Self-care allows you love others and to fulfil your purpose, without burning out or wearing out.
Christine Caine is the founder of A21 an organisation that is working towards the end of human trafficking. In her book ‘Unstoppable’ she uses the analogy of race to run in life. she says, ‘ God has an external purpose for the whole body of Christ and a divinely chosen part for every single believer. He has uniquely designed and selected each and every believer to fulfil his or her purpose’ 1.
The Biblical image of the race
If you are a Christian you may have heard a saying, ‘I’d rather burn out then rust out in service of the Lord’.2 This is used to inspire people to serve in a variety of ways, respond to needs, love and help others, and be busy. This will lead to overload, burnout and compassion fatigue.
Using the Biblical imagery of a race, it helps to see it as a marathon, not a sprint. You are required to pace yourself to reach the prize at the end.
The Bible says:
- ‘…my only aim is to finish the race…” Acts 20:24 NIV
- ‘…And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us…’ Hebrews 12:1 NLT
- ‘…I press on to reach the end of the race…’Philippians 3:14 NLT
Self-care is not selfish
You may buy into the unspoken principle of self-sacrifice and service, and the notion of loving yourself expending energy into caring for yourself, clashes with this belief. The idea of self-care is counter-intuitive. But self-care is not selfish. Self-care allows you to run your race to the end. It refreshes you and enables you to give from a full tank.
Self-care is stewardship.
Christians believe the body is created by God. Stewardship of your body is caring for it so you can live your purpose. The authors of the Daniel Plan Devotional raise the question, “If our bodies aren’t healthy enough, how can we serve Him?” They add, “We need our bodies to pray, proclaim the gospel, and help the needy.” 3
If you don’t practice self-care you may experience burnout and compassion fatigue.
Burnout and Compassion Fatigue
Burnout ‘is a state of emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet constant demands.’4 This results in feelings of hopelessness, loss of motivation, disengagement and depression.
Compassion fatigue is a type of burnout experienced by people in caring/helping professions such as emergency service workers, doctors, nurses, counsellors, ministers, pastoral care workers and chaplains. It is when the carer is hurt by caring. It results from and has two aspects to it:
- The stress of caring for people leading to burnout
- Secondary trauma also called vicarious trauma from being exposed to trauma in others
The care giver focuses too much on looking after others whilst neglecting their own self-care
Strategies to self-care include:
- Filling your tank
- Boundaries (blog coming Tuesday 6 March)
- 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
- Pursing your passions
- Get enough sleep
Do you know where you rate? Click here to download a self-care checklist and rate how you are showing your love for yourself to self-care.
You can read more on the topics in the list above, by clicking on the link to a blog on the topic if there is one or scrolling below for more detailed information and links to other resources. Many of the blogs are written for single again people or single parents but the strategies apply.
Rest has many meanings and can be described as many things. Rest is the ceasing of labour. God practiced rest and natural order has a seasonal cycle of rest. Rest is accepting what Jesus did on the cross, not trying to earn your salvation or do good to please God. Rest is trusting God; trusting that he can provide and protect you, trusting that He is in control and you don’t have to run the world. Rest is stewardship. Rest can be attitude that is not dependent on circumstances. Read more in the free eBook ‘Little book of rest’.
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Filling your tank
Using the analogy of a car, a car needs fuel in the fuel tank to run the engine. When you go for a long drive you purposely fill up the tank so the car will make the distance. You operate in the same way. You have a fuel tank that is drained by caring for others and any not so healthy behaviours you may have, and is filled by loving and caring for yourself.
What can you do to fill it up? Read the blog 5 questions to care for you caring fuel tank
Stress is a normal psychological and physical reaction to demands. Stress can be positive providing motivation, focus, improved performance, meeting and overcoming challenges, whilst learning grows the brain; however the body can become dis-stressed when the capacity to cope is exceeded. 5 Negative stress is subjective and related to the person’s resilience. Chronic stress is when the body cannot process and eliminate the stress hormones so there is no recovery period.
Chronic stressors include:
- Lack of sleep
- Poor planning/time management
- 24/7 phone, email, Facebook
- Self-talk and thoughts
Watch 4 short videos to understand more about stress
Stress – the good, bad and ugly
What’s your pay off
What are you gonna do about it?
