Religious leaders also struggling with pandemic anxiety, says Full Strength Network

Local News

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — A local organization focused on helping religious leaders avoid burnout says many leaders are feeling just as frustrated with the pandemic as their congregations.

When it comes to anxiety and stress related to the pandemic, some people may choose to talk to a mental health professional while others may turn towards the leader of their place of worship for guidance and comfort. Denny Howard, Director of Counseling and Coaching with the Full Strength Network, said it is entirely possible that those who are guiding people through the pandemic are struggling with the same feelings.

The Full Strength Network has conducted surveys will leaders in their network about how they’re feeling during the pandemic. According to Howard, in the early months the top two emotions those leaders were reporting were anxiety and fear of the uncertainty of the situation. Two months after that initial survey, he said the feelings had shifted to impatience, aggravation, and frustration. Howard said those emotions are ones felt by a lot of Americans trying to adjust to pandemic restrictions, and by a lot of religious people whose worship community is currently a lot less tangible.

“People feel cut off from each other relationally, they feel cut off during recreational activities, and the types of things that renew them so we may have to think differently,” said Howard. “Here’s what we have to really have: we have to have patience, we have to have a plan, but we have to have an attitude of pivoting because most plans aren’t working very long during COVID.”

According to Howard, clergy tend to be on the more resilient side of things, but that as the pandemic continues we could start seeing more people in professions that are focused on the wellbeing of others, such as clergy, social workers, and teachers, seek a new career path.

“All of these professions that are about pouring themselves out to other people and being a blessing to other people, that takes a lot of emotional, spiritual, relational, physical, mental energy,” said Howard. “I think we’ll see more and more people leave because as the stress goes on, there isn’t that capacity to be resilient.

When religious leaders reach out to the Full Strength Network about their struggles, they try to help those leaders re-frame how they are currently looking at the situation and hopefully keep that person committed to serving.

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