If you would have asked me to write an article on self care a few years ago I would have been very amused and we would have had a good laugh together. I would have laughed and then deep down inside I would have been truly sad because self care was so foreign to me, so far from my grasp. Three years ago, I would have said that those of us who work in the ministry don’t have the luxury of self care and I would have defended it long and hard. Then COVID happened right after (literally 3 weeks) I answered my first call as a solo pastor of a sweet country church. I had been working in ministry as a Director of Children and Family Ministries for 12 years prior to this so I had experience but dare I say, “I don’t think anything could have prepared us for what was to come in the following months.”
Now I know you might be asking, “Is this an article on self-care or Covid?” Well, I am glad you asked because it was one that led me to the other. After about a few painfully long months of trying to figure things out on my own, I picked up the phone and set up an appointment with a counselor and I was on the road to healing. We all approach this differently but here are some highlights of what helped me in my quest for better self care.
Figure out your triggers – I found I had to look more closely at my past to realize why certain things were bothering me now in my future. This really, really helped me understand my emotions and my reactions. Time doesn’t heal all wounds, processing with a professional and doing the work does. I am now able to give all situations the proper energy saving some of my own.
Allow yourself to have boundaries – As a people pleaser this is a hard one. I had to learn that it is ok to put me and my needs into the equation. I can’t fill another’s cup if mine is empty and setting boundaries doesn’t mean you love others any less. I say this to myself regularly.
Check in with yourself daily – It is important to do a gut check everyday. Asking how I am feeling on any certain day helps me to feel grounded.
Remember what makes you, you – I realized I had gotten so far away from the things that I loved, that made me feel alive and excited, that were just for me. I had stopped reading for fun because I told myself I didn’t have the time. I also needed motivation to get outside more. I love walking, gardening and just dreaming so I adopted a dog – an instant companion – a motivator! She’s great and has saved me as much as I have saved her. It’s ok to put practices in place that help you – solely help you – prioritize you!
Am I perfectly perfect when it comes to self care? Nope! Am I much better? Yes! Am I much happier? Definitely yes. I also think because of all the self care practices I have put in place I am better and more effective at my job. I am still busy (aren’t we all) but my priorities have shifted to include me. Jesus does not want us to use our busyness and exhaustion as a badge of honor. Easter reminds us that he is the one who saves and in return asks us to love God and to love people. As we do that work, let us make sure that the love and care we give includes loving ourselves.