“You need to take care of yourself!” “Are you eating?”
I’m a lucky girl. After watching me deal with chronic pain/conditions and mental illness for the last five years, my mom can tell when I’m getting stressed. I stop taking care of myself. I’ll forget to eat, I’ll overwork, stop talking to my family, avoid people, fill up my days and nights with too much and yet too little. My priorities go way out of whack and my body and mind are at the bottom of the list. I have been in a constant state of survival, and my body has manifested the stress of someone much older than me.
Pain. Anxiety. Seasons of loss and struggling to keep my head above water, and yet piling more things on myself that keep me under the water. Self-sabotage. Keeping unreasonably busy: the most widely accepted, and even praised, form of self-harm.
I know that when we’re already so overwhelmed (whether self-induced or not), it can seem like adding salt to a wound to find time to take care of ourselves. Perhaps we can think of it this way: what would I say to myself if I was an observer (not a judge) from the outside?
“Keep going, Abbie, running yourself into the ground is applaudable.” “Yes, your body is only getting worse from all this stress, but it’s because you need to show everyone how capable you are.” “Why would you even think of taking time to yourself? Selfish.”
Would I show that lack of compassion to anyone else but myself? Would you? I’d say not.
Why then do we treat ourselves with so little grace? So much is at stake: our mental health, our physical health, even our relationships and efficiency in our careers and passions. Is it worth the sacrifice?
Sinking my own ship by filling it with endless tasks, activities and commitments would be considered ludicrous if it were a real ship being overloaded with cargo to the point of capsizing. How beautiful it is to instead build up my ship with care, strengthening it, giving it time and room to breathe before embarking on my next task or journey.
Ahh, weary friends. Join me. Let’s slow down. Throw off our glorification of busy-ness. Throw off our self-sabotage. I invite you to join me in building up our ships by self-nurturing. There are many ways you may approach this to suit what you need.
Here are some gentle ideas to get us started:
1 | Chase the fresh air
Seek out the sunlight, rain, and the beauty of outdoors. So rejuvenating.
2 | Do things you enjoy doing
Activities that fill up your cup, be it an evening with friends (if you’re extroverted) or an evening at home (if you’re introverted), or a book, a walk, cuddles, art, you name it.
3 | Eat and drink well
Even on a small budget it’s possible to grab some fruit and veggies, or comfort food, depending on what you are craving. And remember to drink lots of water – it wakes up your brain!
4 | Speak kindly to yourself
Treat yourself as if you were the little kid you used to be, with gentleness and grace.
5 | Write out your thoughts
Or speak them.
6 | Say “NO”
To unhealthy people, to over-committing, to anything that goes against your gut.
7 | Say “YES”
To help. This builds valuable community and support. Although it may seem weak to accept help, it really isn’t – it’s a normal human need sometimes.
8 | Go to sleep earlier
If you can. Your body and brain rebuild and rejuvenate during rest, and this is a marvelous way to self-nurture. It is possible to plan your day so you can get enough sleep, or at least a little more than you’re already getting.
9 | Slow down
Exercise patience with yourself, others, and life. You are worth your time and patience. Your future will come soon enough. There is so much to see, so much grace and love, that is missed when we rush through life helter-skelter.
10 | Listen to yourself
Listen to your body, and allow it to communicate. Instead of rushing off to get painkillers or medicine, slow down. Is your body trying to ask you to slow down? Does it need different food? Does it need you to get up from your desk for five minutes to move a bit? Only recently have I began understanding my body and it’s a beautiful thing.
By self-nurturing, we open ourselves to the grace that God embodies and desires for us to dwell in. We offer ourselves the compassion we shower on other people. We live in understanding with ourselves and our bodies. We make peace between our bodies and our lives, no longer fighting for survival.
No more survival mode! Friends, come out of the overwhelming waves and come home to your hearts.