An E-newsletter on EXCELLENCE in Leadership

How Can I Take Care of Myself? NAD Principals’ Handbook Excerpt

The principal needs to find the balance between the demands of personal and professional life. Few individuals would say that they wished they had spent more time at the office. The “to do” list is never completed. Working long hours robs you of personal and family time. Love your family by spending quality time with them; love yourself by maintaining your health; and love God by staying connected with Him.

February 2019 | Volume 7, No. 6

Self-Care: A Sacred Responsibility

Randy Speyer | Clinical Director, LMFT




 O ver the past 33 years of pastoral ministry, 20 of those as a licensed therapist, I’ve seen more than my share of bright and gifted leaders crash and burn, as a result of burnout. Burnout is a serious problem, and the less you engage in an intentional course of prevention, the more likely it will occur. This is particularly true of school administrators.

Jerry Murphy, former dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, reported that 89% of school leaders surveyed felt overwhelmed; 84% neglected to take care of themselves in times of stress; and 80% scolded themselves when they performed less than what they expected. It’s no wonder why burnout has become an epidemic among school administrators.

How do you know if you’re on the path to burnout as a leader? Here are some of the most common indicators:

  • It’s hard to get motivated for the things that once brought you meaning and joy.
  • It is emotionally draining to be around people, and this often causes you to “numb out.”
  • Your tolerance for challenging situations or difficult people is low.
  • You find yourself becoming more reactive, irritable or angry, or even cynical about work.
  • Though you often work long hours, your productivity has dropped.
  • You sometimes resort to self-medicating, which can include overeating, overworking, pornography, various substances, or impulsive spending.
  • It’s a struggle for you to experience joy. Those who know you best notice you rarely smile anymore.
  • Getting more rest, taking a day off, or going on a vacation just don’t restore your energy or your passion.
  • You may have difficulty feeling hopeful.

The danger is real, which makes it vitally important to be honest with yourself, recognize your own signs, and counteract them with good self-care practices. Leadership guru, John Maxwell, was fond of saying, “It rises and falls with leadership.” The health and success of your school will be significantly impacted by your willingness to take self-care seriously. Your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health is sacred.

Here are a few suggestions for effective self-care. There are no rules. You do what’s right for you:

Change it up. So often, we find ourselves falling into a rigid routine in our daily work lives. Find creative ways to engage in a simple practice that will bring nourishment to your mind, body, and soul. Pay attention to your bodily sensations, including heart rate and breathing. Take a brisk walk during the lunch hour. Give yourself permission to step back from the computer screen, rest your head against a couch cushion and enjoy a 15-minute power nap. Start your day with some quiet contemplation of Scripture. Spend part of a recess out with the children on the playground.

Relentlessly Guard Your Boundaries. Boundaries are essential to healthy relationships and a healthy life. Setting and sustaining boundaries is a skill. This can involve being true to yourself, understanding where you end and others begin, non-reactively responding to those who violate your boundaries, and knowing when to say no.

Practice Self-Compassion. Keep your expectations realistic. Come to grips with your own brokenness. Love yourself, forgive yourself, cut yourself some slack. Learn to silence your “inner critic.” And remember the truism, “Angels fly because they take themselves lightly.”

Build and Sustain Positive Relationships. Balance the often-negative experiences in the work place, by developing and maintaining meaningful, safe and secure relationships with a few healthy people. Prioritize your marital and family bonds. Identify a good mentor who supports you and keeps you accountable. Seek professional counseling, if needed.

Commit Yourself to Whole Person Care. As Seventh-day Adventists, we stand on a rich tradition of understanding the principles of holistic health: eating a balanced diet and staying hydrated, getting adequate sunlight and fresh air each day, experiencing rest through proper sleep and the weekly practice of Sabbath, and discovering the stress-release of an exercise routine.

At the moment you feel most challenged, most stressed, as administrators, it’s vitally important to step back and remember the sacred responsibility of caring for oneself.


Barbara Plubell | Assistant Superintendent,
Upper Columbia Conference




Do you roll out of bed every day, excited to get to work? Or do you roll out of bed wishing it was a snow day? Your work should bring you joy and satisfaction because it is one of the nicest jobs to create and maintain an environment where teachers are supported in their job of touching and changing lives for Jesus every day.

When I think about balance and how important it is to leaders, my mind goes to the object lesson of a jar and rocks of various sizes. In order to get all the rocks in the jar, the largest ones must be put in first, then the small ones fit nicely in the smaller spaces. However, if one starts with the small ones and tries to put the largest in last, there is never enough room for all.

Each day has a finite number of hours, and in order to maintain a healthy balance, the most important “rocks” need to come first—Bible study and prayer, healthy diet, exercise, adequate rest, spending time with family. Determine to create and follow a routine each day with God’s help. If those “rocks” are in place, the smaller work “rocks” will fit. I find the energy boost a 20-minute morning run makes on my mind more than makes up for the 25 minutes of sleep I lose. My morning devotions provide insights I am able to share in staff worships.

Now for the work “rocks.” Create a work schedule that includes such things as:

  • faculty worship
  • greeting students as they arrive
  • uninterrupted morning office work time
  • classroom visits
  • visibility in the halls between classes (especially junior high and high school) to chat with students
  • check-in meetings with maintenance and treasurer/business manager
  • being visible at or helping with dismissal
  • after school rounds to check in with teachers
  • recurring meetings
  • meetings with stakeholders (pastors, board chair, supporters…)

To keep a pulse on school climate, take a recess, study hall, class, or lunch supervision for each teacher once a month. Schedule a day once a month to get away and envision—view the school from the 30,000-foot perspective to see the big picture. Participate in service projects with students and teachers.

You are a cheerleader for your staff and students! Do not take yourself too seriously. Laugh a lot. Bring humor to your staff meetings. Your example of living a healthy, balanced lifestyle will make you more credible to help keep your staff balanced. Encourage them to take some time to both assess their balance and take necessary steps to re-balance. If the staff in your school have created balance in their lives, the students will be positively impacted. The best way for others to learn is by our showing, not telling.

Satan will never quit throwing roadblocks in our way to get us off balance and distracted. Jesus told his disciples in Luke 9 to deny themselves and daily take up their cross and follow him. Verse 25 says “For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost?” (NKJV). Each day is a new one to choose to begin afresh through Christ.


Newsletter Coordinator

Dennis Plubell

Vice President for Education
North Pacific Union Conference

Newsletter Editor

Berit von Pohle, Editor

Pacific Union Conference, Director of Education

Ed Boyatt, Editorial Advisor