Some tips to manage stress include (click on the links to go deeper into the topic):
- Identifying triggers including people or circumstances
- Use scheduling and routine to reduce stress
- Create positive experiences
- Relaxation breathing – watch video
- Relaxation techniques such as meditation, guided imagery – watch video, listening to music
- Problem solving skills for taking practical steps to reduce worry
- Making mental adjustment to unrealistic expectations
- Developing assertiveness to say ‘no’
- Seeking support
- Controlling thought life
- Journaling scroll below
- Recognizing and dealing with grief from loss
Caring for your health
When you read the title ‘health’ you more than likely imagine your physical body and didn’t think about your whole health:
- Your mind and how you think and talk about yourself
- Your connection to others and your place in community
- Fulfilling your purpose and growing your hope
- Learning to manage your emotions
You may not see the full picture of heath or the interplay between the areas.
Health is more than the absence of disease. The World Health Organization includes physical, mental and social wellbeing in their definition of health. Another definition is ‘dynamic process in which the individual is actively engaged in moving toward fulfilling his or her potential’ 6
It says health is a dynamic process; it is fluid and changing. It is not obtained once for life but you need to keep working on it. The individual is ‘actively engaged’ in pursuit of health. You need to be involved and responsible for your own health. The purpose of health is to fulfil your potential. Health includes:
- Physical health – caring for your body
- Spiritual health – provides hope and meaning for life
- Relational health – your connection to others
- Emotional health – your reaction to the stresses of life
- Mental health – encompasses your self-esteem and your thinking processes
How healthy are you?
Download a copy of Health and Balance Assessment to rate your level of health in each area, and then complete the assessment of your balance between caring for you and caring for others, and balance within those areas. There may areas you need to set limits or areas you need to invest more time and energy in.
An alternative assessment tool is the Model for Healthy Living assessment wheel from the Church Health Centre which measures your satisfaction in 7 dimensions of health (Faith Life, Movement, Medical, Work, Emotional, Nutrition, and Friends and Family) and the balance between them.
Living a healthy life
Living a healthy life needs a big picture vision for your life and small steps through goals to achieve it, rather than operating from a ‘should list’.
A ‘should list’ is full of voices from your doctor, the media, maybe your family and even you. It tells you what you ‘should’ be doing or not doing to care for your health. It talks about: diet, exercise, you need to lose weight, you need to sleep more, you need to drink less coffee and drink more water, the advice may even be contradictory! When you focus on not attending to everything on the ‘should list’ you never commend yourself for the self-care you practiced. You might get down on yourself for drinking too much coffee and forget you also drank water. In judging yourself for missing exercise class and you ignore that you stretched and walked up the stairs instead of taking the lift. You look for what you did wrong and what you haven’t done, and discount the areas where you are making progress.
Health is always a work a progress. It’s never perfect.
So instead of berating yourself for not achieving your ‘should list’, focus on living a life of purpose and some steps you can take towards it. Don’t work on everything at once. Big picture. Small steps.
This process is covered in detail in the short online course ‘How to make a change that sticks’. Click here to enroll
Steps for improving your health
Now you know where you to improve your health. Pick one area and look at the suggestion to help you improve that area below: (And don’t forget to laugh and have fun)
- Take a step to improve your spiritual health. Deal with any negative emotions. Do something that makes your soul sing. If you are a Christian connect with God.
- Take a step to improve your relational health. Know who you are and what you want from a relationship. Be reciprocal. Commit to connecting with others.
- Take a step to improve your mental health. Improve your self-esteem . Monitor and control your thought life. Choose what influences you and choose how you react to circumstances and people.
- Take a step for your emotional health. Deal with emotions such as anger, depression and fear, firstly admitting you have them. Try journaling as way of releasing your feelings onto paper to help you sort through and identify them and express your hurts without lashing out at others. Talk to someone, either a friend or a professional counsellor. Learn specific strategies.
- Take a step for your physical health. You are probably overloaded with information on exercise and nutrition from which you can choose a step. Or you can look for ways to bring rest and relaxation to reverse the stress response in your life and schedule them into your calendar: a massage, meditation, prayer, warm bath. Maybe a date with yourself!
Disclaimer: I am writing this not as a health or lifestyle guru, but from the combined perspective of my working life as a nurse with experience in chronic condition management, and a person who lives with a chronic condition and daily practices strategies to manage my health so I can achieve my purpose in life.
Caring for you/caring for others balance.
The self-care/caring for others often leans towards caring for others side.
If you haven’t already done so, download a copy of Health and Balance Assessment to rate your level of health in each area, and then complete the assessment of your balance between caring for you and caring for others, and balance within those areas.
The following blogs have strategies to improve balance and although some are written for single again people or single parents many of the strategies apply
Pursuing your purpose
You are created unique and for a purpose. As a Christian you are called to follow Jesus, becoming people who love God and love others (Mark 12:29-31).
