3 Simple Ways To Make Sure You Don’t Break In the Crisis

So you’re leading through the biggest crisis in your lifetime.

I’m guessing you feel overwhelmed, not to mention exhausted. You barely have time to read this post.

So let me keep this short.

We’ve all been through crises before, but none like this.

This post is part of a growing crisis leadership series, which you can access for free here:

5 Ways The Current Crisis is Accelerating The Arrival of the Future Church

Crisis Leadership, Christian Leadership and the Corona Virus

How to Lead Through Rapid, Unexpected Change

8 Ways to Lead in the New Digital Default Church

My Top 7 Rules for Leading a Digital Team

8 Early Tips for Producing Digital Content During the Current Crisis

Why Motivation Alone Won’t Get Your People (or You) Through This Crisis

Foundationally, three of the best things you can do when under stress are get plenty of sleep, eat healthily, and get exercise.

They’re all also among the first to go in a crisis. I know I’ve been tempted to sacrifice all of them in the last few weeks, on have been cutting back on sleep and a bit on exercise as well.

I also know that needs to stop.

Turning in early, taking a 15-minute naps, or even doing a few sets of pushups when you’re in lockdown can help your mental and emotional health, and basically, that’s what you’re bringing to leadership in a crisis—your energy and your mind.

But since you already know about sleep diet and exercise, here are three other things you can do to help you navigate the crisis.

1. Walk away

Your brain can only process so much. Same with your heart.

There are moments where a crisis demands that you have to push through. But you’re not a machine. You have limits.

Nothing makes you want to push your limits more than a crisis.

If you’re exhausted and perhaps even before you get there, one of the best things you can do is walk away. Just take a break.

I realize it’s not always possible, but it is possible more than we admit to ourselves.

If you struggle spiritually with the idea of walking away or taking a break, even Jesus walked away. There were times where more people wanted to be healed, and he left. On numerous occasions, his disciples couldn’t find him. Jesus was off praying or resting.

I called this practice ‘walking away’ rather than taking a break largely or stepping away because as a responsible, caring leader you will tell yourself there’s no time to take a break.

That’s correct. Which is why you need to think of it as walking away.

You will be walking away from need.

In a crisis is there’s always more to do. The need never goes away, and you can never do enough.

But leaders who never take a break end up breaking.

Which is why, for your sake and for everyone’s sake, you need to sometimes walk away. Just because you can’t every day or at a particular moment doesn’t mean you shouldn’t.

So how do you know when it’s time to walk away for a moment or two?

Let your energy levels guide you.

When your energy is low, you won’t accomplish much anyway.

What if you cooperated with your energy levels instead of fought them?

Instead of blinking mindlessly at your screen for another 30 minutes, get up. Stretch. Take a nap. Go for a walk (if you are allowed). Grab a coffee. Grab some silence.

Or maybe…call it a day.

A rested you—a restored you—is a better you. After all, an empty leader is incapable of filling anyone.

2. Carve Out Some Silence

Every day, find at least a few minutes of solitude alone.

Mornings are easiest because they’re often the most quiet.

In those silent times, naturally, you’ll want to pray and meditate on scripture. That’s wonderful. Do it.

But also just sit in the silence.

Let your mind wander. Ponder problems. Think.

Often you’ll discover a few things:

  • The silence will help you filter through what actually matters amidst all the noise.
  • You’ll stumble upon breakthroughs that result from giving your mind and soul some space.
  • The silence will be tremendously replenishing.

Spending time in silence will help you make a meaningful contribution in the midst of all the noise a crisis creates.

3. Talk To A Friend

As a leader, mostly what you do in a crisis is give.

If you think about it using a banking metaphor, crisis leadership is a series of withdrawals. You give day and night to help other people.

That’s appropriate and exactly what a leader should do.

Too many leaders burn out when the withdrawals are matched by zero deposits.

In addition to sleep, diet, exercise, taking breaks and making time for silence, the final deposit you will want to make comes from friends.

In a crisis, you can be surrounded by people but feel all alone. That’s why friends are so important.

I find in a time like this that friends help me work through the issues, hear my fears, help me process and I do the same for them.

And sometimes, just knowing that someone else doesn’t know the answer is comfort enough.

Loneliness is a choice in leadership. So is friendship.

FREE for You: How To Lead Through Crisis Course

I’ve taken everything I know and have learned from top leaders about crisis leadership and put it into an online, on-demand course, called How To Lead Through Crisisthat can help you lead your team, your church and yourself through the massive disruption we’re all experiencing.

Although the course is designed with the church in mind, it has direct implications for business leaders too. We’re excited to make it accessible to all leaders free of charge.

While no one has all the answers in a crisis this big, in the course, I share the mindsets, habits, tools and strategies that I believe will help you lead through crisis to get you and the people you lead to a new (and better) future. 

You can enroll and get instant access for you and your team today.

What’s Replenishing You?

What’s replenishing you during the crisis?

Leave a comment with any thoughts or questions you have.

3 Simple Ways To Make Sure You Don’t Break In the Crisis


  1. Martin Shackelford on November 29, 2020 at 12:55 pm

    Really struggling right now (truth told–for a long time in my 22 years) with the same small town small church ministry. Trying not to feel guilty for running on empty for so long. I love the people but am in need of all the areas you mentioned in today’s blog. I’ll try and get these in soon (wave my magic wand🙄). Thanks for the advice and the reminders! Hope you’re doing ok too, Carey. You mean a lot to many!

