How to schedule self-care

There is a scene in the very first ‘Star Wars’ movie (which became the fourth in the original series) where one of the rebels is flying through a metallic cleft in the surface of the death star aiming to launch a rocket into a small exhaust port that will travel to the centre of the death Star and blow it up. His leaders voice reminds him to, stay on target . I had a similar voice in my head this morning telling me to, ‘stay on target, stick with the plan’.

After losing much of last year to the chaos of busyness and not finishing much, I felt like a mouse trapped in a wheel just spinning it. I wasn’t progressing, just meeting the day to day schedule of writing blogs, newsletters and articles. My whiteboard was covered in vision and an ever growing ‘to do’ list to outwork the vision, but the ‘to do’ was never getting done!

This year I have mapped out the vision with completion, trial and launch dates. To enable this to happen I have changed the way I am viewing and managing my plan and lists. I am now working to a weekly schedule into which I have built my goals and priorities for the week. The schedule, my plan for the week, ensures I make progress to complete, trial and launch and care for myself so I will last the distance.

Stay on target

My schedule reflects my priorities rather than letting activities run me. Yesterday I made progress on a big picture venture and just wanted to work on it again today to ‘finish it’ and abandon what was scheduled for today (self-care and moving forward on another project).  That’s when the ‘Star Wars’ conversation happened, as I had to remind myself to ‘stay on target – stick to the plan’ ensuring that I followed the schedule.

Self-care is easy to drop off my to do lists, but if I follow a schedule (and stick to it!) I will invest in myself with self-care.

Self-care is not selfish 

Prioritising self-care can seem selfish but remember what the air stewards tell you on the plane – ‘fit your oxygen mask first’. You cannot help anybody else without ensuring your own survival. You need to care for yourself to be able to care for others. You have to fill your caring tank first to be able to draw from it as you minister to others.

Keith Webb, entrepreneur and founder of the ‘COACH Model’, recently blogged about switching back to a paper planner in which he ‘schedules his weekend in terms of rest, reflection, relationships, refreshment, recreation and rules for rejuvenation’. I also like his concept of a ‘not going to do’ list. 1

How to schedule self-care

  1. Decide it is a priority. If it’s not then you won’t do it
  2. Grab a planner (see the resources below) or a calendar
  3. Work out your roles and goal for the week (see video below)
  4. Allocate times for caring for all dimensions of your health including your relationships and make sure you have some time to play link to blog (see video below)
  5. Schedule your activities in blocks of time, ensuring they will move you towards your goals (see video velow)

Putting legs on it

Work out what self-care activities you will do. If you are not sure of what to focus on, then click here to download a self-care checklist to help you discover the areas you are doing well and where you can improve.

Watch my short video

Create your schedule with self-care included.


Weekly planner 2 featured in video is available under creative commons at**ALL**&filter1=23 scroll down to ‘7 habits weekly planner’

Both these entrepreneurial leaders are Christian, so care of their spiritual is planned in their daily routine

B Hybels, Simplify, Hodder & Stoughton, London, 2014

Restoring Balance


  1. K Webb, 7 reasons I’ve gone back to a paper planner, Keith Webb: Multiply your impact, 2018, viewed 15 January 2018,
  2. Weekly planner

Photo by David Paschke on Unsplash

3 things to do to finish the year well

I can picture a young woman entering the stadium for the final lap of her race, exhausted and probably with heatstroke. She is walking, staggering. Her path zigzags across the lanes as she pushes herself towards the finish line. The image comes from the end of the women’s marathon in the Olympic Games many years ago.

That’s kind of how I feel at the moment. The end of the year, the finish line is in view and I am pushing myself and my weary body towards it. This year seems long and hard even though there have been no large losses to contend with. It’s just been some continuous little difficulties that build to create a weight. I’ve battled new health conditions along with the old, as I’ve tried to push forward into new territory. I’m looking forward to finishing the year and resting during the holidays.

What about you? How is your year finishing?

Here’s 3 steps you can take to complete your race this year:

  1. Celebrate what you’ve done
  2. Celebrate what others have done
  3. Celebrate who you are

Celebrate what you have done

In the fatigue at the end of the year, it’s easy to look back and see what you didn’t achieve this year. When you made plans at the start of 2017, maybe set New Year’s resolutions or maybe you set goals and not all of them have come to fruition. This can create a sense of failure that prevents you from seeing how far you have come this year and what you have achieved.

You may not have achieved all that was on your list, but you may have done other things. Celebrate those.

Celebrate what you have achieved and what you can tick off your ‘to do’ list.

