“Treat Yo Self!” 10 Self-Care Tips from a Recovering Self-Ignorer

Treat Yo SelfFor busy people who pour ourselves into family, jobs, service, and other legitimate priorities, self-care is often the last thing on the to-do list.  (Or is it just me?)

Historically, I’ve been TERRIBLE at self-care. Truly terrible; I am not exaggerating.  I would give up sleep, food, and forget anything less basic like nurturing my interests or feeding my mind because I was prioritizing everyone else’s needs and plans for me. More often than not, I couldn’t even verbalize what my needs were!  But that had to change.

The truth is, when we are not engaging with ourselves and addressing basic physical, spiritual and emotional needs, we become far less effective on every other front.  Trust me, there is no “hero award” for being unkind to your body, heart and mind. No one else is going to carve out space and time for you to watch over your health and recharge.

For me, failing to engage in proper self-care only resulted in being irritable, depleted, lonely, and unfulfilled… eventually even sick, depressed and so very far away from the person I wanted to be.

Maybe…probably… I am not the only person who struggles with self-care.  So I’ve compiled a few ways you can begin to nurture your deepest self.  I hope this list of self-care tips – big and small –  will get you started thinking of ways you can find a way to care for your much-loved, extremely valuable self. (And stick with me here, because some of this stuff is basic…yet still, we need to remember!)

  1. Feed your body well.  Are you hungry? Feed yourself just as you would feed your dearest love – or even a child – with foods that are nourishing, delicious, and leave you feeling better, not worse. Then savor that nourishing goodness without rushing at every possible opportunity.
  2. Stay well-hydrated. When your soul is thirsty, chances are that your body is, too. Make yourself a huge glass of your favorite good-for-you drink. (I’m a fan of water with a fresh orange slice floating in it, all-natural ginger-ale, or herbal tea.)
  3. Keep important self-care-related appointments.  I have a bad habit of canceling (or never making) medical check-ups, dentist appointments, massages, and even hair appointments because, “I don’t have time for that.” (Or I didn’t want to spend money.) But what is more important than basic upkeep?!  If we don’t want to be sick, toothless, in pain or hideous, let’s agree not to ignore those basic items of upkeep?
  4. Yoga. I used to think it was weird — something only a certain kind of people (people unlike myself) could take seriously. But when I tried it and felt an almost-instant decrease in my body’s  aches and pains, I started paying attention.  I now find yoga to be an incredible gift to my body, and also to my mind (calming it and feeding my brain some oxygen) and even to my spirit. You can find very affordable DVDs on Amazon (here is a box set with morning, evening and stress relief routines) classes and online yoga routines that are helpful for getting you started.
  5. Focus fully on this moment. Living in the future, or in the past, or even stressing about a meeting later today, are fruitless activities that will never allow you peace-of-mind. If you are constantly counting hours, anticipating what is around the corner, or even wishing for yesterday, you are unable to engage in the one moment in which you can actually do something — this moment. We all have to manage calendars, plan for the future and make good long-term decisions, so do that.  But planning for the future and living in the future are very different things. Embrace now. It’s the only moment in which you can actually do anything or make positive changes.
  6. Rest.  If your body is exhausted, find a way to get a little sleep. (If you have a newborn, there is no shame in having someone you trust come over to keep an eye on the little one so you can get a nap.) My family tries to make Saturday morning a “no plan zone” so we can have one morning in the week to get up whenever our bodies wake us.  Sleep is good and your brain needs you to sleep in order to function at its highest possible level. Michael Hyatt has a good blog post and podcast on sleep, which you can find here.
  7. Take inventory on commitments.  Do you need to resign from energy-draining committees or other commitments that are not in alignment with your priorities?  You might be one phone call away from huge relief! Or perhaps you need to start a class that focuses on a special interest or skill you want to grow.  It is amazing how addressing your passions will make you feel valued and nurtured.
  8. Maintain realistic expectations.  It is monumentally important to identify areas of your life where you are constantly disappointed.  If you end every day disappointed because you didn’t get enough done or because someone else disappointed you, maybe…just maybe…your expectations are not in line with reality.  Just sayin’.
  9. Be kind to yourself.  Give yourself a little grace. Positive self-talk is a powerful gift to yourself, to help to move your life in  a positive direction. On the other hand, giving yourself negative messages (“I’m an idiot,” “I’m so lame,” etc.) constantly tears at the fiber of your soul, even when you don’t realize it.  If you are having one of those days (or weeks, or seasons) when you just can’t win for trying, it probably isn’t because you’re an idiot. It could mean that you are living in a shadow of self-doubt, shame, exhaustion or depression and that you need a healthier perspective.  Remember your value.
  10. “Treat Yo Self!”  This idea (adopted by my family from the sitcom Parks And Rec) goes a step beyond just being gracious to yourself. It’s a chance to reward yourself in simple ways.  Sometimes a special treat, a self-care gift to yourself “just because” is a way to remind yourself that you are worthy of specialness.  A couple weeks ago, I bought myself a beautiful book called Bread & Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table with Recipes, and I have SAVORED every moment I’ve spent reading it.  It was such a simple thing. It wasn’t expensive or elaborate.  But it has brought me so many wonderful moments getting absorbed in a book that really feeds a part of me that is important.