  2. freefiregen.net on August 22, 2020 at 11:41 am

    This as we know is the best thing.

  3. Michael Kisaka on March 25, 2020 at 2:24 pm


    • Linda Smibert on April 10, 2020 at 8:16 am

      Humour and slspstick at that. Wonderful elixir for eliciting a healing laugh. Good isea.

    • Linda Smibert on April 10, 2020 at 8:37 am

      Would like to share a thought that has been ruminating within me since covid arrived and
      turned our lives upside down.
      When restricted due to high risk health I felt helpless to assist others. After all I am fit enough and mobile enough….just a magnet for covid.
      There are lots of things to explore and people to reach out to….no time for lament.
      But….this is now…what about tomorrow when our young people, whose lives and hopes and dreams may look dashed. How can I position myself to be of use in this big picture.?
      There are hoards of us BOOMERS out there ready with skills and experience….I can just visualize this army stepping up and contributing to this generation. Yes, we may need to learn technology and new things…that is a blessing to keep our brains healthy. Yes, we will need energy….requiring nutritional and physical attention and discipline. It is a time to limit our need for the health care system and start living quality lives…not a time to slow fown but a time to rev up. Retiring from a career does not mean retiting from a life of adventure and stimulation.
      All this has been stirring me as to how could I launch momentum and draw this army together? I am a BOOMER….I know how we think. I have leadership abilities..on small scale. How can I turn this idea into a machine?
      That is why I am taking your free course and thank you because I do not have the monetary resource to purchase it right now.

    • Igor Gerritsen on April 13, 2020 at 9:27 pm

      Exercise. I drop tools at 11:00 am and ride my bike for about 20km. Then a shower and lunch and I’m on top of the world. The best thing for the top 4 inches of my body.

  4. Sharon Stratmoen on March 23, 2020 at 11:00 pm

    Thanks for this, insightful post!

  5. Cassi on March 23, 2020 at 1:49 pm

    Trying to lead multiple pregnancy centers, in multiple small communities, with so many people looking to me. I also had surgery on Monday. I was supposed to be off work and recovering for the next two weeks, but the COVID-19 situation has meant I am doing a LOT of working from home, while all five children are at home too. I just made the teenagers move a desk into the baby’s room so that I could have some peace.
    This was a good reminder. I needed to remember to listen to my body and give myself quiet time in the middle of all this noise.
    Thank you.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on March 23, 2020 at 3:31 pm

      Wow Cassi,

      I’m so glad to be able to help you in this time.

  6. Doris on March 23, 2020 at 12:49 pm

    Right before I read this email I told my husband that I was feeling tired, unfocused, and non-productive even though I was working as hard if not harder than when I am in the office. I was feeling guilty for not getting as much as done as I would like to and as efficiently as I would like to. I am on a bishop’s staff and we are dealing with hurting priests, parishes, clergy retirees and clergy widows/widowers. I love my job and the people I serve and I am very aware of helping them carry the emotional load they are carrying personally as well as their carrying the concerns and anxiety of their congregations. I am proud of the way our staff has responded and how we are working together, remotely, to continue the work of the diocese. Thank you for the reminder that I can and should walk away-and right now that walk will take me up the stairs to take a nap.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on March 23, 2020 at 3:32 pm

      So glad to help!

  7. Donnie Criswell on March 23, 2020 at 11:14 am

    Like many others probably reading this post, I reached the tipping point on Friday. I was consumed with trying to figure out what was needed to be done to continue to reach our people. I had forgotten that it was just about reaching out and that no one has it completely figured out. Thanks for the article.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on March 23, 2020 at 3:32 pm

      So glad to help Donnie!

  8. Rick Theule on March 23, 2020 at 8:53 am

    Carey – Thank you. This past Friday I reached the breaking point. And then I went past it. Eventually I gave myself a time-out. I found a dark spot in the empty sanctuary and laid down. It lasted all of 10 minutes before I was needed and found, but it helped. This post today helps too. Thank you for reminding us all, and pouring into us. Be blessed today. Especially today. Happy Birthday!

    • Carey Nieuwhof on March 23, 2020 at 9:16 am

      Thanks Rick. Get some sleep. 🙂 It helps more than we think.

  9. Chuck Fenwick on March 23, 2020 at 8:25 am

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. I needed to see the walk away part. I did that (kinda) last week. Not walk away from anyone, but just walked away from the discussions and even the thinking, for a short time. I felt horrible about not working on things that needed done and decisions that needed made. Sure enough…coming back to it later made all the difference in the world. But before that, I felt like I was failing. So, thank you! I needed this today!

    • Carey Nieuwhof on March 23, 2020 at 9:16 am

      You’re processing so much…hang in there Chuck!

  10. Di Esbensen on March 23, 2020 at 5:43 am

    I am a recent subscriber, recovering from major surgery following a cancer diagnosis, a Minister in a regional city, on sick leave, trying to make sense of the impact of all of this in the context of CV19 and its impact on all of us … and your insight, wisdom and accessible ideas and advice are encouraging, supportive and all round brilliant.
    I am so very grateful.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on March 23, 2020 at 6:26 am

      Di…oh my, that’s such a deep set of circumstances all at once. Just said a prayer for you. We’re in your corner!

      • Marshall Eizenga on March 23, 2020 at 12:30 pm

        Great, great post!!!!! Just had to send this!

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