Give yourself a pat on the back for persisting. You may have had a hard year where circumstances sidelined you or derailed your progress towards your goals. The fact that you persisted and have made it to the end of the year is worth celebrating.

Celebrate what others have done

Often when I am in the comparison trap, I see what others are doing, what others have achieved and I get jealous of them. Envy overflows in me and what I have achieved seems small in comparison to them.

One way of dealing with this is to choose to celebrate what others have done – to switch the lens in which you view their achievements from one that focuses back onto you and compares it to yours – to one in which you see and celebrate the achievement of others.

Celebrate who you are

It can be unhelpful to only focus on what you do, your goals, what you need to achieve. What you miss in this process is looking at who you are, looking at your character and looking at the motive behind your actions.

This year, were you are kind person? Did you help others?  This could be providing emotional support, giving financially or providing practical help. Did you see the worth and value in others?

Did you show integrity and honesty this year? Rather than looking at the end result, look at how you conducted yourself in the process.

I believe as a Christ follower that you have worth as a person made in the image of God. Therefore, it’s not about what you’ve done or haven’t done this year, but you have value just because you are.

So, celebrate who you are rather than just focusing on what you have done and achieved.

Putting legs on it

Think about your year and celebrate what you have achieved – even if it’s not what you were planning at the start of 2017.

But also celebrate you.

PS Take some time to self-care. I will be. As part of resting I will be taking an electronic time out and not using the computer for two whole weeks which includes no writing blogs or emails. What can you do to ensure that you rest and restore as you finish the year?

Photo by Leo Rivas-Micoud on Unsplash


What can you do for others at Christmas?

It’s the time of year when Christmas songs are playing in all the shops. What song would represent the message of Christmas to you?

For me it goes back to the dim memories of my youth where every Christmas Eve at 11 pm the youth ran a church service, which reflected on the birth of Jesus, the reason for the Christmas season. In the early hours of Christmas Day, as we packed up and prepared to go home to our families for our individual family celebration of Christmas, we’d listen to music. To finish our time together we stood in a group, hugging each other and loudly singing the 1984 BANDAID song ‘Do they know it’s Christmas time’.

The words were and still are a reminder that some people don’t have food or the luxury experience of Christmas that we do. It was a reminder for us as Christ followers, that we need to do something about it.

The pricking of your conscience need not only be for people on the other side of the world as another severe famine is affecting 20 million people you will never know,   but should also be for the people in your community and even in your churches for whom Christmas is far from a happy food and family experience. It’s not either/or – it’s and.

For many, Christmas is a lance for pain and loneliness. For those who have experienced the loss of a loved one through death or a broken relationship, family separation at Christmas is a reminder of everything they have lost. For those who are alone it exaggerates their aloneness. For those in our local communities in poverty there is a sting to not be able to provide Christmas lunch or gifts for your family.

What can you do? What can the church do?

  1. Recognise this.

In the busyness of the preparation for Christmas, in buying presents for your families, in attending events and spending time with family, you can recognise that Christmas can be a painful and lonely time for others. Don’t be blind to the needs of others.

See the gift trees. As you go about your Christmas shopping, many of the large department stores will have a gift tree that you can buy a gift for a child in a family who’s doing it tough over Christmas. It could be due to homelessness, being in single parent families, families where the breadwinner has lost their job, families with sickness that consumes a family budget and many other reasons. Whatever the reason the need is still there for the joy of a present on Christmas Day. There are organisations like the Salvation Army and Baptist Care who are buying Christmas gifts for families who would otherwise not have them on Christmas Day.

See the provision of Christmas Day meals. Many charities and churches offer a meal on Christmas Day for people who have nowhere else to go.

You can even look closer to home and see who in your local community or family will be alone on Christmas Day.

For those in your circles who have lost people this year you can be sensitive to their pain and loss and not just blindly wish them a Merry Christmas without understanding the grief that such a phrase is causing them.

  1. You can do something about it

Buy an extra gift and leave it under a gift tree or respond to a request from an organisation to buy a present or give money for the organisation to buy a present.

You can donate to organisations that will provide a meal, or volunteer to serve in one.

For those who you know will be alone on Christmas day, you can invite them to join your family and make them feel welcome.

To a person who is grieving at Christmas, you can acknowledge their loss and the pain that they will be feeling. You might want to spend time listening to how it feels for them, without judgement, just letting them talk about their pain. You don’t need to have wise words to speak but be willing to listen and comfort.  This will validate their feelings. Ask the person how best you can support them during this difficult time.

Putting legs on it

Recognise another’s need at Christmas.

