnout as a Pastor’s Wife

Several years ago, I woke up on Christmas morning to find myself completely empty.

I had poured everything out to make it through the marathon month of holiday parties, staff appreciation gifts, kids programs, special candlelight services, and family traditions. The burnout was so real that by the time my parents arrived from out of state to celebrate with us, I couldn’t even host them. My body had given out - I was physically sick, depressed, and had no energy to take me into the new year.

After recovering, I remember thinking ‘I can’t let that happen again!’

Unfortunately, it can feel all too common to watch our peers experience burnout around holidays like Christmas or Easter because so much pressure is placed on church leaders to provide awe-inspiring experiences and continue long-observed holiday traditions. It seems like we get the privilege of helping others celebrate Christ while our own celebrations get put on the back burner.

Since that Christmas, I’ve been incredibly intentional about keeping my eyes focused on the real reason for the season, guarding my heart from bitterness or resentment and protecting my mind from unrealistic expectations.

Here are a few lessons I’ve learned along the way to help fight the holiday hype:

  1. Keep Regular Rhythms. Don’t throw your routines out the window just because it’s a busy time of year. Maintain the practices that help keep you healthy - mind, body and spirit - whether it’s your evening walk, weekend meal prepping, family pizza night, morning Bible time, or monthly counseling appointment.

  2. Don’t Stress Over The Shoulds. Just because something should be done doesn’t mean that it has to be done...or that it has to be done by you. Would I love to host our entire staff for dinner in my home, buy each of our Board members a thoughtful gift, and send every congregant a handwritten card? Sure! Do I? Absolutely not. Do what you can, for whom you are able, according to God’s leading, your abilities, your desires and your bank account.

  3. Plan For Rest And Connection. In the busiest of seasons, it’s crucial to schedule time for fun and don’t forget to Sabbath! Block these in your planner before everything else or it won’t happen. One time, after surveying our December calendar, I realized it was going to be near impossible to find much time with my hubby, so we decided to plan an entire date day smack dab in the middle of the month. It turned out to be a game changer that left us feeling connected, refreshed, and ready to tackle the rest of the month’s responsibilities. (Bonus points if you can get out of town!)

  4. Don’t Let Traditions Tie You Down. I’d be rich if I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard the phrase “...but we’ve always done it this way!” You too? Whether in the church or within your own family, give yourself permission to stop or do things differently this year.

  5. Protect Your YES. I don’t know who needs to hear this, but you do not need to attend every event, program, and party you’re invited to. Don’t forget - Every yes you say is a no to something else. Pick your best YESes carefully and then don’t feel bad about it.

You don’t have to give in to the holiday hype this year!

Instead, “I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in Him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13 NLT)


A little about Ashley...

Ashley Earwood has spent most of her life investing in the local church. From growing up as a pastor’s kid, to working in the corporate branding sector serving other nonprofits, or serving as a ministry leader alongside her pastor husband for 20+ years, her mission continues to be singular in focus: Build His Church. With a heart to see women find their place and run their race, Ashley and her husband Paul currently pastor Bear Creek Church in Lodi, California where she serves as Experience Director and leads Bear Creek Women.

You can find her on Instagram @ashleyearwood_ sharing encouragement for Christian women and musings on ministry life (oh, and funny memes about her toxic trait: leaving the gas tank on empty).


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