Discover how ministry professionals combat loneliness, embrace vulnerability, and form deeper connections.
Unpacking the Spirit: A Guide to Post-Conference Clarity and Calm
As I pulled into my driveway and put the car into park, I let out a sigh of relief. Turning off the engine, I reflected on the eight and a half hour drive back to Baltimore. It gave me plenty of time to process the past few days. Last week, I participated as a speaker, exhibitor, and group leader at the National Catholic Youth Conference (NCYC) in Indianapolis. In simple terms, it was amazing. Yet, I'm experiencing a whirlwind of thoughts, feelings, and emotions.
The fog that follows such an event isn't necessarily bad, but it does bring a mix of thoughts, feelings, and emotions to unpack. One moment, we might feel on cloud nine; the next, we might feel overwhelmed or down. There's no one-size-fits-all way to process everything, but here's what I've found helpful.
Schedule Quiet and Recovery Time
Dedicating time to quiet and recovery helps you listen to the Lord and process your surroundings. Engage in this through journaling, visiting Adoration, or taking a short walk. Ideally, you'd do this immediately, but it might be challenging if you're caring for others or reentering a busy season.
To ensure you get this vital time, schedule it before your next trip, retreat, or event. Whether it's a few hours or a full day, spend it in a peaceful place, focusing solely on contemplation and prayer about your experience.
Connect with Empathetic Listeners
In addition to decompressing alone, find someone skilled in empathetic listening to help you process. They don’t need to have shared your experience, as everyone's is different. However, the person you choose should be a good listener and empathetic.
Invite someone to help you process and set clear ground rules. Tell them if you want them to listen, affirm, or provide feedback. Do you want them to ask questions or plan prayer exercises? Whatever you decide, prepare them for success by clarifying your needs.
Give Yourself Grace When Returning to Work
You don't have to be ready to hit the ground running immediately after your experience. Life continued while you were away. Your inbox and to-do list have piled up, but there's no need to tackle everything immediately. Just as you've given yourself some quiet and recovery time, do the same with responding to messages, coordinating receipts, and easing back into your routine. Everyone managed without you for a few days, so reemerging gradually should be okay.
Guide Others in Their Decompression
As a leader, it's your responsibility to assist others in processing their experiences. Provide time and opportunities for them to break down what they've experienced and felt. This shouldn't be an evaluation session, but rather a space for clarity to emerge.
Often, it's effective to schedule a decompression day a week or two post-event. This allows participants to attempt self-decompression and offers them a future touchpoint.
If someone struggles, don't fix; just affirm, listen, and empathize. Above all, remind them that they are not alone.
There will always be experiences and events through the Church that profoundly impact us. While many of these experiences are positive, we must remember that we are not alone. Whether returning from World Youth Day or a weekend retreat, take time to reflect on the amazing things God is doing in your life.