Do something about it.

Also see last year’s post  ‘Two steps for the church to outwork God places the lonely in families’  for more ideas on connecting with lonely people over Christmas.

Some places to give (in no order of importance and there are many more you can name in the comments)

Salvation Army 

Baptist Care SA 

RACS Refugee Advice and Casework Service 


World Vision 

The Smith Family 

Photo by Gareth Harper on Unsplash

How to play (as an adult)

When did you last play? I mean really play? When did you stop thinking about your to do list, your finances, your work, your worries … and find pleasure in the moment doing something enjoyable?

I’m task driven by nature. If I put play on my to do list I might ‘do it’ to cross it off the list, but not allow myself to be lost in time and enjoy it. As an adult I feel guilty about playing. In my mind when I play I’m ‘unproductive’. Playing is foreign to my sense of responsibility. It undermines my worth because I place value on myself based on what I do, not on who I am.

What are your reasons not to play? Are you too busy? Have you forgotten how? Or are you task driven like me?

Adults need to play

You need to play. Adults need to play. But we forget how to play.

Somewhere between childhood and growing up we’ve lost the willingness and ability to play. In the restoring balance workshops, when we talk about doing things that give us pleasure and activities we can lose ourselves in, most participants elect to complete a worksheet at home called the ‘Creative Leisure Scale’ as they have forgotten what it is they like to do to play. The worksheet helps them identify ‘hobbies, recreational activities, family activities, volunteering, crafts and sports that may appeal to them.

In the process and busyness of becoming an adult, we lose touch with the parts of us that used to automatically play like children do.

Benefits of play

Research is showing there are benefits to adults in rediscovering how to play. Play decreases stress and improves well-being. It improves brain function and creativity. If you think about children, they learn through play. It can improve your relational well-being as you cooperate and interact with others.1

Chris Kresser, a functional medicine practitioner says, ‘Play is not simply a frivolous luxury’. ‘Pleasure, play, and social connection are all deeply nourishing and restorative on both a physical and an emotional level and can provide a powerful antidote to stress.’2 He says this is because pleasure increases the secretion of the chemicals called endorphins which react in the brain to decrease perception of pain, boost the immune system and create feelings of euphoria.3

The ‘Help Guide’ says, ‘Play is not just essential for kids; it can be an important source of relaxation and stimulation for adults as well. Playing with your romantic partner, friends, co-workers, pets, and children is a sure (and fun) way to fuel your imagination, creativity, problem-solving abilities and emotional well-being.’ 4

Play has no goals. You don’t focus on what you need to achieve from it or what the outcome is. You just get into the moment and play.

How to play

Play comes naturally to kids. As adults we need some help to do it. What’s a good blog without three steps to guide your practice?

  1. Discover or rediscover your favourite ways to play
  2. Make time to play
  3. Play

1. Discover or rediscover your favourite ways to play

The challenge is on: how to play. I recognised I have lost this capability. When reading the introductory email that bought Chris Kresser’s blog into my inbox I realised I’m the person who is focused on stretching, diet, sleep, living a regimented life of chronic condition management, but I’m not playing. I get upset when things interrupt my finely tuned schedule for the day – be it a phone call with a friend, or a chance to sit for five minutes in the sun with a dog.

In Restoring Balance workshops many mums say they have also lost this capacity especially single mums whose life can be consumed by earning money to provide for the family and caring for the kids. For many mums their needs are at the end of the queue, last on the to-do list and are such that they are often unmet and eventually become unknown.

So, the first step is discovering or rediscovering your favourite ways to play. You may need to think back to when you were younger and what you enjoyed doing then. What did you use to do that gave you pleasure? What activities did you lose all sense of time in?

Take a moment to write a list, then decide what on the list still stirs your soul and is something you can do now to play.

Both articles in the resources have lots of ideas on how to play at work, how to play with your children and how to create opportunities to play.

2. Make time to play

If you are like me and live a regimented life of schedules and to-do lists you will need to put time on your calendar to play or prioritise playing on your to-do list, otherwise you will see it as an interruption. For me, I will also need to work on my mindset to value me enough to give myself the gift of time to play, allowing myself to have fun, because I’m worth it.

3. Play

Do it. Stop reading this and go and play!

Putting legs on it

Complete steps 1 to 3 above.


