Over the 11-month sabbatical, Conley attended sessions with a Catholic psychotherapist, his spiritual director, a CMA psychologist, and a medical doctor. Additionally, he said, he regularly engaged in exercise, such as golf and hikes, and social interactions with very close friends.
"[My friends] live in Phoenix, and I was at their home about three nights each week. Just sitting down at the table and having dinner with a great Catholic family was so therapeutic," he said.
"They have great, healthy kids and are very involved at Ville de Marie, a K-through-12 Catholic school that Luke's parents helped to found. That kept me grounded, and I always looked forward to that," he further added.
Since Conley returned to his office Nov. 13, 2020, the bishop has continued to pursue self-care practices and make changes in his life to maintain his mental health. He said, when he returned, there was a line out the front door of people with a to-do list.
He said he has been practicing saying "no" to more things and managing his time better. He said he is trying to keep office hours from 10 am to 3 pm so as not to over exhaust himself.
"Right now, I don't have the energy that I had a couple of years ago. I can't take on as much as I used to, nor do I want to take on as much as I used to," he said.
"What this experience of mental illness has taught me is that life is too short to fill every day up from morning to night, even when we're filling the day up with good things. So, really, finding the right balance – a healthy balance – is an art. I'm still working on the exercise piece."
The bishop said it is important to be aware of the activities that drain his energy and the roles of a bishop that are life-giving and fulfilling. He said while administrative tasks like emails are tiresome, his spiritual commitment to the community provides him with energy.
"Yesterday, for instance, was a great day. We started Catholic Schools Week, and I went down to a K-12 school in Nebraska City. We had an all-school Mass with adoration and a Eucharistic procession. They managed to fit all the students in the gym, 6 feet apart, and for the procession I took the Blessed Sacrament to the door of each classroom. The students stayed in the room, but they all got down on their knees for the Blessed Sacrament. That was a very beautiful, life-giving event for me," he said.