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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i spent too many years thinking i had to do. it. all. and do it well. and i learned that when it’s too much i have a penchant for self-destruction instead of pause, reflection, prayer and renewal….healthy now because i learned that i NEED to care for myself and HOW to care for me….
As someone who is still trying to learn, what are some things you do to care for yourself and how do you squeeze it into your schedule?
This is so good. It’s easy to feel guilty, especially when I want time to myself. It can feel like failing to have that kind of need. Thank you for the reminder to find quiet in our day. I need to remember that!
Sarah, I think you’re so right on and maybe one of the reasons I struggle with this — having that kind of need feels like failure! So much around us tells us we need to be better and best and independent and self-sufficient…and don’t ever be vulnerable (or if you are, get over it quickly or only share about it once you’re better and have learned from the experience). We compare and compete and find ourselves coming up short from our idea over and over again. Trying to pour out so much grace, we fail to receive it and live in it ourselves. Or maybe that’s just me. :) I need these reminders too! :)
I am a much nicer and more patient wife and mom if I take quiet time for myself! It is hard when there is always one more thing that needs to get done around the house. For me one thing that is refreshing is when the kids are napping or playing quietly after lunch I read, not something I have to, but something relaxing, for fun, for about 20 minutes.
Good for you, Ann! You’re right – there is ALWAYS something we “should” or could be doing. Being intentional about peace and quiet is so important!
Great post. I find that if I don’t get my shower and my bible reading done in the morning I have a tougher time getting through the day. I literally read my bible in the bathroom right before my shower and hope the kids don’t cause too much trouble as they wake up. Sometimes I am done before they are up, but not lately. I also find that if I get a workout in, that helps also. My kids are kind of young 9, 9, 7, and 2 and I also take help take care of my mother in law with dementia so my time is really limited. Thank you so much for this reminder to be with my kids but also to enjoy some time to myself.
I am so with you on the Bible reading … the shower? I need to make that more of a priority! :) Sounds like your plate is full, Darcey. Do your older kids, esp the 9 yr. olds help with the little one? That might be a way to carve out a few moments of quiet in your day, too.
I am an introvert, learning that I was an introvert was a WONDERFUL stepping stone into a garden of peace. Prior to identifying that about myself I actually felt that saying “I need to be alone (to read in my room or whatnot) was ‘mean'”. Mean to my family … to want to be alone … alonnneee. I’m so grateful that a few years ago I was able to give myself permission to have time to myself, without the guilt.
Then about 18 months ago I was able to identify that I was in “adrenal burnout” by reading a book regarding the topic. In his book he suggested being very mindful of anything, or anyone, that caused me to feel drained, or upset in anyway. It is important to avoid those tasks, or thoughts, or people because they are literally stressing the glandular response in the body. Many people know this now, but I did not at the time. This was another stepping stone. To actually be conscious of what made me happy, and what did not, and to avoid what did not. I grew up in a disfunctional home, with a mother who discounted happiness as a motivator of worth; so until my late 20’s I don’t think I really felt that doing something, or not doing something, depending on if it was my preference or desire was truly a worthwhile reason.
Coupled with that new mindfulness and knowledge, as well as other information and learnings and inspiration, … I was 29 before I really, truly, was able to say “no” without guilt or self-judgement of anykind. I finally feel like I know myself, and accept myself, and genuinely like myself. Love myself. This has been a wonderful revelation for me. I advocate for my own well-being quite constantly now. I will be 31 in december, and my kids are 8,6,&4. I’m so thankful to have learned it now instead of in another decade or two. I only wish I better understood this concept of self-knowledge, and self-love/care when I was 20. I also believe that I have suffered degrees of truama, possible ptsd symptoms actually, as well. due to the stress of the last 3 years (09’-12). that, too, has brought me to all-time lows (including debilitating chronic fatigue) … I feel that has enabled me to slllooowww down. Stop. And feel my innate worth as a child of God. and connect more deeply with my Creator, and myself. Its been a painful and humbling lesson to be so sick, but I think that I am better for it. I’m grateful for the lessons learned. The Refiner’s Fire. Now I have been working on building my health back up. I believe two of the major fatigue-causing issues are parasites and depleted mineral stores (htma showed this), also liver congestion due to copper toxicity (at least in part). Any mothers (or people) out there suffering with exhaustion please look into Nutritional Balancing with Dr. L. Wilson. And consider doing Coffee Enemas, they have safed my life. Also perhaps look into parastie cleansing, as we all have parasites (which can include candida) and it can wreak havoc on your energy, appetite, and mood. In terms of psychological helpers, aside from therapy for truama (for me), I recommend ‘typing’ yourself using The Enneagram, and Myers-Briggs. I have enjoyed them so much.
Best of Luck to everyone.
I believe self-care is easier when we are not depressed and burned out. When we have the energy, and mental capacity, to ensure our own wellbeing. Also, it seems, a love of the self, and an eye towards heaven, is often a natural occurence when a person’s body is functiong properly (though not always). Here is a great article for anyone looking for more energy, happiness, and peace. and an increased ability to love and care for the self.
An interview with the late Dr. Paul Eck, a scientist and mineral researcher who disigned nutritional programs based off of individual hair samples to determine the mineral patterns they contained. The hair reflects body tissue mineral levels & ratios, and the levels and ratios of minerals determine many biochemical processes in the body – including adrenal and thyroid function, and overall Human Energy levels.
“How Increasing Your Energy Enhances Your Health, Emotions, Personality, and Your Ability to Achieve Success and Happiness”
For more information regarding this, and to find a practioner (does not need to be local) see this site http://drlwilson.com/do%20hair%20analysis.htm
Jessica Wells says
How fun to see this re-posted! Much in my life has changed since I wrote it. Third baby, cross country move, new job. These practices have stayed with me, they look different now that my kids are older, but I still seek quiet and stillness for my whole body. :) I think that our practices of peace remind us that God is our good and faithful provider in snd through all seasons. These mini moments of rest are like small Sabbath reminders, small acts of faith. God holds our past, present and future, we can rest our bodies and minds because we know he is faithful to meet our every need.