Kresser Institute: The role of pleasure and play in stress management The benefits of play for adults 


  1. C Kresser, The role of pleasure and play in stress management, Kresser Institute for functional and evolutional medicine, 2017, viewed 18 November 2017,

And L Robinson, M Smith, J Segal and J Shubin, The benefits of play for adults,, 2017, viewed 18 November 2017,

  1. C Kresser, The role of pleasure and play in stress management, Kresser Institute for functional and evolutional medicine, 2017, viewed 18 November 2017,
  2. Ibid
  3. L Robinson, M Smith, J Segal and J Shubin, The benefits of play for adults,, 2017, viewed 18 November 2017,

Photo credit

Lady with bubbles Photo by Uroš Jovičić on Unsplash

Water play Photo by Robert Collins on Unsplash

Kids with ball Photo by Robert Collins on Unsplash

6 words single parents need to hear from you and the church

The Today Show in the US posted a video called, ‘To All The Single Parents Out There: We Honor You.’ To all Australians, I’ve copied the video name so the spelling of honor looks odd to us, but the video has a powerful message to single parents: YOU MATTER!

Be prepared for the first comment after the video which blames the destruction of America on single parents and amidst the encouragement are other hostile comments.

That’s a part of the world of a single parent – hurtful words of blame and condemnation.  I’ve shared my story about a comment made by a pastor at my local church as they closed a children’s ministry program at one service, justifying the decision that only single parents used the program and therefore it was too resource intensive.

This can be offset by words of encouragement and support. So, here are six words single parents need to hear from you and the church:

Welcome! You matter! You are strong!


Single parents need to hear words of welcome into the community, to be accepted as a family and for their journey to be understood eg. babysitting is a big (and costly) issue for single parents so attending church activities can be hard.

Do you know what the percentage of single parent families is in your community? Is this percentage reflected in your church? Why the difference? How can you be more welcoming and make your church a welcoming place?

You matter

The video said important words to single parents: you matter. Whether the person became a single parent by choice or circumstance, they have value and worth. They are seen.

You are strong

Often what is said to and about single parents is negative. The media equation of single parenting equals bad parenting, reporting poor outcomes of children from single parent families and the burden they are on society. Single parents can be disempowered by the welfare system.

Each single parent carries an enormous load of being the provider and being there 24/7 for their kids. Below is a comment in response to the Today show video. It shows the typical life of a single parent.

“To wear second hand clothes so your kids can have new … to go without a meal so your kids can eat better… to work day and night so they can have nice things. It isn’t a job … it is life. It isn’t hard work because it is done with love. Thank you from all of us!”

Did you see the needs in what they said e.g. poverty? Or did you see the strength in this person; the love for their child, their resilience to keep going in tough circumstances, their willingness to sacrifice for their children.

As people and churches, we need to see the strengths in single parents, not just the need. Then we can speak the strengths back to the person. Help them see their assets and their courage. Point out ‘what’s strong’ instead of ‘what’s wrong’.

Come alongside and ask the single parent, ‘How can we help you, so you can use your gifts to achieve your purpose?’

Putting legs on it

Here’s some links to help you understand and journey with single parents:

Refer single parent to another one of my websites One Together: One Together provides resources and some wisdom to help single parents in their journey. It aims to help single parents be their best and grow their best family.

To read my chapter ‘Successful single parenting’ click here

2 ways for the church to be God’s hope dispenser on earth

Even the weeds are abundant. I love spring in Adelaide.

Blue skies and sunny days. The fruit trees have blossomed and are now covered in leaves and budding fruit. My roses are blooming with the first flush of large fragrant flowers, the weeds are bursting into life creating a dense forest all around my garden. My bottle brush tree is laden with bright red flowers that contrast with the blue sky, bees and honey eaters abounding. The season of spring inspires hope.

What is hope?

The dictionary describes hope as a noun and a verb. As a noun it is the expectation that particular things will happen and as a verb, it is defined as wanting something to happen. 1

Biblically based hope is to desire something with confident expectation of its fulfilment. 2 It is not a nice, wishy-washy sentiment of something you would like.  It is grounded in confidence that it will happen.  Hope has strength to it.  Hope is actively trusting that God will do what He promises.

The other morning, music on, stretching, ruminating on preparing a sermon, some words stood out like they were painted in the air in front of me. ‘We are your church. We are the hope on earth.’ 3

The church is God’s hope dispenser on earth.

Jesus gave and modeled hope. Lee Strobel, atheist journalist turned Christian apologist, describes Jesus as a ‘hope dispenser’ in ‘The Case for Hope.’He writes, ‘[Jesus] lived a life that instilled in His followers the hope that they could find greater meaning and purpose in their lives.  He spread tangible hope as He healed the broken hearts and diseased bodies of countless .people.  He embodies hope for our earthly lives and promises a hope-filled existence in heaven for eternity to those who would trust and follow Him.’ 5

Jesus left the church to action the Kingdom of God on earth. The Kingdom of God is not about our individual salvation and ticket to heaven, but how to live as followers of Jesus now. We have both an individual role to fulfil and a collective purpose as the church, to build the kingdom in the here and now.  The church is God’s hope dispenser on earth.

