Self-care is going to look different from one person to the next. What works for others may not work for you. Caring for yourself can mean something as insignificant as taking an extra-long shower or as grand as planning a family vacation to Paris or Hawaii. The important point to bear in mind is that every little thing you do can be incorporated into your self-care program. And lots of little things have a way of adding up over time.
Caring for Yourself
Self-care strategies or activities can be grouped under four major headings: spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical.
Prayer, Bible study, devotions, solitude, silence, and scriptural meditation all belong in this category. The goal of this type of activity is to find a place apart from the daily grind where you can get in touch with God and discover who you are within the context of His love.
Mental self-care—involving things like thinking, reading, journaling, and discussing important topics with others—supports psychological integrity by maintaining completeness, wholeness, and unwavering commitment to personal values and principles.
The idea here is to stay in touch with how you’re doing by listening to your feelings, identifying your emotions, and then coming to a conclusion about what they mean and what to do about them.
This is probably the area that comes most readily to mind when we think about self-care. It involves; healthy diet, regular exercise, adequate rest and sleep, and a conscious effort to reduce stress. Here are 10 steps to helping your family get better sleep.
Some self-care activities are multifunctional. They have the potential to satisfy the needs of two, three, or all four categories at once. For example, Bible study and prayer can have a huge impact on your mental and emotional life; physical exercise, by keeping the brain stimulated and promoting overall health, sharpens your mind. The specifics of your personal program are largely a matter of individual choice (and choice itself can have a renewing and reviving effect upon the soul). See the “Self-Care for Parents” sidebar for a few ideas to get started.
Self-Care for Parents
You can start the process of good self-care by making small yet intentional decisions about how you’re going to approach some of the simplest things in life. Here are some suggestions:
- Stretch your morning shower time a little longer.
- Use bathroom time as “alone time.”
- Go for a walk.
- Take occasional stretch breaks, especially when sitting for long periods of time.
- Learn to paint, draw, or sculpt; take up the study of another language.
- Take deep, cleansing breaths. Hold for ten seconds before releasing.
- Discipline yourself to sit in silence and do nothing for ten minutes.
- Read a book for pleasure.
- Make some form of physical exercise—walking, running, biking, hiking, or calisthenics—a regular part of your daily/weekly routine. ¥ Wake up thirty minutes before your kids to grab some time by yourself.
- Go out for coffee or make yourself a cup of tea.
- Treat yourself to a healthy snack.
- Make household chores more enjoyable by putting on headphones and listening to music while you work; or listen to . . . silence.
- At work, actually take your lunchtime and breaks.
- Learn to practice the fine art of saying no.
A Life without Self-Care
Rampant despair, depression, and suicide have their roots in a lack of self-care. That’s why it’s important to schedule times of self-care and model self-care for your children. When you don’t feel physically rested or mentally grounded to the “here and now,” you can resort to some extremely unhealthy coping mechanisms in an attempt to medicate your discomfort. Here are a few of those methods.
Anger. Chronic anger can be a sign that your basic need for love, rest, sanity, and connection isn’t being met.
Addiction. Addiction isn’t simply a behavioral problem involving alcohol, drugs, or sex, and it’s not related solely to substance abuse. Ultimately, addiction can be traced to unresolved issues and desires of your deepest human need.
Suicide. Suicide is the last resort. When other coping methods fail, you may decide that death is the only way out. Everything possible needs to be done to stop the train before it goes this far.