Hopefully these ten tips for self-care will at least get you started thinking of ways you can be good to yourself!  And please, please share your own tips and ideas in the comments.

Blessed are those who mourn…

With the coming of Thanksgiving and Christmas, I am reminded of so many individuals in my life who have lost friends, spouses and loved ones this year. Grieving while the world is celebrating can be so difficult.  Being sensitive to our grieving friends and family members during the coming season is one of the best ways I know to extend Eternal Love to the people we care about. But how?

Here are a 5  essential things to keep in mind about your loved one’s grief (or your own):

1. Your loved one’s grief isn’t about you.  They’ve lost someone precious and you can’t fix, control or minimize that. They miss their lost loved one badly, but it doesn’t mean your role in their life is any less valuable. Know that, and do not take their sadness as a slight against you.

2. Grief does not have a time limit. There is no magic moment when someone can be expected to “snap out” of grief – especially at the holidays. It is unrealistic to expect anyone to suddenly stop grieving at any point. There will be good days and bad days… and the bad days will keep happening for a long time. That’s okay. (Because it’s not about you, remember.)

3. Everyone grieves differently. Mourning is a process. No two people walk through loss in the same way. Comparing your loved one’s grief to anyone else’s process isn’t fair (and it won’t help).

4. Grief is healthy.  The grieving process is  an important way the heart reconciles itself to a profound loss. Skipping any steps in the process may have detrimental long-term effects on mental, spiritual and relationship health for years (even generations). Just because it doesn’t “feel good” doesn’t mean it isn’t a good, important process to walk.

5. The grief process reveals our healthiest (and least-healthy) relationships.  Being sensitive, appropriate and unselfish during your loved one’s grief will strengthen your relationship forever.  On the other hand, self-centered comments about how negatively you feel about your friend’s grief process are toxic to that person’s healing. Newsflash: If you are feeling jealous and needy because your loved one is grieving, don’t blame their grief. You may have your own issues to tackle while they are coping with their loss.

Jesus spoke specifically to the grieving in Matthew 5:4:

 “God blesses those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.” – Jesus

I’ll leave you with the following quote from Margaret Brownley:

Dear Friend,
…The best thing you can do is listen to me and let me cry on your shoulder. Don’t be afraid to cry with me. Your tears will tell me how much you care.  Please forgive me if I seem insensitive to your problems. I feel depleted and drained, like an empty vessel, with nothing left to give. Please let me express my feelings and talk about my memories. Feel free to share your own stories of my loved one with me. I need to hear them. Please understand why I must turn a deaf ear to criticism or tired clichés…”

Emotional Poverty.

Ever watch the show “Hoarders” on television? If you’ve ever seen it (or even watched the commercials for it) you have witnessed the insanity. What fear hoarders have of parting with their stuff!  And by “stuff” I’m talking rooms so filled with pizza boxes, and garbage bags, and old magazines (or, heaven forbid, dozens of cats) that they literally cannot walk through their houses or use their rooms for the intended purposes. All this stuff they don’t need is robbing them of the very peace they SO desperately need and want! But many choose the stuff anyway.

It’s easy to watch an episode of “Hoarders” and feel all self-righteous as we gasp in horror. But when we get right down to it, this kind of emotional poverty is constantly trying sneak its way into our own minds every day. Maybe it isn’t 8-foot-walls ‘o crap we are wading through (or maybe it is), but it’s very likely things we don’t realize are building walls between us and the peace we long for. It might be draining relationships, habits that are not feeding our best selves, negativity, unrealistic expectations we’ve put on ourselves or others that aren’t being met, excuses we make for ourselves. We don’t intend to allow this stuff to rob our peace. It just happens.

It is so easy to believe that these self-constructed structures will become enough one of these days. But it never happens. And it never will.

The truth is, when we pack our lives with the unnecessary, the unhealthy, the unsatisfying, we don’t have room for the greater gifts we were really seeking all along. It is a fearful thing to strip away all we have depended on – physically, emotionally, financially and spiritually – that we hoped would make us feel that we have enough.  That we are enough.  But really, think about it. Has all that stuff really succeeded in chipping away at fear, insecurity, or lack of fulfillment up to this point?

The truth is, brokenness can never be filled. Ever try to store water in a bucket with a hole in it?  It just won’t work. The same is true of our hearts. We can throw stuff in there all day long thinking it will be enough at some point, yet that point never comes.