Here’s 2 ways for the church to be God’s hope dispenser on earth

  1. Be an inclusive community
  2. Ignite hope in others
  1. Exercising the power of community

Loneliness and social isolation are growing in our society. They are harmful to health, increase the risk of mental decline and depression. Research shows that lacking social connections is as damaging to health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.6

Social networks and friendships reduce the risk of becoming ill and help people recover when they are sick.

Collective life in the church needs to be an inclusive community of love for each other, connecting with others to decrease loneliness, offering a place of acceptance and somewhere to belong.

Unlike most groups, the church meets all year round, is multigenerational and contains diverse people from different social economic backgrounds- and cultures, who barrack for different football teams. Some people don’t even follow football.

We are better together.

  1. Being hope-full

There are two parts to this. Remind yourself of your hope so you can have hope for others, igniting it in others.

What reminds you of hope? Some common images are:

  • Lighthouse – safety, light in dark times of danger
  • Candle – Jesus said, ‘I am the light of the world.’ We can light our candle in His and pass on the flame
  • Anchor – strength and stability, something holding you in place. Biblical image Hebrews 6:19
  • Seeds of hope – find a foothold often in adversity and grow into plants

For me it’s the colour purple. It comes from a Ken Duncan photo of a field of flowering Salvation Jane. In Victoria the same plant is called ‘Paterson’s curse.’  It’s a weed, poisonous to grazing animals, particularly horses. I figure when I look at the abundant purple colour of the plant in bloom that if a poisonous weed has beauty … then there is hope for me. I see this picture when I wake up every morning. It’s a reminder of God’s abundant love for me and that gives me hope for the day. I wear the colour purples as a choice.

Hope is contagious.

People catch hope from each other. Your hope affects hope in others.  Studies show that the personal qualities of health care professionals, particularly their hopefulness, will impact a patient’s hopefulness. 7 If the health professional is hopeful for the patient, the patient is more likely to be hopeful themselves. The reverse is also true. I shared my story about this in one step to ignite hope in others link

We can ignite hope in others; we can inspire a future vision of hope. Others can hang onto our hope when they don’t have it (as I did).

My health professional didn’t just speak hope to me and leave me alone. She walked the journey with me, an example of the power of community.

We ignite hope by:

  • Friendships and being with people
  • Smiling at people
  • Listening to them
  • Giving people your time
  • Concern for what is concerning them
  • Friendship and inclusivity take time and effort

Putting legs on it

How can you remind yourself of hope?

Ensure your church is a welcoming and inclusive community.


Learn one step to ignite hope in others


  1. Oxford Living Dictionaries, viewed 17 October 2017,
  2. Life Application Study Bible – New International Version, Tyndale House Publishers Inc, Illinois and Zondervan Publishing House, Michigan, 1991, p. 2463.
  3. Rend Collective, Build your kingdom here, 2012, viewed 17 October 2017
  4. L Strobel, The Case for Hope, Zondervan, Michigan, 2015
  5. Ibid, p32
  6. Campaign to end loneliness, viewed 17 October 2017
  7. C Dameron, The Importance of Hope, Journal of Christian Nursing, Vol 31, No 2, 2014, p. 77.


Stress – the good, the bad, and the ugly. Which one is yours?

‘You’re stressed.’

‘No I’m not.’

‘Yes you are. You’re too busy.’

‘I’m busy but I’m not stressed.’

Ever had a conversation like that? I have. Lots. I have it with concerned friends. I have it with doctors who blame all my health problems on my stress level. And if they’re going on my history, I have burnt myself out a few times. For me, maintaining a balance to stay healthy is a work in progress. Side note: my definition of health is fulfilling my purpose even though I live with a chronic health condition.

The word stress has a negative perception. Stress equals bad. However, there is also good stress but worse still – ugly chronic stress.

Watch the video below about the different types of stress (this will be a shorter blog as much of the information is in the video).

Good stress

Stress is defined by the Mayo Health Clinic as ‘a normal psychological and physical reaction to positive or negative situations in your life, such as a new job or the death of a loved one. Stress itself isn’t abnormal or bad. What’s important is how you deal with stress.’1

Stress can be positive providing motivation, focus, improved performance, meeting and overcoming challenges, whilst learning grows the brain. This is good stress.

