Are you taking care of yourself? What do you do for “self-care”?
These are the questions that I am constantly plagued with.
Let me first set the stage as to WHY I get these questions. In a previous post, I shared my schedule – so some of you may have an inkling already. First, I am a mom of two teenagers. While that may seem like a lot of work, I’m incredibly lucky to have very responsible and self-sufficient youth who make my life so much easier by getting themselves to school and extracurricular activities. But, having a family means a certain amount of time is spent with them. We usually keep Wednesdays sacred as our family meal and game time – but sometimes something comes up to make that not possible (like this week, my eldest had his wisdom teeth out. Needless to say, none of us felt like seeing him in pain as he tried to participate with the family).
Next, I have a full-time job for a local municipal government. It is demanding and yet rewarding work, and it takes up 45 hours of my week – yes, 45 because 40 of it is paid, and 1 hour each day is for my required lunch hour.
After all that, I am a pastor of a church. A church that has had its ups and downs and is really coming back into its own, stronger and healthier. I do not get a regular paycheck from this church, it is technically volunteer work, but I do get a housing allowance to help with the hours I put in. I regularly put in another 25-30 hours a week with this job – and it is also grueling but rewarding work. Sometimes, I’m not sure if this is what I should be doing, and other times, it feels so right. At the moment, I definitely feel like the stars are aligning and I am definitely doing the work that God has called me to do.
Finally, I am also a grad student. I attend full time online with Claremont School of Theology. It is a Hybrid program, so eventually I will need to do a few classes in person, but for the most part, the online environment has been helpful and rewarding as well. Finding time for schoolwork means that during my lunch breaks, 15 min breaks, before and after work time that is not already filled with other church time, is used for reading textbooks, writing papers, and studying.
If you aren’t tired yet, I should also mention I have a gaggle of animals that also demand my time – 2 dogs, 1 senior cat, a bunny, and a horse.
Where do I fit in the self-care? That’s a good question. I think a better question is why is self-care so important, and why do many women feel guilty when taking it?
It has taken me a long time to feel comfortable with taking self-care, and I still feel the twinge of guilt when I do. One of the ways I do this is at least once a month (with the exception of April and December) I take 1 Sunday off from preaching. I make it a point to also take that Sunday off of church completely. One would think that I could come and listen to my Lay Leader preach, but the reality is, it does not become a spiritually filling time for me because I am still called upon by my parishioners for help and guidance. I do not begrudge them this whatsoever, it’s just a fact of being a pastor. So I always take that Sunday completely off. I feel so rejuvenated when I do – and I feel a little guilty. I miss my church peeps. I feel disconnected from them for that one day, and it is a weird feeling. I feel that I should be available to them, even though I am not preaching. The benefits of me taking that day off, however, are more important than the guilt I feel. And the guilt is all me. No one places that feeling on me.
Self-care is the key to managing stress. Sometimes, however, it doesn’t matter how much we give to ourselves; stress will still be there. Without self-care, we put our physical health at risk. Obesity, heart problems, diabetes, etc. are all things that can happen to us if we neglect self-care.
And then, there is the spiritual side to all this. We have been given an incredible life by our creator. In his letters to the church in Corinth, Paul spoke often about taking care of this body we have been given.
16 Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you1 Corinthians 3:16 (New Revised Standard Version)
31 So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God1 Corinthians 10:31 (New International Version)
Self-care needs to be intentional. Sometimes we need to physically place it in our schedules so we do it. I have scheduled in time to go to the gym as a part of my self-care regime. This not only addresses the physical needs of self care: reducing stress, weight control, helps with depress. This also addresses the spiritual needs of self-care. If my body is a temple for our creator, I need to take care of it.
Prayer and meditation is essential self-care. This is not scheduled in my life, and happens spontaneously, however there have been times where I have scheduled in a specific practice of prayer or meditation. Typically, during the times I have scheduled in the practice, I complete it during the beginning and ending of the day. The beginning of the day to set my intention for the day. The end of the day to release any stressors that may have taken up space and prepare myself for a restful night.
Self-care may be taking a walk around the block as soon as you get home so you walk into your house with a specific mindset. It may be reading for 15 min before bed, taking the time to watch your favorite movie, or walking the dog.
Now, let me be honest with you all. I suck with self-care. I’m sure I’m not the only one. But ever day, I get better. Every day, I find little ways to rejuvenate so I won’t burn out. I know that I’m no good to anyone, including myself, if that happens.
I hope you all are able to find a little time for yourself and a little time for God. Blessings.