2016 has been a whirlwind of a year, with great highs and challenging lows, if I may be transparent. I found myself having to take several breaks from life to regroup and honestly, just to keep up. Amidst the rollercoaster of 2016, I am grateful for the lesson of self-care.
I thought I knew what self-care was and I thought I was doing what I needed to refresh, however, the test of 2016 showed me that I still had work to do.
Here are two areas God has been dealing with me in. If you struggle in any of these areas, I hope you'll find encouragement here:
I realized that I had to be intentional about my self-care. Self-care wasn't going to just happen, I had to plan for it and follow-through. This meant that I had to learn to say "no" or "not right now" to people who insisted on grasping for my time and to say "yes" to the help that came my way. This also meant that I had to stop positioning myself to be used until I was burned out. Sometimes WE are our own problem.
Though this topic seems like a no-brainer, when I really thought about it, I found myself pondering on the following questions:
Do I need quiet time?
Do I need to spend time studying God's Word/devotion?
Do I need to schedule time to meet with my mentor or a counselor?
Do I need time to focus on my health?
Do I need a beauty day?
We live multi-faceted lives and therefore, the care we need isn't always going to be the same. It is important to know when a shopping trip is needed and when a session with a mentor or counselor is needed.
Many women that I talk to have no clue where to begin when it comes to self-care. They have been on an endless cycle of doing for other's for so long that they have become robotic; and after a few weeks or months with no time invested in themselves, they find themselves short-tempered and snapping on those closest to them. Some even become resentful. I think the turning point for me was when I realized that my goals hadn't been accomplished because I spent so much time investing in others and forgot about myself. I didn't balance my giving with self-care.
The best advice that I've received came from my mentor. She said to me "If you only have three minutes to take for yourself then take it. If you have to sit on the side of your bed and close your eyes for three minutes, then do it." Her point was that no matter how hectic your schedule may be, you always have time to take for yourself, even if it's just three minutes. Secondly, she stressed the importance of retreating.
Occasionally, I'll have to tell my husband that I need a "me day" or some "me time", more so the latter. I rarely do this, so he knows that when I do, that I really need time to regroup and he honors my need. For my daily self-care, it looks something like this: Come home from work, engage my husband in conversation, make sure he has dinner, spend 20-30 minutes caring for my home (laundry, dishes, paperwork, etc), RETREAT. Now, my retreat time may not be until 8 p.m. or 9 p.m... sometimes even 11 p.m..; however, I make it happen. Some days I use my "three minutes" and other days I'm able to retreat for an hour or so. My retreat could be to have some quiet time, to work on my business, to do my hair, to journal, etc. It's my time to invest in myself however I need to. For some, this is an easy feat. For me, it requires planning.
When talking to my mommy friends, they express the demand motherhood puts on personal time, however, also express that mommy's too, can retreat. My girlfriend whom I often refer to as Super Mom (because she balances being a very active mom of two, being an awesome wife and still manages to enjoy her time, ministry and occasional girl's nights), says that she has to plan out her week ahead of time to make certain she can squeeze in "mommy time". I'll be interviewing this Super Mom, however, will share one nugget that she shared with me:
"I am able to stay on track by accepting the help that comes my way. In other words, by relinquishing my controlling ways and need to do everything on my own (because I know best... NOT!), I accept the help of my husband or mom; or, that of my oldest child. My biggest problem was me. I thought that only I could care for my home and my children. I knew my husband was there to help me; but I never let him because I wanted things done my way. Or, I babied my children to the point they became used to mommy being their butler, instead of teaching them how to do for themselves. Boy did I learn my lesson!" - Super Mom
Everyday is different, but with proper planning and a determination to not relinquish your need for self-care, you can begin investing in yourself again... even if for only "three minutes" :)
When I look back on 2016, I find myself asking "why on earth did I allow people to run a guilt trip on me for wanting/needing to care for myself?!" Is that not the craziest thing???? I couldn't put all of the blame on people, however. Some of the blame belonged to me.
One major key to guiltless self-care is managing your expectations of other's. Sure, it would be great if everyone understood exactly why you need to unplug, or, even understood your need to take a hiatus. However, this fairytale expectation just isn't reality. In managing your expectations of other's you have to begin to shift from a "them" focus to a "God" focus, for that very reason. People don't always understand your needs; and to expect them to will only cause you frustration. God knows your needs (Matthew 6:8). He knows the plans that HE has for you (Jeremiah 29:11). Not "they" but HE.
When you take your focus off of "them" and place it on "God", He will help you not only direct your daily path; but He will also make your time of self-care a refreshing time. I know you don't want to disappoint anyone, but whether you take a stand for yourself or not, you WILL disappoint someone. So, you may as well take care of yourself in the process. :)
Taking time for yourself doesn't mean that you are a bad friend, parent or spouse. I pray that those friends in your circle would honor your need; however, if they don't you may need to rethink your circle. :)
Enjoy making and taking the time you need to gather your thoughts and to simply, breathe!
Dear Lord, I pray that every eye reading this post would turn their focus from people and even from themselves; and place it on You. Help those who are struggling with self-care to know what to relinquish and what to allow into their lives. Help us to not be easily led astray by those things that come to distract us and steal our precious time. Give us wisdom with planning out our days. Erase the lie that self-care is selfish and eliminate the condemnation that often accompany's guilt. Send help for the single mother or father struggling to keep their household together. Help the controlling spouse to recognize the gift of help through their spouse and to willingly accept that gift. Help the people-pleaser to become a God-pleaser.... In Jesus name, Amen.