Bad stress

Stress becomes bad when the person’s capacity to cope is exceeded and they become dis-stressed2. This negative stress is subjective and related to the person’s resilience.

Ugly stress

Ugly stress is when the dis-stress becomes chronic. There is no recovery period and the body is constantly awash with stress chemicals.

Chris Kresser who specialises in functional medicine says, “…no matter what diet you follow, how much you exercise, and what supplements you take, if you’re not managing your stress, you will still be at risk of modern conditions…” modern conditions: diabetes, autoimmune conditions

Busy not stressed

I can be busy and not be ugly or bad stressed. By intentionally self-caring and pursing my life purpose, I can be busy and motivated by my stress. This includes: keeping my tank full to give to others from, by practising relaxation techniques to reverse the stress response, by monitoring my thoughts and daily writing a gratitude journal, by eating a nutritious diet suitable for my health condition , ensuring I get enough sleep, using boundaries – turning off my mobile phone sometimes and not answering emails out of work hours.

When I’m busy meeting other people’s agenda and I’m not feeding my soul, I get distressed – bad stress.

Putting legs on it

What about you? Are you stressed? Is it good, bad or ugly stress?

What can you do to offset it? Here’s some of my resources that can help:

In the restoring balance retreat and course, we discuss stress, what happens in the body short and long term, together with ways to deal with chronic stressors.

Stay tuned for the rest of the Stress series videos – posted on FaceBook and YouTube

  1. Stress – the good, bad and ugly – tonight
  2. What’s your pay off – Wednesday night
  3. Recognising stress – Thursday night
  4. What are you gonna do about it? – Friday night


  1. Stress Basics (1998-2016) Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research accesssed 6/10/16
  2. Wahls, T (2014) The Wahls Protocol, Penguin Group, U.S.A p 295-296 and  Kresser, C. (2013) The Paleo Cure, Little Brown and Company, U.S.A p241-247.


10 ways to choose compassion fatigue

Watching the sunrise, a favourite past time of mine, I reflected on the promise of the new day. Each morning is a fresh slate on which I can build. My mind started to race with my ‘to do’ list while yesterday’s problems regurgitated in my head. I had a moment of realisation.  I have choices that would influence the outcome of my day. I was choosing stress and compassion fatigue and I hadn’t even been awake for 10 minutes! As I’m so practiced at choosing this, I thought I’d share a few tips on how you can do it too.

Here’s 10 ways for you to choose compassion fatigue:

  1. Recite your to do list

Every time you think of something to do, automatically list everything else that needs to be done as well. My big kids avoid me when I start listing as they know it increases my tension and the frustration that comes out of my mouth with not so generous words to others. I defend myself with, ‘I’m just organising myself’ but at the same time I feel my stress levels rising.

  1. Say, ‘there’s not enough time’

Even typing those words, I feel my anxiety increase. Saying those words can put you into a state of panic as you become gripped by all you must do and realise it can’t be done.

  1. When people ask how you are, say ‘I’m busy’

This is a great way to end a conservation, disconnecting from people (see point 4), giving you more time to attempt your to do list. Saying ‘I’m busy’ can lead to ‘to do’ list recitation (see point 1).

  1. Decline invitations to be with friends

We are better together. Isolating yourself from others contributes to compassion fatigue. You have no one to share with, download to, problems solve with, or even just have fun with.

  1. Don’t practise healthy behaviours

When time is short the easiest way to get more of it is to buy takeaway food so you don’t have to shop or cut up veggies. You can scrape together more time by choosing not to exercise. Tell your exercise partner you’re too busy, and you could always list what you have to do. If you are a Christian, cut out your quiet time and miss church. Again, not seeing friends gives you more time to be busy.

  1. Always say ‘yes’

Never say ‘no’. Whenever you are asked to do something by someone else (be it your boss or your mother) say yes even though your insides are screaming ‘no, I don’t want to’ or ‘that will overload me’. By having poor boundaries, you ensure you are taking on the responsibilities of others and will have more to do.

  1. Don’t prioritise.

With your endless ‘to do’ list, don’t analyse it or think about what needs to be done first and whether anything else on it can be delegated, wait for another time, or just not be done. Keep yourself busy with lots of little things ensuring you don’t have time for the big deadline then work all night to get it done.

