The following post is written by my friend, Jessica Wells (see bio below), and this is the 2nd post in a series on self-care.
Our Biggest Obstacle
We all have obstacles to face when trying to develop self-care in our lives. The most obvious obstacle being our children and their many needs. However, I would suggest that sometimes we are our own biggest obstacle. Guilt, fear of judgment from others, busyness, distractions, and rationalizations get in our way.
Think about the last time you did (or almost did) something for yourself. What fears did you have?
- Did you feel guilty leaving your children with your husband or a sitter?
- Did you feel bad about needing or wanting time alone?
- Is it easier for you to buy clothes or things for your children than for yourself?
- How about your house? Is it anxiety producing for you to rest or take a nap when there are still chores to be done?
All of the above are daily conversations we have with ourselves whenever we feel our own needs or desires creep in.
I Can Handle It
We tell ourselves that we don’t really need a break, that we can “handle” it.
We don’t tell our husbands what we need because we think they should just know (which is usually never true), or we think that they will not honor our needs.
I am saying “we” because I have personally battled all of these obstacles myself. At this very moment I am recovering from minor surgery, but the procedure was intense enough to land me in my bed for five days. I think I must have said “sorry” to my husband a hundred times the first two days! I literally could not do anything for anyone while recovering, and my natural tendency was to revert to guilt.
After the 120th “I’m sorry!” My husband finally said, “Stop saying sorry, just let me take care of you!”
Sheesh. I finally realized that my job, at that time, was to rest, relax, and care for myself. My actual job was to just take care of me!
I hope and pray it does not take surgery or a serious illness for any of us to pay attention to our needs and desires. Our personal health, emotionally, mentally, and physically directly impact our husbands, children, and community.
If we don’t love and care for ourselves, then what do we really have to offer those around us?
Filling our Tanks
How do we fill up our tank? How do we make sure there is enough to go on each day?
One way is to establish times of peace and quiet daily or several times a week. I truly believe that we must make peace and quiet a priority in our lives.
Every day we make choices on how to spend our time. Some things you can’t negotiate like paying bills or changing diapers, but most things we actually do have a say over.
Remember that even Jesus, in the midst of his intense ministry looked for places of peace and quiet. He knew in his humanity that rest was crucial. His heart, mind, and body needed restoration. Establishing a peace and quiet time is important to the self-care process.
“Even Jesus, in the midst of his intense ministry looked for places of peace and quiet. He knew in his humanity that rest was crucial.”
Take a few minutes to think about an average day. Are you always searching for distraction? The internet and social media provide a brief escape for us from our lives, offering us a sense of connection when we feel lonely or bored.
There is nothing wrong with the internet or social media, but consider how much time you spend there and why? I recently did a 40 day Facebook fast, and it was very eye-opening for me.
The internet and social media caused me a lot of anxiety. I was always checking it, seeing if someone read my status update. I found myself comparing my life to others or freaking out when a close friend posted that her kid had a stomach bug. When I took a step away from my computer my anxiety level went down, and I also had more time! I started to fill those empty spaces, when I would have been online, with other things.
I was able to notice my need to escape or to connect. Instead of hopping online, I would actually call a friend or spend time with people. Sometimes I painted my toe-nails, blow dried my hair, or sat outside on the back deck and soaked up some Vitamin D.
I listened to music or read a chapter in a book. I lit candles and opened up the windows. I did a five minute yoga routine. I did all of this while my kids were around, playing, watching TV or jumping on the furniture!
Peace and quiet does not mean that your children are sleeping or at day-care.
Peace and quiet means that I practice things that bring peace to my heart and quiet to my mind. Sometimes it does mean true peace and quiet — when the kids nap or I have an afternoon to myself.
Make Time to Be Quiet
Let me encourage you: make time to actually be quiet. The laundry can wait, the weird stain in the carpet can wait, and the Bible study you need to plan can wait.
If a quiet moment is there for you, take it! If your kids don’t nap but can have quiet time in their rooms, do it, or teach them to do it. Peace and quiet is good for everyone. Sometimes when naps do not happen or the day is just too crazy I tell my husband I need to take a walk. I walk and breathe and let the cares of the day go. Other times, I take a long shower or bath — and I definitely lock the door!
My encouragement to you over the next 7 days is to pay attention to where you spend time. Your time is precious. It is a hot commodity!
The next time you reach for your phone or computer, is it because you need to send an important message or is there a deeper need there? Identify that need.
Instead of hopping online do this: sit cross-legged on the floor, relax your body and breathe deeply three times, focusing on drawing out the exhale. Keep repeating until you feel yourself calm down. Pray and ask God to center your heart and mind. Thank him for a few moments of calm and ask him to show you more times of peace and quiet. Sometimes my oldest son does this breathing exercise with me. The amazing thing is that self-care is contagious. If our kids see us do it, they will want to learn it too!
Questions for You:
- The last time you did something for yourself (or wanted to), what fears or emotions did you face?
- What distracts you from making time to actually be quiet?
- What activities are most refreshing to you (reading, walking, nature, pedicures, etc.)?
Next up: Saying “no” so you can say “yes.”
Jessica Wells holds a B.A in Theology from Moody Bible Institute and a M.A in Counseling Ministries from Denver Seminary. She works part-time as a coordinator for Young Lives, a branch of Young Life, that ministers to pregnant teens and teen moms.
Jessica and her husband Mark live in Colorado Springs with their two children Benjamin and Asher.
More Posts in the Series
- Self-Care for Moms
- Are you Caring for Yourself in the Midst of Motherhood?
- Taking Care of Mom: Is Peace and Quiet Really Possible?
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