Self-Care

(Two weeks ago I wrote about sitting and praying before going and doing particularly as it applies to the work setting or long to-do lists. You can read more here. While this post today will apply to self-care moments that you can take during the day (like sitting and praying), it also applies to a weekly rhythm of taking a day of rest and even full days away to recharge.)

I’m writing this post as a woman who has worked full-time and part-time. I’ve had zero children to care for in my home, one child to care for, and up to four children. I’ve parented foster children and my adopted son. I’ve been pregnant and given birth to our first daughter who had a fatal neural tube defect, and now I’m 13 weeks pregnant with our second biological daughter who is completely healthy. I say all that not to say, “Look at me! Look at what I’ve done!” Instead, I say all that to say that no matter what life stage I have been in (and I’ve been in several even in just the past few years) self-care has always been important. Whether as a full-time working wife who was newly married or the season we had four children six and under in our home, I’ve needed self-care, and I’ve often overlooked it. It’s so easy to go, go, go. It’s easy to not take a day (or even just half a day) of rest. It’s easy to push and work instead of taking care of ourselves.

The Root of the Problem: Pride

I know in my experience it’s often a pride issue that leads me to not take care of myself. “But I’m okay. Really. I’m fine. I can keep going. I’ll sleep when I’m dead. I’ve got this under control. I don’t need to rest. I just need enough caffeine, chocolate, and Jesus, and I can push through this.” I, in essence, through my lack of self-care, became a martyr. A tired and physically and emotionally worn out martyr. While this martyr mentality might get a few accolades from friends and might temporarily make me feel like Superwoman, I’m never the better for it in the end. My relationship with my husband and my kids suffer, my work suffers, and my mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual self suffer. It’s not only not okay to have this kind of prideful attitude and disregard self-care, it’s downright damaging.

But what do we do? I mean, it’s not possible to just say, “Peace out” and walk out of your house, leaving your screaming children to fend for themselves. It’s also not possible to leave your job a few hours early every day just because you need some time to recharge. So, how do we care for ourselves when so much of ourselves is being given out all day long?

Mini Self-Care Moments

I used to think that because I had my quiet time with the Lord every morning, I worked out most days, and I ate well that I should be good to go spiritually, emotionally, and mentally all day, every day. I didn’t think I needed mini self-care moments during the day to pull away and refresh. My incorrect thinking became apparent when we cared for our son and 3 foster children in our home. My husband was working about 50 hours a week plus he had just started part-time Seminary. To say life was crazy is an understatement. Amongst all the things going on, I found myself needing to pull away for small moments throughout the day. I heard on a foster/adoption podcast how even just taking multiple one or two minute breaks throughout the day could drastically help the worn out parent refresh and refocus.

So I decided to try it. I would go in my bathroom, lock the door, turn on the exhaust fans (to hide the noise of the kids), wash my hands with aromatherapy soap, take deep breaths, do some stretches, and pray. There were some days I did this multiple times in one afternoon. I went through a lot of soap! But wow, the difference these self-care moments made in my attitude, demeanor, and ability to stay self-controlled was nothing short of amazing. I could walk out of the bathroom a couple of minutes later much more able to handle life. I mastered the art of mini self-care sessions in that season. Caring for young children meant that just a minute or two was all I had for recharging before utter chaos happened.

For some people, a mini self-care session may involve listening to music, reading from a favorite devotional, strumming a few songs on your guitar, or doing some quick exercises. There is no hard and fast rule of what that time looks like for you. Think through what helps you relax, and then think through how to make that activity fit into one to two minutes. If you have more time than that, by all means use the time you have. Maybe it’s a quick shower, writing in a journal, or taking a quick walk around your office building to clear your head and get some fresh air. You get to decide how to use that time. Just make sure it’s something that relaxes you and helps you to recharge in a short period of time.

Sabbath and Taking Time Away

Even though I became a master at these mini self-care moments, I have failed many times at prioritizing longer chunks of time for refreshment, like taking a Sabbath or some time away. Thanks to my awesome husband, who knows how important self-care is, I have been able to have time away twice now since the beginning of the year. Once I went away for a day and a night to a women’s conference. It was an incredible time of worship, teaching, and fellowship. I came back spiritually filled up and ready to pour out at home and in ministry. Most recently, this past Saturday, I had a whole afternoon to myself. I ate lunch by myself (I never thought I would be that person!) and spent 4 hours relaxing and reading at a local spa. I came back after those several hours a completely different person emotionally and mentally (many, many thanks to Mace who encouraged and insisted on me getting away for awhile).

Taking longer times away may not be doable in your current situation, but setting aside a day of rest is absolutely doable and worth prioritizing. Sabbath days look different for everybody. Some things one person may feel are okay to do on a Sabbath, like cooking, while another person’s ideal Sabbath involves no cooking whatsoever and heating up leftovers. For a great resource for learning more about taking a Sabbath, including a fuller explanation of what a Sabbath is, how to keep it holy, and how to take a Sabbath as a busy momma, I highly recommend the resources provided at desiringgod.org, search “Sabbath.”

Summing It All Up

I could write so much more about this topic, but I encourage you to start implementing self-care every single day. I know that I have been better able to pour out daily because of the time I have spent caring for myself. When done with the right heart, self-care is not selfish! God commands us to take time to rest. He knows we need it. It’s hard to care for others when we go days and weeks (dare I say, months?) without taking the time to care for yourself. It’s been humbling to me to know that I am not Superwoman, and it’s moved me to a greater dependency on the Lord. So please, think and pray through how you will take moments throughout a busy day to care for yourself and make sure everything is ready to go wherever you plan on pulling away to (Journal and pen, check! Candle, check! Music ready to listen to, check!). Also plan out when you will take a Sabbath. Be intentional about this time or it won’t happen. Maybe you also need to plan an afternoon away or even a day or two away to recharge. Whatever it is, plan it and prioritize it. I promise that a little planning and a lot of prioritizing will be well-worth it.

Pressing on (and resting) in faith, Jennifer