Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Adrenaline and Mince Pies

For the first couple of days of the Christmas holidays, I had a middling sized case of stomach gripes - which gave me an excuse to stay in bed a bit longer than normal, but wasn't very pleasant. Christmas lunch was great, but the next few meals after that were a bit of a non-event. It's becoming the norm that part of my body conks out in the first couple of days of the Christmas holidays, which isn't really something I want to keep up for the next 25 years.

During December there were roughly 20 Christmas events, ranging from some songs and a prayer with the pre-school, to carol services which I had to plan, lead, and preach at. Plus a wedding blessing, a baptism, the normal round of Sunday services, pastoral work, meetings, and the long-delayed Tidying of the Study.

I'm not sure if it's the holiday itself, where my body goes 'at last, a chance to crash!', or something physiological. It can't be great to have a series of 15-20 adrenaline/stress peaks over the course of a month, though I guess anyone acting in the theatre, or gigging regularly, has to do the same. However, they don't have to do a normal days work around it.

1. Reduce the number of Christmas services I do either delegate a few more (though that's limited, some people want A Vicar), or drop a few from the schedule.
2. Have a week off prior to December to give myself enough battery power to arrive at December 25th still recognisably human. Ok, but there's only so much holiday available per year, and there are more enjoyable times of the year than late November. In fact, pretty much any time of the year is more enjoyable than late November.
3. um, ?
4. Find out what works for other people with an adrenaline chart which looks like the Lake District.

I find that 'routine' services - communion, evening prayer etc., where 95% of it is set down for you, someone else has chosen the hymns, etc. take less out of me, though there's still the challenge of bringing them alive and making the words of the prayers into prayers, rather than recitations. But that's not so easy during Christmas - most of the services aren't 'routine', by their very nature, and most of the people I'm preaching to aren't a familiar congregation, so trying to craft a talk that will amuse/appeal/challenge/inform/linger in the memory is one of the biggest challenges of the year. All the more so if you've got to come up with several talks, all on the familiar Christmas theme, which light the story from such a new angle that people snap out of the daydream and open their eyes a little wider.

This isn't a whinge, I really enjoy Christmas, but I'd love to enjoy it more. Not to be so tired, to be able to give 100% on each occasion rather than the 80, 70, 60% I've got still in the tank. And I'd also like to have enough in the tank that my family don't spend Christmas week waiting for Dad to become bearable again.


  1. Since I started Theological College, I've always had my post-Christmas cold/flu. Without fail, I would fall ill in the days after Christmas, just as you're saying. Last year (2008) I fell ill on the day before Christmas Eve and missed my whole first Christmas in the parish... This year, I thought I had escaped - some minor colds through December but I was keeping going, and then on New Year's Eve, bang, full on cold/flu again, no voice, and I had to preach on Sunday night with about 25% voice...

    At our last diocesan clergy conference the speaker was talking about stress and he suggested that a warning sign was that whenever you're on holiday you fall ill... oops. But what can be done, whenever there are the expectations about what has to be done?

    Especially if you're the vicar on your own - at least at the minute we have a staff team in our parish so there's last minute cover available if illness comes, but it can't be as easy when you're virtually on your own in that respect.

    Hope you're feeling better now - I'm still not right, but I'm getting there!

  2. I've had the same problem - as soon as I switch off I get ill. Where to strike the right balance is impossible for anyone else to say, but having time off in advance is a very good idea - NB it's NOT holiday, it's retreat/preparation. A couple of days the week before might help.

    Or, take three months off before mid-December, it worked for me!!!!!

  3. Seems to be working the other way round for me as well - restarted work on Saturday, and I've spent the last 36 hours in bed with the shivers.

  4. Have you considered a short City Break (Paris?) half way through December, either over a w/e or Tue -> Thur.

    Go shopping for chocolate.

  5. Matt, there is no way I am going through that tunnel after what happened last month. Our nearest city (after Wells) is Bath, which might do quite nicely, some decent shopping, plenty of eating, and a Roman spa bath for people who like sitting in hot muddy water.