  1. Forgo rest

As you’re so busy that you don’t have time to catch up with friends or eat properly, the idea of taking time out just to do nothing is ludicrous. Think up all the extras things you can get done if you don’t stop to rest

  1. Ruminate on your problems (and the problems of others)

By continually regurgitating your problems, you keep yourself in a state of stress. If you work/minister with others this includes not going to supervision or debriefing where you could both download and problem solve, or learn other ways to respond. Being exposed to the trauma of others and not dealing with its effect on you, will lead to secondary trauma as part of your compassion fatigue and even secondary Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

  1. Feel like everything depends on you

By not delegating, prioritising or using boundaries, you can create the feeling that you are alone and everything depends on you. This will increase your stress levels and lengthen your ‘to do’ list.


Although the above is written with a hint (slather) of sarcasm, I have done all these things. It is a daily choice I make which leads to compassion fatigue or not. It depends on what I choose.

Putting legs on it

What about you? What are the daily choices that can lead you to compassion fatigue? What is one choice you could make today that will not add to your stress levels?

I can help you with:

  • self-care pack (click here)
  • sign up to Restoring Balance course (or women’s retreat if you are in Adelaide click here). The first session helps you understand compassion fatigue, its contributing factors and assess your levels. Then look at what stress does at the basic physiological level of your body and how to manage it and strategies to not what is on the list. Click here for online course which opens 1st October – if you sign up now, get immediate access to ‘How to make a change that sticks’ online course, to prepare you to make changes to restore balance rather than choose compassion fatigue.
  • Assess your compassion fatigue levels – click here

What my garden taught me about self-care

It was Autumn. The days were mild and sunny, the leaves changing and our tomatoes were still fruiting. We had nursed them through the heat of summer – lots of water on hots days, weeding and staking them so they would grow and produce, so we could harvest the red flavoursome fruit. And they did.

They kept going into Autumn. But in the lull of gentle weather, no extremes of heat or storms, we didn’t care for them. One day I went to pick some tomatoes and noticed the plant leaves were withering and the fruit was yucky. I realised this was a slow destruction we hadn’t seen happening. Lulled by the good circumstances, we neglected to care for the bushes in the same way we did in summer and they died and the fruit rotted.

It’s easy to neglect self-care in times of ease

I realised it paralleled my attitude to self-care. When things are going well I back off. When my body doesn’t cry out to stretch everyday just to ease pain and be mobile, my incentive to exercise is gone so I skip it. When I’m not overloaded with deadlines, I don’t prioritise time to rest and wind down.  When life is good, abundant, and flourishing, I forget to keep looking after myself and my healthy habits decline, leaving me like my fading tomatoes bushes and with sickly fruit.

When life is good it’s easy to forget to self-care; the necessity doesn’t drive us. We can slip back into sickness or arrive in burnout and question why we didn’t see it coming?

Make a habit of self-care

Self-care is a long-term habit practiced in times of ease not just times of stress. Do you self-care in times of health and ease? Investing in you by looking after yourself in times of ease enables you to cope better in times of stress. It gives you margins and a full tank to pour extra out into others, or cope with heavy deadlines for a while. If you have healthy habits these are protective against stress, but you need to continue them in times of stress, rather than having to start them up again which feels likes another burden when you are already heading into overload.

As you finish times of overload you need to keep going with self-care. How many times do you stop taking the medication prescribed by the doctor once the symptoms have abated, ignoring his/her advice to finish the course?

You need to self-care in times of stress and times of ease, in sickness and health, to create a lifelong habit that is protective and helps manage the inevitable times of overload when we step into the stress puddle.

Self-care includes:

  • Rest – physically resting your body, changing your attitude to stop trying to control everyone and everything
  • Filling your caring tank – doing activities and being with people who fill you
  • Boundaries – practising personal boundaries on your time, your work life balance, electronic intrusion and setting limits on people
  • Managing stress – reversing the effect of stress in your body by physical activity, flow activities, music, craft, relaxation breathing
  • Controlling your thought life – practising gratitude, reframing, strength focused, self-compassion
  • Caring for your health – in all areas not just physical but spiritual, mental, relational, emotional as well
  • Finding the balance between caring for you and caring for others
  • Developing priorities – using techniques to manage your priorities and learning scheduling
  • Promoting healthy relationships – identify your supports
  • Pursuing your passions – identify your gifts, live a life of purpose

Putting legs on it

Review the table below or click here to download the Self-Care Checklist to help you discover the areas you are doing well and where you can improve

Identify one area to learn more about and action change. Click on the link in the self-care list above for more information on how to develop this corresponding self-care skill or join a Restoring Balance (link) retreat or on-line course – more at end of this post

Desperate Needs attention OK


Great 100%
Filling your caring tank
Managing stress
Controlling your thought life
Caring for your health
Finding the balance between caring for you and caring for others
Developing priorities
Promoting healthy relationships
Pursuing your passions

Restoring Balance

The online course opens in October: click here for a video of what is in the course and click here to save your place and get access to ‘How to make a change that sticks’ as a thank you bonus.

