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June 24, 2008

How Do You Care for Yourself?

Two nights ago, I set my kitchen timer for five minutes, sat in a lawn chair on my deck, and stared at the stars.

This was my feeble attempt at self-care, something I'm trying to incorporate into my life. Nearly two weeks ago, someone challenged me to engage in some intentional self-care, in a way that made me feel slightly uncomfortable. I'm surprised at how difficult it was for me to find a way - and make the time - to do this.

When I finally forced myself to sit outside without occupying my hands or my mind, I had to set the timer, or I knew I wouldn't be able to relax. I would have laid there and thought about everything I needed to do, wondering how long I had been sitting there. I would have been too worried that I was "wasting time" sitting there for too long.

So why did I have to be so intentional about relaxing for five minutes? And why was this so difficult for me? The reasons are varied, and I'm probably not even aware of all of them. But I do know that I need to learn to care for myself without feeling guilty. So I took a baby step. And I hope that first five minutes might lead to a healthy habit down the road.

Since I'm writing to an audience of thousands of women leaders, I suspect I'm not alone in struggling with my efforts to care for my own heart and soul. As I'm thinking about how to incorporate this into my life, I'd like to hear your ideas. How do you care for yourself? How have you incorporated self-care as a habit?

Maybe we can learn from one another.


I'm single, working a full time secular job as well as part time job in my church working with small group leaders. You can imagine that there is very little time in my schedule for self care. I try to incorporate it by using Sundays as a true sabbath. Very little gets done in the way of chores around the house, I visit with friends who refresh me and spend time reading and napping. Of course this only works if I don't schedule meetings on Sunday afternoon!

Dear Amy,
I, too, have a very difficult time to take time out for myself. My friend even bought me a H2O fountain for Christmas, that I have to admit I have used once.... since Christmas!!
I have tried scheduling this time.. to no avail. Why do I have such difficulty to relax for 5-10 minutes?? Sometimes, I am so exhausted, I rest for 10 minutes n' end up falling asleep. This has happened 2 or 3 times.
Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
~ Sylvia

I am all about the self-care and have no guilt feelings about it at all. Much like Shari, I am single, work full time in a corporate job, work part time at my church, but as a Worship Arts Director. It's a simple principle of placing the oxygen mask on yourself before you assist others. Just as I can't write a check when there's no money in the bank, I know that I'm no good to others in my life without making sure that my tank is filled. I make sure I have time during the week and occasional Saturdays where I go off the grid and do things that replenish me, like shopping, napping, getting a facial or reading - basically whatever I want. I couldn't function without it.

I think that good self-care requires knowing a bit about yourself, first. What does recharge your batteries? Is it a few minutes of solitude in the bathroom, or is it going for a 3-mile run? Are you an extrovert who parties hard and then crashes hard, or do you need to gear up and down for activity and people? How does your external environment affect your internal state? How do you connect best with God?

AI've realized that I need four "S's" to survive: Sleep (at least 8 hours/night), Silence (no noise clutter, and my prime "God time"), Solitude (I'm an introvert), and Space (free of physical clutter). Like an equalizer, when one is out of whack, the others can compensate for a time -- but overall, I need to keep all four in balance. If I don't make time for these things, it inevitably will come back to bite me, and it takes much longer to make up the deficit.

I try to go to bed a half an hour early and read in bed. It feels totally luxurious. I've also been known to schedule a day every two months (haven't been doing it lately unfortunately) where I let myself do whatever I want (but no chores, cleaning, and nothing I feel OBLIGATED to do). Oh and sometimes I say "no" to a voluntary leaders meeting when I feel as though I've been spending all my free time at them...

I agree with Angie above. To care for yourself you need to know yourself in order to be true to yourself. I'm an extrovert who is spontaneous and likes to keep my options open but being a Pastor's Wife, Speaker and Creative Art Minister my life is scheduled a year ahead of time. Sometimes I feel like the life is scheduled out of me. So, I've learned to schedule in "me" time, date nights, family time and girlfriend time before others require more of me. My husband calls it blocked time. I call it being proactive. I look ahead at my ministry schedule, conferences, speaking engagements and then block time for self care and spiritual sabbaticals. Then when someone asks me if I'm available I can honestly say "I have something already planned for that time."

I finally got it when I read in Genesis. AND THEN GOD RESTED. If he needed to so do I. God even commanded us to rest for a whole day. I'm obeying God. :o)

I agree with Angie that rest is pretty specific to your personality and what refreshes you most.

About once a month I take time out in a long bath(the become-a-prune variety). I mostly do this when I desperately need space. I use bubble bath and just lie there, thinking of as little as possible, as I'm like Amy...can't sit still without thinking of something that I'm meant to be doing. My time ends when the bath is too chilled for comfort. I follow that up with giving myself a manicure and pedicure; lather myself in my favourite lotion and a spritz of perfume, even if I'm not going anywhere. It does the business, ladies. That's all I can say. It has the aaah quality.

Other really restful activities are a slow stroll around the neighbourhood, watching the waves break on the shore and the occasional Sunday morning at home (I prefer the evening service) where I go Amy Timberlake style.

Whichever I pick, hubby is always in favour. A new woman emerges. ;)

I am also single, working a full-time secular job and part-time for my church, as a ministry assistant. For me, that time of refreshment is getting up early enough to eat breakfast, take a walk, and sit outside and read my Bible...then listen to music on my way to work. I'm set for the day. :)

Great topic that continues to become more and more relevant.