You have to finish your race, and not be distracted be the innumerable good opportunities to love and care for others, finding your ‘best’ to focus our time and energy on. Bill Hybels calls this ‘simplified living’ ‘Simplified living is more than doing less. It’s being who God called us to be, with a wholehearted, single-minded focus. It’s walking away from innumerable lessor opportunities in favor of the few to which we’ve been called and for which we’ve been created’. 7
How do you know your purpose?
- Reflect on:
- What makes you stand on your soap box?
- What are you good at?
- What personality are you?
- What do you like doing?
- Try different things. After teaching young kids in Sunday School for a year I learned I did not want to be teacher!
- Ask others what they see in you and what they think you are good at
When thinking about your purpose, you come to the dream. What is that you would like to do or what do you want your life to look like in 5 years time? Without constricting your ideas with limitations (by saying I can’t possibly do that) write them down. Now make a plan to get there.
Get enough sleep
Its recommended you sleep a minimum of 7 hour per night. Inadequate sleep leads to eating more calories, affects thinking and mood, and increases the levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Melatonin the hormone that controls sleep inhibits cancer and promotes immune function. Its production is suppressed by exposure to artificial light so controlling exposure to light especially limiting electronic media before bed can help. Managing stress and practicing sleep hygiene (habits that help you have a good night sleep) can also help. See resources below
- Quan, S. (2015) What is the magic sleep number, Harvard Health Publications http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/what-is-the-magic-sleep-number-201509168280\
- Better Health Channel: Sleep hygiene
- Sleep Health Foundation: Good sleep habits
And he shall be like a tree firmly planted [and tended] by the streams of water, ready to bring forth its fruit in its season; its leaf also shall not fade or wither; and everything he does shall prosper [and come to maturity]. (Psalm 1:3 Amplified Bible)
Available as a workshop, online course and a retreat. Click here for more information
Journaling can serve many purposes and has many benefits. Journaling can help you reduce your stress levels by reducing the intensity of your emotions as you release them on paper. Journaling helps to clarify your thoughts and feelings, helping with problem solving and identifying and understanding issues. It captures your story and as you reread entries, it may show patterns in your thoughts and behaviour, and hopefully change and growth in the long term
Self-care is both a purpose for journaling and a benefit of it.
Journaling promotes reflection- an important tool in ministry practice. It has additional benefits of Christians as a tool to for quiet reflection on and hearing from God. (Psalm 46:10)
A blank page can be a daunting canvas on which you write your thoughts, struggles, questions, memories and answers on, but it is worth developing the habit. Here are some suggestions to get you started:
- You can start by writing about your day: Dear diary, today I ……
- Or start with your feelings: Right now I am feeling ……
- You might read something in a newspaper, or a book, or hear a quote on TV or in a movie that stirs your thoughts and emotions. Write it down then write what it means to you.
- You can write a letter to someone (alive or dead)
- Praise/gratitude journal: I am grateful for…
- Write a poem
- Set and reflect on goals at the end of each year
No matter how you start, it can be good to always add something positive to what you are writing. It could be something you are grateful for (occasionally it might be just that the day is over and you made it through!) or write one thing you achieved for that day.
For my story on journaling at the end of marriage click here (I have been journaling since I was a teenager decades ago and have practiced many different forms).
Life Lines – a journaling workshop for Christians
Available as a workshop or online course. Click here for more information
- Caine, C (2014) Unstoppable, Zondervan, U.S.A, p31
- P Brain, Going the distance – 2nd edition, Matthias Media, Australia, 2006, p. 10.
- The Daniel Plan Team, The Daniel Plan 365-Day Devotional, Zondervan, Michigan, 2015, 81.
- M Smith, J Segal, L Robinson, and Rt Segal, (2016), Preventing Burnout, HelpGuide, 2016, viewed 10 Feb 2018 http://www.helpguide.org/articles/stress/preventing-burnout.htm
- Stress Basics (1998-2016) Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/basics/stress-basics/hlv-20049495 accesssed 6/10/16
- Miller, B.F. and Keane, C.B. (1987) Encyclopedia and dictionary of medicine, nursing, and allied health – fourth edition. W.B. Saunders Company, U.S.A, p542
- Hybels, B (2014) Simplify, Hodder & Stoughton, p2
- Quan (2015) What is the magic sleep number, Harvard Health Publications http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/what-is-the-magic-sleep-number-201509168280 and Kresser, C. (2013) The Paleo Cure, Little Brown and Company, U.S. p233-238