Click here to register for the women’s retreat for those in Adelaide, South Australia

As a thank you bonus for joining either programme, and to help you make the changes you need for a restored life, you will receive FREE access to the short on-line course ‘How to make a change that sticks’.

Tomato Photo credit: Thomas Martinsen on Unsplash

4 steps to be a better support person

I had a ‘fish slap moment’ this week – if you’re a Monty Python fan you’ll get the reference! If you’re not click here to watch the video   Its the moment a revelation knocks into consciousness in your head, with a jolt, like a slap in the face with a big fish. You go, ‘der’ why didn’t I recognise or think of that before?

Knowing a single friend was really sick this week, I just went merrily on my way, not thinking of the implication for her. She couldn’t get out of bed to prepare food, get to a doctor or do anything that would be a comfort to her, which compounded her illness. When the ambulance took her to hospital, the ‘fish’ whipped across my face. ‘You teach pastoral care Vicky, and you missed the foundational, ‘what is the implication for the other person’ step.’

Maybe my learning will be useful to you as you care for others. Here’s 4 steps to be a better support person.

1.What is the implication for the other person?

We talk to people on Sundays, we catch glimpses of someone’s life, but during the week we get caught up in our own world and do our own thing and don’t connect the dots. We need to think through life from the other person’s perspective. How will this affect them this week and into the future? What is the implication for the other person?

We are better at seeing some of these than others. For example, with an older couple, the wife dies and we respond with meals as the husband may not know how to cook. For many older couples when the husband dies, the wife has no idea on how to manage the finances but we don’t think, ‘we need to help her to budget, help or teach her how to use ‘internet banking’. We have pat responses to situation requiring support but need to use our heads, observing and asking what support the individual needs and thinking over how we can support them.

What does looking for the implication look like in practice? Here’s 3 examples:

  1. A single parent is sick. Consider who’s picking the kids up from school? Who’s cooking? How do they get to medical help without taking all the kids with them? What is the implication and how can we help?
  2. Someone shares with you that a work colleague has died. What does that mean for them? Loss of friendship? Increased workload to cover for the person at a time when they are grieving? Can we lighten their load elsewhere to accommodate this? Do they have to support other workers? Do you know of any support services to help with this? What is the implication and how can we help?
  3. A 45-year-old man loses his job. We might offer other job connections but how is his self-esteem going when his identity as bread winner and provider for the family is shattered? What is the implication and how can we help?

 2. Being practically specific

Help is more likely to be accepted if it’s a definitive offer rather than a generic ‘ring me any time you need’ offer. The latter is also bad for your boundaries because,  do you really mean 3am in the morning? If we understand the implications for the person, we have thought about it and asked them not just assumed. We can then make an offer of help that is more specific to their needs and fits within our boundaries. Examples:

  1. Would you like me to pick the kids up from school on Wednesdays and Thursday? Are you OK for Maxine to bring around a pasta meal for you all tonight? It will be big enough for 2 meals for all of you?
  2. Can I organise someone to take your place on the morning tea roster so that’s one less thing for you to think about for the next few months?
  3. Did you know there’s a men’s shed that meets weekly? I can connect you with Bob who goes there?

Being specific and practical is better for us as we are offering what fits with our demands and we’re are less likely to be resentful. A helpful statement to learn is:

This is what I can do for you (insert ….) at this time.

3. Connect to others

We don’t have to meet every person’s every need, but we do need to know where else to connect people in the local community. I  teach my pastoral care students to create a resource and referral folder to keep details of services, what they provide and how to access them, as well as being a bower bird, collecting brochures of services and useful information sheets to give to people.  Examples:

  1. Connect the mum to others to grow an informal support network.
  2. Here’s some information on local grief supporters who may be able to come to your workplace and provide information, and a local grief support group for you.
  3. Connect him with a local community centre that offer to help people update resumes and write job applications.

    4. Self -care

Boundaries and being specific in what you can provide is part of self-care but you can’t care and support others if your caring tank is empty. Keep refilling your caring tank.

Putting legs on it

Think of one person/situation you are supporting someone through:

  • What is the implication for them?
  • What is one practical and specific offer you can make?
  • Who else can you connect them to?

Schedule self-care into your diary this week.


In loving others you need to self-care so you can run your race to the finish

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