2 things:

1. Sabbath rest 1 day a week. Our women’s small groups started trying to focus on this a couple of years ago. Makes a huge difference in the “rest” of the week.

2. Daily time with God. In leadership, we have such a great responsibility to lead others…if we are not spending quality quiet time with the Lord daily, I think we need to seriously consider taking a break from leadership to get this part in our life right.

Does it help that it is a state law in most states that workers are to rest 10 minutes every 2 hours? Overtime is considered anything over 40 hours, with one day a week free. These civic policies have Christian roots. Where do we get our compulsion to work twice that amount?

As a 50-something business owner, community volunteer, wife, caregiver, and daughter, I've learned how helpful it is to me to take alone time in the mornings for being with God, in creative forms of prayer, exercise, and organizing (that I find refreshing) and formal work in the afternoons. I'm amazed at how God has rewarded these practices financially and with freedom.

I try to keep structured outside activities to one night a week, and use evenings as spontaneous time, making room for young adults, letters, conversations, and journal writing, amidst the usual chores. Asking first thing in the morning what God has in mind for the day and singing in the shower helps too! I hope this helps.

For me, the great "Aha" moment came when the Lord spoke to me in His still, small voice and I realized that He actually wanted to spend time with me. He wanted me to "be" with Him not to please Him, but simply to enjoy Him. And that He enjoyed just being with me, too. It was not a waste of my time, nor of His. I really can enjoy Him more when I am not focused on some task, and, counterintuitively, I find that I come away energized and more efficient and effective at accomplishing the tasks that He calls me to. (Now, "prayer time," which used to feel like so much work, is simply pleasure!)

For some really practical help with incorporating "rest" into your schedule (and the motivation to do so), I would recommend Randy Frazee's book, Making Room for Life. His down-to-earth plan for a balanced life will change yours!

At the Home of Martha and Mary
38As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet listening to what he said. 40But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, "Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!"

41"Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "you are worried and upset about many things, 42but only one thing is needed.[f] Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her." (Luke 10: 38-42)

Everything of value must be maintained or it will deteriorate or become damaged by neglect. Like that of a home, the cost of restoration is far more costly and time consuming than regular prevention and maintenance. Every aspect of it requires attention, regardless of time. I came to this conclusion while going through an intensive care process with God to restore, reconstruct, and balance the necessary priorities of life and purpose. Like chipping lose paint for sanding, it was not a relaxing moment.

To help get over the guilt of now applying that same level of intensive care into my own mind, body and spirit I simply ask myself - What’s more valuable than my own heart and soul? Who’s responsible for its maintenance and care? Who will pick up the broken pieces or even want to deal with the damaging side effects for lack of care? If I don’t “take care” for myself, who will?

I’ve learned to include things like hand washing the car, driving slowly along more scenic routes to reach my destinations, or tuning off all media for reading or silent time of reflection as part of my daily self-care program. The progress made from just doing the simple things made such a drastic improvement in my life that I now “take the time”. Everyone doesn’t feel the same way about it like I do, but I’ve found that I’m much happier doing it than not.

I'm a semi-retired, medical professional, kids grown and elsewhere. This makes it easier to find time for self-care. I normally get up before my husband, and usually have about an hour to spend with God: meditating, praying, listening, reading Scripture, etc. This is super important. We have a quiet house: no TV noise, some quiet radio music at times; I really like to be able to think without extraneous noise. I'm finally getting enough SLEEP after many years when it was difficult. Exercise is very important in self-care, I believe. Walking, jogging is ok but what really turns me on is racquetball!! Making time for that, and playing several games a week is among the most enjoyable things I do, and I define it as a form of self-care.

I'm surprised in all the comments above that no one has mentioned downshifting your life. What I mean by that is living at a slower pace. It took a marriage crisis (I'm married to a minister and we are career missionaries) 7 years ago to make us realize that we often don't care for ourselves and our relationships, as Scripture commands us, because we are too busy. We need to say "no" to many good commitments in order to focus on the best. The realization that minsitry is NOT a godly excuse for neglect of my relationship with my inner self, with my husband, with my children or with my LORD made me realize just how sinful the human heart is. Pride makes us think that we are needed more than we are and it causes us to need to tell God how it needs to be done and who needs to do it. Humility and self-control only come from God through the Holy spirit working in our lives. I would venture to say that as women in ministry we sometimes sin in this area more than our male counterparts.

i journal. i journal devotions, prayer, study and just personal interests. i've been a writer for most of my life, so it is just natural for me to relax by curling up with a book and a pen, with my Bible close by.

I think the secret is to remain 1st so we can produce better. We live in a world that focus on production all the time and sometimes we forget that our production quality depends on how much we remain in God. P-A-U-S-E...This is like an offense for us so much time but hey, what God created the world in 6 days and He took a rest on 7th? Because He knew the relevance to appreciate what He has created :)!

What´s the relevance to product , to do such a thing if we don´t celebrate? As John Ortberg said in one of his books( The Life You´ve always wanted) , joy should be something christians should take seriously and I agree with him.
In a very speedy world, pause is like a joke but sometimes we forget that the price and the consequence of not stopping/remaing/pausing can be way worse than a joke of bad taste.


Brazil :)!

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