“Treat Yo Self!” 10 Self-Care Tips from a Recovering Self-Ignorer

Treat Yo SelfFor busy people who pour ourselves into family, jobs, service, and other legitimate priorities, self-care is often the last thing on the to-do list.  (Or is it just me?)

Historically, I’ve been TERRIBLE at self-care. Truly terrible; I am not exaggerating.  I would give up sleep, food, and forget anything less basic like nurturing my interests or feeding my mind because I was prioritizing everyone else’s needs and plans for me. More often than not, I couldn’t even verbalize what my needs were!  But that had to change.

The truth is, when we are not engaging with ourselves and addressing basic physical, spiritual and emotional needs, we become far less effective on every other front.  Trust me, there is no “hero award” for being unkind to your body, heart and mind. No one else is going to carve out space and time for you to watch over your health and recharge.

For me, failing to engage in proper self-care only resulted in being irritable, depleted, lonely, and unfulfilled… eventually even sick, depressed and so very far away from the person I wanted to be.

Maybe…probably… I am not the only person who struggles with self-care.  So I’ve compiled a few ways you can begin to nurture your deepest self.  I hope this list of self-care tips – big and small –  will get you started thinking of ways you can find a way to care for your much-loved, extremely valuable self. (And stick with me here, because some of this stuff is basic…yet still, we need to remember!)

  1. Feed your body well.  Are you hungry? Feed yourself just as you would feed your dearest love – or even a child – with foods that are nourishing, delicious, and leave you feeling better, not worse. Then savor that nourishing goodness without rushing at every possible opportunity.
  2. Stay well-hydrated. When your soul is thirsty, chances are that your body is, too. Make yourself a huge glass of your favorite good-for-you drink. (I’m a fan of water with a fresh orange slice floating in it, all-natural ginger-ale, or herbal tea.)
  3. Keep important self-care-related appointments.  I have a bad habit of canceling (or never making) medical check-ups, dentist appointments, massages, and even hair appointments because, “I don’t have time for that.” (Or I didn’t want to spend money.) But what is more important than basic upkeep?!  If we don’t want to be sick, toothless, in pain or hideous, let’s agree not to ignore those basic items of upkeep?
  4. Yoga. I used to think it was weird — something only a certain kind of people (people unlike myself) could take seriously. But when I tried it and felt an almost-instant decrease in my body’s  aches and pains, I started paying attention.  I now find yoga to be an incredible gift to my body, and also to my mind (calming it and feeding my brain some oxygen) and even to my spirit. You can find very affordable DVDs on Amazon (here is a box set with morning, evening and stress relief routines) classes and online yoga routines that are helpful for getting you started.
  5. Focus fully on this moment. Living in the future, or in the past, or even stressing about a meeting later today, are fruitless activities that will never allow you peace-of-mind. If you are constantly counting hours, anticipating what is around the corner, or even wishing for yesterday, you are unable to engage in the one moment in which you can actually do something — this moment. We all have to manage calendars, plan for the future and make good long-term decisions, so do that.  But planning for the future and living in the future are very different things. Embrace now. It’s the only moment in which you can actually do anything or make positive changes.
  6. Rest.  If your body is exhausted, find a way to get a little sleep. (If you have a newborn, there is no shame in having someone you trust come over to keep an eye on the little one so you can get a nap.) My family tries to make Saturday morning a “no plan zone” so we can have one morning in the week to get up whenever our bodies wake us.  Sleep is good and your brain needs you to sleep in order to function at its highest possible level. Michael Hyatt has a good blog post and podcast on sleep, which you can find here.
  7. Take inventory on commitments.  Do you need to resign from energy-draining committees or other commitments that are not in alignment with your priorities?  You might be one phone call away from huge relief! Or perhaps you need to start a class that focuses on a special interest or skill you want to grow.  It is amazing how addressing your passions will make you feel valued and nurtured.
  8. Maintain realistic expectations.  It is monumentally important to identify areas of your life where you are constantly disappointed.  If you end every day disappointed because you didn’t get enough done or because someone else disappointed you, maybe…just maybe…your expectations are not in line with reality.  Just sayin’.
  9. Be kind to yourself.  Give yourself a little grace. Positive self-talk is a powerful gift to yourself, to help to move your life in  a positive direction. On the other hand, giving yourself negative messages (“I’m an idiot,” “I’m so lame,” etc.) constantly tears at the fiber of your soul, even when you don’t realize it.  If you are having one of those days (or weeks, or seasons) when you just can’t win for trying, it probably isn’t because you’re an idiot. It could mean that you are living in a shadow of self-doubt, shame, exhaustion or depression and that you need a healthier perspective.  Remember your value.
  10. “Treat Yo Self!”  This idea (adopted by my family from the sitcom Parks And Rec) goes a step beyond just being gracious to yourself. It’s a chance to reward yourself in simple ways.  Sometimes a special treat, a self-care gift to yourself “just because” is a way to remind yourself that you are worthy of specialness.  A couple weeks ago, I bought myself a beautiful book called Bread & Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table with Recipes, and I have SAVORED every moment I’ve spent reading it.  It was such a simple thing. It wasn’t expensive or elaborate.  But it has brought me so many wonderful moments getting absorbed in a book that really feeds a part of me that is important.

Hopefully these ten tips for self-care will at least get you started thinking of ways you can be good to yourself!  And please, please share your own tips and ideas in the comments.

Bringing Jesus Back

Want to know something that ASTOUNDS me?  (Heads-up, you’re about to find out anyway.)  People “of faith” (they would say) who find some sort of sick pleasure in delivering criticism that is in no way constructive or even remotely useful.  It’s like self-righteousness on steroids.  And no one is off limits as targets (which they’ll call “concern for you” or “the truth in love” – minus the love), including believers who are doing their best to walk with Christ, unbelievers who have had zero exposure to Christ, believers who blew it and bravely came back to Him (or still seek a reason to),  and pretty much anyone else who doesn’t fit with the subculture that feels tidy and safe.  The truth is, no one is safe in an environment of self-righteousness.  It’s about self-preservation.  And that kind of atmosphere just doesn’t square with the Jesus I believe in.

A well-known artist who routinely performs for both secular and Christian audiences recently told me that the Christian audiences have consistently been more harsh and unkind than all his secular audiences combined.  I was mortified… but not surprised.  Suddenly I’m singing the Bon Jovi song that always comes to mind when I’m faced with the self-righteous critics of the world… “Shot through the heart and you’re to blame… you give Love a bad name.”  (When I sing it, Love has a capital “L”. )  I sound angry.  I guess I am a little.  But mostly, I am sad.

I was hesitant to state my “religious affiliation” on Facebook when I signed up.  (Feel free to look at my page.  You still won’t see it there.)  If you find that fact appalling, I’m truly sorry.  But I took that risk because I do not want to be identified with a homespun, hateful version of Christianity to which I do not subscribe.   I know the whole claim to “stand for something”  is supposed to make it okay to ream a fellow-traveler for not having the right road map; I just don’t agree.  I am very proud of Jesus.  Just not the faction of small mindedness who claim to be speaking on His behalf when they degrade people and withhold acceptance like a carrot dangling in front of a starving rabbit.

For those of you out there struggling with your sin nature (which, according to the Bible, includes 100% of you) I want to apologize for the unkindness of people who thought it sounded spiritual to condemn you and make you feel unworthy of love.   If Jesus was here, he would invite you in for a drink and would be completely delighted when you accepted. And once you came, he wouldn’t back you into a corner and pounce upon your weaknesses and questions.  He would much more likely assure you that there is nothing you could do to make Him love you less… and nothing you could do to make Him love you more.  He would probably speak to your woundedness, but not with the purpose of making you feel small.  Rather, he would offer perspective, understanding and hope; and he would definitely pour his healing words all over your hurting heart.  That is His nature.

Self-righteousness is a brutal enemy of the Gospel.  Maybe it originates with fear… or ignorance.  Maybe it even starts with noble motives.  But the real Gospel of Christ is about a love so penetrating and real that we can trust it with the worst sin imaginable.  If only we could get out of the way and do what He has asked us to do… love Him with all our being and love our neighbors as ourselves.

No one has a corner on the mind of God.   I sure don’t.  But we were given Jesus to show us how love is supposed to work.  In Him, we can be transparent, loving people who let Him meet us at the heart of our issues.  Love conquers all things. So let’s not continually try to chop it off at the knees with our desire to look spiritual.  If we really believe that Jesus has conquered sin and death with His Love, we can have every confidence that in that same Love to transform hearts far more effectively than any of our tinny self-righteous platforms.

What is my reason for challenging the line of thinking that Christians have carte blanche permission to criticize everyone for any reason?   So glad you asked.  I’m looking for people who are with me.  Am I the only one who hesitated when Facebook asked me to identify my religious affiliation?!  I’m looking for people (and I know some of you)  who trust Christ enough to stake everything we believe – even our pristine reputation for being SO righteous – on a Love that does not break down when messiness enters the picture (and it always does).  The religions of the world focus on behavior.  If that’s all Christianity is, then it is no more powerful than the list of rules at your local public pool.  But that’s NOT all it is.  We get Jesus!

There have been so many times when I wondered if we would even recognize Jesus if he walked into the middle of our lives or even our churches.  Who knows… maybe He has!  What if we blew Him off because He was more unconventional than we expected, or because His authenticity made us squirm, or He didn’t hold people at an arms length… or *gasp* he didn’t speak Christianese.

Jesus was about eternal, sacrificial love that didn’t buckle under the weight of the world.  So inviting His line of thinking into our safe little world is going to stretch us and test our resolve.    Love is patient and kind. Love isn’t cruel or self-seeking.  It keeps no record of wrongs… (It’s all there in I Corinthians 13.)  Nowhere does the Word say, “Love tells people off for not thinking like the masses,” or “Love makes people feels small when they do something that feels uncomfortable or overly-authentic.”

Jesus was about powerful, healing, selfless love that has not lost a bit of its potency in more than 2000 years.  THAT is the kind of credibility that Christianity needs.  It’s going to mean that we stop trying to figure out whose right or wrong; because when our faith is centered on the carnal desire to be “righter” than the next person… it’s all wrong.

So who’s with me?  Who wants to bring Jesus back as the numero uno consideraton when we’re deciding how to respond to one another?

Cardinals In The Snow

cardinal1There are few things in this world more beautiful than a cardinal in the snow.  What is it about seeing a splash of brilliance in a monochromatic landscape that makes me feel hopeful?  Maybe it’s a symbol of survival.  Most often I’m huddled over a warm cup of coffee, staring out of the sliding glass doors at a freezing blanket of white covering my world, when I see that welcoming flurry of red spreading his wings in spite of the bleak climate.  I want to be more like that.

Everywhere we turn, the economy is affecting our lives in ways that hurt.  Some of the smartest people I know fear losing their jobs or have already experienced a job loss.  Truly great businesses are closing or at least tightening their belts.  People from every walk of life are feeling the affects of financial downturns.  So we’re all walking around in the same bleak climate, perhaps trying not to reveal just how much we’re feeling it.

It’s easy to become overwhelmed with doubt and anxiety in our efforts to be realistic about our financial future.  Who doesn’t worry about what happens when all our financial safety nets are gone?!  We’re all hoping we don’t financially freeze to death.  It might seem easiest just to hibernate until this whole nasty storm blows over.

Being wise with our resources is obviously so very important.  But, if we are learning anything in these interesting times, certainly we’re discovering that, if our only “safety nets” are made of money, we’ve basically built a house of paper in which we isolate ourselves from deeper joys.   Rich, poor and everyone in-between… who among us can afford to be lonely and isolated?

So here’s a sure-fire investment program.  Let’s run some figures on kindness.  (All the financial minds out there just rolled your eyes… but stick with me here for a sec.)   Showing a small kindness doesn’t have to cost a penny, generates zero regrets, and makes you – and those around you – feel like a million bucks.  Maybe it’s an extra smile, or holding a door, or maybe you scrape the ice off the car next to yours in the parking lot.  Maybe it’s making the coffee first or being the one to change the trash bag when everyone else pretends not to notice that it’s overflowing?

The overachievers among us could really go haywire and give a spouse the day off from all nagging or give our children hours of undivided attention.  We recently had a local business owner offer a free logo design for my husband’s fledgling business.  That was HUGE!  He was our own personal “cardinal in the snow”!  Most of us willingly overachieve to build a certain reputation or career goal… so why not overachieve to make someone’s day – or year – unforgettable??

In short, kindness makes us like cardinals in the snow by offering a sharp contrast to all the economic blah with a little WOW!  So how ’bout it??

Forgive Us Our Cluelessness

crying-eyeIt’s interesting to look into the faces of strangers when I’m out in public and try to imagine what their deal is… where they’ve come from, the stories they could tell, the things they know how to do, the things they hope for… the things they’ve given up hoping for.   It’s like a puzzle.  Part of the picture is visible, like their smile or lack thereof, their eyes and whether or not they look into my face as I pass by.  

 

It can be overwhelming reading people because every time I dare to look, the reality of how much pain exists in our world hits like a ton of bricks!  It’s equally painful to realize how many hurting people honestly believe that no one cares or understands.

 

Though I can’t rescue people like I used to rescue baby rabbits or injured birds, there are so many times when I would just love to reach out to every person in my path who has been disappointed by life and give them a real, live dose of hope.  Not trite little pat answers or an “I’ll say a prayer for you.”  But more like, “The look on your face, I have worn, too… and if I could find my smile again, so can you!”

 

This freaks people out, by the way.  So I don’t recommend it.  That’s the reason I write.  If I can just capture some thoughts that are honest, transparent and offer glimpses of a Hope I have tested again and again… then, maybe, that sad lady from the Target parking lot will somehow have the chance to know someone cares that she seemed uneasy around her own husband.  Maybe at some point the sad-faced kid whose dad called him “stupid” in the checkout line will eventually, by some miracle, replace that untruth with a message from his Maker, who is convinced that he is a brilliant masterpiece.

 

Life isn’t always kind.  Sometimes we need to hear a different voice… one that helps balance the negatives with something true and good that we can hold onto. For everyone out there who is hurting, I want to say something on behalf of those who didn’t reach out to you and help you through whatever you’re facing.  Forgive us our cluelessness.  You are loved… we just haven’t figured out how to let you know it yet.

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