We are created unique and for a purpose. As Christians we are called to follow Jesus, becoming people who love God and love others (Mark 12:29-31). Often we take this concept of service and self-sacrifice where as John Piper says ‘we should care about all suffering, especially eternal suffering’1. But as Kevin Deyoung points out whilst we should care, we can’t do something about everything2, otherwise we turn it into overload and compassion fatigue.
Compassion fatigue is experienced by carers, and those in the caring professions such as emergency service workers, doctors, nurses, counsellors and chaplains. It is when the carer is hurt by caring; the stress of caring too much. The care giver focuses too much on looking after others whilst neglecting their own self-care and suffer burn out or trauma as a result. The burn out is more than just with the job but with caring itself.
In restoring balance to our lives we can use the imagery of Paul in running the race
Acts 20:24 ‘….my only aim is to finish the race….” NIV
Hebrews 12:1 ‘….And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us…’
We have to finish our race, and not be distracted be the innumerable good opportunities to love and care for others, finding our ‘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’. 4
Self-care is the key to restoring balance so you can continue in your caring role. How can you practice self-care to go the distance in caring for others?
To receive over 30 pages of tips and in-depth ideas for practicing self-care click here
Remember self-care is not selfish. Self-care has many aspects. These include:
Looking after your health. Health is more than the absence of physical disease. It can be defined as ‘dynamic process in which the individual is actively engaged in moving toward fulfilling his or her potential’5. Caring for yourself is being actively engaged in pursuing health in all areas and ensuring you have balance between them, and balance between caring for you and for others.
So how healthy are you?
Download a copy of Health and Balance Assessment print up and fill in 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. You may identify 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.
Strategies for managing your health and self-care
Strategies for managing health will be developed through blogs. See blog 7 ways to improve your health
What strategies can you adopt to care for multiple areas of your health at the same time eg take a walk on the beach with a friend?
Get enough sleep. Its recommended you sleep a minimum of 7 hour per night. Inadequate sleep leads to increase caloric intake, affects thinking and mood, and increases cortisol levels. The hormone melatonin 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 (see resources) can also help (References for sleep paragraph 6).
Are you getting enough quality sleep?
Manage stress. 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. 7 Chronic stress is when the body cannot process and eliminate the stress hormones so there is no recovery period. Some tips to manage stress include:
- 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
- Recognizing and dealing with grief from loss
Are you stressed? What is one step you can take to manage your stress?
Caring for you/caring for others balance. The self-care/caring for others often leans towards caring for others side. Self-care includes taking action with work/life balance, establishing priorities and creating boundaries.
Are you focusing your time and energy on caring for others at the expense of caring for yourself?
Rest. 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 our salvation or do good to please God. Rest is trusting God; trusting that he can provide and protect us, trusting that his is in control and we don’t have to run the world. Rest is stewardship; self-care so we can care for others. Rest can be attitude that is not dependent on circumstances, when we trust that God is in control. Read more in the ebook ‘Little book of rest’
Are you resting?
Filling the 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 caring for yourself.
What can you do to fill it up? Read the blog 5 questions to care for you caring fuel tank
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)
Online ‘Restoring Balance’ . Click here for more information and to sign up
- John Piper cited in Deyoung, K. (2013) Crazy Busy, Crossway, U.S.A p49
- Deyoung, K. (2013) Crazy Busy, Crossway, U.S.A p49
- Brain, (2006) Going the distance – 2nd edition, Matthias Media p 10
- Hybels, B (2014) Simplify, Hodder & Stoughton, p2
- 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
- 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
- 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.
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 (2015) Sleep hygiene http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcpdf.nsf/ByPDF/Sleep_hygiene/$File/Sleep_hygiene.pdf
Sleep Disorders Australia (2006) http://www.sleepoz.org.au/files/fact_sheets/AT09%20-%20Sleep%20Hygiene.pdf