Refuel - how to balance work...
Life, faith and church - without burning out. By Kate Middleton
Refuel – How to balance work, life, faith and church – without burning out
By Kate Middleton
Reviewer: Shaun Lambert
I wish this book had been written, and that I had come across it back in 2006, when I was stressed, anxious, depressed and close to burnout. The sub-title captures perfectly the often impossible demands we all juggle with, ‘How to balance work, life, faith and church – without burning out.’
Kate is writing both as a psychologist and a church leader, and her integrated wisdom would help many leaders, as well as those in their congregations. She doesn’t use jargon and writes simply and profoundly about life as it really is, and how our lives might become ones of ‘life in all its fullness.’
The book is split into two sections. The first looks at what stress really is. And although we all experience it, there are many misconceptions about it in popular culture that she clears up. Knowing what stress is and what it does to your mind, body and spirit, and having a map of that is crucial to thriving, rather than just surviving. Importantly, this includes a clear map of how our embodied minds work.
The second section is full of practical suggestions for managing and reducing stress. Kate has also put a whole load of web extras on a special website, to go with the book.
I like the way she uses both the wisdom of the Bible and the wisdom of psychology in the book. Each chapter ends with an ‘Over to you’ section, which asks questions and encourages us to review our own lives. Nobody can do what she calls ‘wise building and emotional gardening’ for you, we have to do that ourselves.
At the centre of her approach is a challenge to those leaders who shout out (and encourage others to do the same), ‘I WANT TO BURN OUT FOR GOD!’ The secret is not to burn out, but as the Message puts it in Romans 12:11, ‘Don’t burn out: keep yourself fuelled and aflame.’
The book acts like a mirror, showing us as we are, but also how we can change and be transformed. It could be read by individuals, but also by small groups who can encourage one another in the journey to a refuelled life.
There are helpful sections on emotional hijack, perfectionism, lack of sleep, passion, guilt, caring too much – and what to do about these very human characteristics of ours. There are also very important tips on developing our self-compassion and awareness through mindfulness. Kate also shows us that emotions are a healthy and normal part of human living and how we can integrate them fully into a wisely balanced life.
This is not a book to try and read through in one sitting. In fact I am using it as my daily devotional book. I am reading it first thing in the morning to help me tune into God. Tuning into God is so much easier, when we are managing our stress wisely. Over to you…
The Revd Shaun Lambert is minister of Stanmore Baptist Church in Greater London