We are always going to feel less-than, instead of more-than, if we believe that one more day, one more success, one more financial victory, one more purchase, one more helping of “whatever” will finally fix that gnawing inside us. This kind of emotional poverty only traps us in a state of ingratitude.

We were made for wholeness. Our longing for peace, deep-down joy and fulfillment are built into the human DNA. But if wholeness could be achieved with “stuff” there would be so many more happy, fulfilled people in the world. Wholeness only comes when we have the courage to let go of what is seen and venture into the unseen territory we’ve always desired but never had the courage to explore. And it will always, always come from a Source greater than ourselves.

If you’ve tried filling the bucket, no one has to tell you it  doesn’t work. Maybe it’s time to knock out some internal walls, clear the rooms of your mind and heart (or house), and live in the peaceful realization that the resources are very available for finding peace at this very moment. Look up. Let go of all that stuff that’s getting in your way.

How I know Jesus is real…

I recently stood face-to-face with a truly pathetic part of myself.  (After such a “compelling” opening line, you must be DYING to read on. But stick with me here. It’s not all bad.)

It all came to a head one week recently when a deafening silence fell across my world.  Everything I did relating to work, friendships, parenting, service at church – every single thing I spent my time doing – was met with complete indifference. Emails I sent received no response. Blogs got zero comments. Assignments I completed and submitted gleaned zero response, not even as much as a, “Got it, thanks.” If I followed up with a phone call, it wasn’t answered or returned.  We are not talking about a couple of instances, we are talking about what seemed at the time to be a worldwide conspiracy to make sure Emily gets zero feedback on anything. AT ALL.

Now you need to know that the sane part of me explained away this entire conspiracy theory…

“People are so busy right now, they don’t have time to worry about giving me feedback on this or that thing I did.”

“The office is crazy this time of year, so I’m sure they would call back if they could.”

“Kids are kids…they aren’t thinking about all the time and effort that went into meeting their needs today.”

Regardless of how loudly my sanity tried to reason with the paranoia, I was disheartened. I couldn’t help but conclude that if I wasn’t getting good feedback, that must mean I’m not that great.  And something terrible must be around the corner for me since I’m just not good enough to glean any morsel of positivity from anywhere.  I felt an ominous weight on my chest.

It was painful. And I was pitiful.

After processing all this, the realization hit… I was doubting my worth in my job, in friendships, in parenting, in future endeavors, and even as a believer, because I was not receiving enough approval to sustain my needy heart.

My reason for writing this raw reflection is certainly not because I am in any way proud of this fact. Quite the contrary.  This realization began some deep and painful conversations with God, and with my husband (who has the patience of Job when I am processing things like this), about just how many daily decisions are made by my approval issues rather than by His Spirit.

Somehow, as I have ventured through forty-one years of life with the noble desire to be an exemplary person (for Christ’s glory, I’ve told myself),  the foundational beliefs I developed about Jesus somehow got all entangled in mindsets that have nothing to do with Him.

This has been an earth-shattering realization, my friends… Keeping other people happy actually has no bearing on how much He loves me or values me?!  What?!  This is a truth I have heard a thousand times, but somehow my heart couldn’t really grasp it.

I’ve been quiet on the blog front, because I keep weighing my motives. I ask myself before posting anything:

“Am I writing this so other people will think I’m better than I really am?”

“Am I blogging so I can get an approval ‘fix’?”

Or even, “How self-indulgent is this whole blogging thing… does it do anything more than feed my worst self?!”

I still don’t have those answers.  But I am convinced that He is trying to impress on me (and maybe I’m not the only one) that no one is okay just because someone else thinks we are okay.  And, for that matter, we are not terrible because someone else thinks we’re terrible.  We are walking around this massive planet for many, many important reasons other than gleaning attention or approval from other broken, human, flawed individuals like ourselves.  Through our honest prayers, we can accomplish so much more than we ever could by some dog and pony show “for the people.”

This fresh realization of my ongoing struggle with approval addition has brought with it a wonderful reminder that our Creator will never make us feel belittled and forgotten. (Most of us need no help feeling that way on our own.)  As I’ve admitted this area of weakness to myself, and to Him, and now to you, there has come a new freedom to revel in His unchanging love. As He has revealed Truth to the very core of my being – painful truth, I’ll admit – the pain that has come with this revelation is not an empty, panicky pain like that of needing an approval fix. It is a reminder that He sees me as I am, and desires healing in this area even more than I want it myself.

Jesus loves who we are – who we REALLY are.  And His compassion flows all over us when we are willing to admit that we have been running to the wrong Source for fuel.  His grace really is amazing. He covers our need with healing and replaces our insanity with joy, proving so powerfully that He is not merely a figment of our human imagination.  We could not do this for ourselves.

So today, I embrace the relief that comes with not feeling the need to feed off the empty praise of anyone… Today, I simply sit at His feet and rest.

Powered by WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: