Ministry Trip Hangover
Signs & Symptoms
- Unable to fully open eyes
- Desperation caffeinated beverages, specifically coffee. And lots of it.
- Sensitivity to sunlight
- Intolerance for loud, obnoxious noises
- Inability to concentrate
- Extended days of service
- Lack of alone time
- Unusual sleeping hours
- Continual presence of pre-teens and teens
- Physically exhausting service projects
Coming home from a mostly successful ministry trip is a blessing. The morning following is not. No matter how many hours you sleep, it isn’t restful because your body doesn’t remember how to sleep in a non-inflatable bed. The first day home, you keep mentally head-counting your family to make sure everyone is accounted for. No amount of coffee takes away the drowsiness that stalks you all morning. You have a pounding headache and take ibuprofen religiously, but you still can’t tolerate any amount of noise. You feel like you need to wear sunglasses all day to shield your sleep-deprived eyes from the bright light. Your whole body feels like it has been hit by a truck.
There’s only one term for this particular morning-after feeling: the Ministry Trip Hangover.
You have poured out all of your energy for days into everyone else, and your body doesn’t have anything left to pull itself together. You simultaneously want to spend time with those you were away from, and you also want to invest in some quality alone time to recoup.
Anyone who has ever been on a trip with a youth group knows this feeling. While the youthful teenagers bounce back from days running on little-to-no sleep, the adults on the trip have a much harder time. The days of running off adrenaline and sleeping on cold, concrete floors start to take their toll on a body as it ages past the middle school and high school years. After days of being responsible for other peoples’ kids, having to stay awake to drive while everyone else in the car sleeps, planning and providing meals for large groups of people, and making sure everyone comes home in one piece, coming home to relax is sort of an oxymoron. The first night home, it’s impossible to turn your brain off and stop thinking about the trip. Planning and making mental lists is a hard habit to break, and it doesn’t stop just because the trip ends. Your brain is still thinking of how to do it better next year and who was the biggest help and who you wish had chosen to stay home.
There is no known cure for this Ministry Trip Hangover. There is, however, a few things that will make this first day back in normal life a little bit easier.
- Get a good night’s sleep. Even though it might be hard to fall asleep, it’s important to sleep as much as possible that first night. Your body needs time to recover from the missing hours of sleep from the previous week. Don’t plan anything for early the first morning, and don’t set an alarm. Let your body wake up when it’s ready.
- Stay hydrated. Extremely caffeinated coffee is best first in the morning, but after that it’s a good idea to drink enormous amounts of water. Chances are, you binged out on junk food while you were away from home. Drinking water will flush out your system and help it feel back to normal much faster.
- Avoid activities with large groups of people. If you want to even see another human being that first day, avoid large groups. You have been surrounded by people for days on end, and your brain needs time to be by itself. Meet with two to three people at a time, and give yourself an escape route incase an emergency nap is in need.
- Plan an afternoon nap. Regardless of if you think you need it, plan for a mid-day snooze. Your body will slowly start to shut down, and giving it a rest period will help you make it through the day.
- Go to bed early. Even if you feel like all you have done is sleep all day, going to bed early gives your body more opportunity to recover. Multiple nights in a row of missing out on much needed sleep requires more than one good night’s sleep to bounce back.
The best remedy for this post ministry trip hangover is to talk about the trip as much as possible. Sharing with others all the highlights of the trip will remind you why you wanted to go in the first place. Retelling funny stories and anecdotes about the kids on the trip will help heal the sore muscles in your body. Giving others the same vision that your group had on the trip will reveal that your heart is in the right place. Looking back over the past week and seeing the friendships that were built, the relationships with God that were strengthened, and the awareness of the need to serve others that was instilled in the students will make the hangover completely worth every minute.