4 Things Effective Youth Leaders Do to Take Care of Themselves

My very first girls’ camp as an adult was pretty rough on the first day. I thought I was doing the right thing by making sure the young women were all settled. Then an adult leader showed up to our campground late, asking where she could find everyone. I began to walk her to the waterfront. I suddenly felt dizzy. My knees gave out under me. What on earth was wrong!?

So, what was wrong with me? A classic case of heat exhaustion. I had been so preoccupied with making sure my young women had what they needed, I had forgotten to take care of myself. I hadn’t had anything to drink or sat down or gotten out of the sun. That was a super-foolish thing to do in the hot and humid Indiana summer.

Now, why would I tell you this?

To truly be effective as leaders, we need to be able to “lead ourselves”. As Elder Holland has said, if we don’t make time to be well, we will be forced to make time to be sick later on.

I do hear from a lot of youth leaders who feel like they struggle to maintain some semblance of balance. They’re not sure how to take care of themselves, their marriages and their families and give their calling the attention it deserves.

In this post, we’ll focus on taking care of ourselves first, I’ll save the topics of marriage and family for another day. If you think of others to add to my list, I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

Daily Prayer and Scripture Study

For me, this is my daily dose of personal peace that helps me start my day. On days when I forget, the first thing I notice is that I’m incredibly grumpy. Then I reflect back to whether or not I prayed and studied and I realize that hadn’t. I’ve learned through time and experience that I have more patience to handle my day with it than without it. As a matter of fact, pretty much everything is better with it.

So, what are some things daily prayer and scripture study can do for us as leaders?

  • gain personal revelation for any task we need to do involved with our callings
  • help us prepare to teach, whether or not our study involves the topic we’re preparing to teach.
  • help us have the patience we need when dealing with difficult situations that stem from our callings
  • help us understand and have empathy for those we serve with and those we serve
  • help us find wisdom as we try to balance our personal lives with our callings
  • help us to have the Spirit with us at all times

Diet and Exercise

Now, I could do much better on the diet part. I am a huge fan of exercise. That’s something I do pretty well with. Consider what Elder Scott has to say about this:

I love this because I have always felt that exercise improves my ability to feel the Spirit!

What can proper diet and exercise do for us as leaders?

  • Provide stamina and physical strength to keep up with the youth.
  • Provide an outlet for anxiety and other strong emotions, which can help you be more patient
  • enhance revelation
  • help you sleep better
  • give you more energy


This one matters a lot! You can’t get very far without sleeping. A few weeks ago, I learned about this the hard way. A flight delay left me stuck in New York on my way home from an international trip. It meant that I ended up staying awake for about 38 hours without being able to sleep for more than an hour at a time. I tried to stay awake on the day I got home, but as soon as I sat still, I fell asleep. It took me a couple of days to recover. I don’t recommend trying it!

Now, there may be circumstances that interfere with your sleep that you can’t help: new baby, sleep disorder, etc. That’s not what I’m talking about here. I’m talking about the need we have sometimes to exchange our sleep to get things done that really aren’t more important. This really helps no one, especially yourself. You will simply become spread more thinly than you are. It’s very much a case of robbing Peter to pay Paul. You will honestly be able to give so much more when you are well-rested!

What can a sleep in proper amounts help us do?

  • feel the Spirit
  • have the strength and stamina to keep up with the youth
  • stay focused and complete tasks faster
  • solve problems
  •  keep things in a proper perspective
  • be more patient and generous


Now, you may enjoy reading or you may not. This is something that can help you a lot if you enjoy reading. And, no matter what you read, it will help you as a leader! Reading helps us to:

  • think better
  • improve our people skills
  • master communication
  • relax (other hobbies can do this for us, too)
  • keeps us young

Thanks to Michael Hyatt for this info on reading and leaders. 

Now it’s your turn! What’s your favorite way to take care of yourself, so you can lead?