Have you ever been mightily used by God, get a spiritual high, and then the next day feel like a schmuck? Have you ever been running on a spiritual high for quite some time only to be blown away by an equally crushing period of depression and dryness? If so then you might be experiencing Post-Preaching Depression; or as Archibald Hart has termed it, “Post-adrenaline Depression”. Hart describes it this way:
“…what I was experiencing was a profound shutdown of my adrenal system, following a period of high stress or demand. It was as i my adrenal system were saying, “That’s enough abuse for now; let’s give it a break,” and shut down so that I had no choice in the matter.”
Sometimes we experience this because we are adrenaline junkies. Sometimes we experience this because there are seasons in our life when we must rely upon adrenaline (God gives it for a reason). The problem is that we often abuse adrenaline. We get addicted to the “high’s” and become pleasure-seeking adrenaline junkies. So, whether you are addicted to adrenaline or you just crash after big events there is wisdom in understanding post-adrenaline depression.
For me almost any time I preach I am totally spent afterwards. I typically preach on Wednesday evenings. After youth group is over I am exhausted. On Thursday I am drained for a little while but usually back up and running by Thursday evening or Friday morning.
This past week I was the Camp Director/Camp Pastor. It took a few weeks of late nights, stressful planning, and tons of adrenaline even to get ready for camp. Then there was a week of actually speaking twice per day and being responsible for over 100 people. Needless to say at the end of the week I was fully exhausted. I actually felt depressed at youth camp on Wednesday and Thursday and am only now beginning to “see the light”. I am having difficulty writing, preparing sermons, speaking to others, as well as battling feelings of worthlessness.
So, what do we do when we crash? How do we fight post-adrenaline depression? Hart’s suggestion may seem surprising: “cooperate with it”. He further explains. “When the adrenal system crashes its need for rejuvenation far exceeds my need just to feel good. In fact, the mood that it creates is deliberately designed to slow me down so that recovery can take place.”
Rather than fighting this feeling it is best to listen to its message. Try to relax. Do not try to find more adrenaline by ski-diving on your day off, just rest, do low-grade activity. As a pastor it may be wise not to take your day off on Monday (or me on Thursday) but rather do “easy” things in the office to recover. Take your day off when you could actually enjoy it.
Hart offers a few more helpful suggestions for dealing with this:
- As soon as possible after the activity is over, go aside and relax for a while.
- Allow the low mood to come over you, welcoming it as your friend.
- Pay attention to what the “healing” process feels like in your body; it’s not really unpleasant if you interpret it as something good.
- Continue to relax for as long as possible, without tackling any task awaiting you, giving priority to your recovery.
- When you feel like it, mark time by doing routine, low-adrenaline demand activities”
- If you are feeling depressed, accept the feeling as part of the recover process—it has no other significance, so don’t try to interpret your feeling or believe any of the negative self-talk that always accompanies it
What do you think? Good advice? What are areas where this thought can be developed further? How might this be difficult to follow? If you are interested in what Hart has to say I would suggest these two books: Unmasking Male Depression, Adrenaline and Stress.