My husband, Gary, woke me up one pre-sunrise morning. “Feels like the flu,” he said.
We’d been here before. I threw on my clothes and hurried to the emergency entrance of the hospital. Because when you add flu-like symptoms to chemotherapy, it adds up to serious infections.
After five hours of infused antibiotics, I brought Gary home, prepared something for him to eat, ran out to pick up his prescription…(wait for it)…and then reported to work. Exhausted in every imaginable way. Because if I didn’t do my job, it would land on someone else’s desk.
In Gary’s declining months I didn’t listen to my body. I didn’t care for my soul and spirit. Because self-care sounded so self-centered.
But it’s not.
Self-care is simply taking care of our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health so we can better serve others. There’s a difference between nourishing and indulging ourselves. This is not an invitation to overeat and become a couch potato.
Whether you’re facing a hard disease, you just got laid off, or there’s a newborn in your house (or even a teenager, for that matter) consider these doable self-care tips:
1. Plan to stay in your pajamas. All day. Light candles. Light the fireplace. Sip tea. Watch HGTV. Read magazines. Call your college roommate, a favorite cousin. Don’t even think about getting out of your PJs.
2. Take a walk. Notice your surroundings as you consider that this hard thing did not catch God by surprise. Research has shown that spending as few as five minutes walking in nature restores our mental energy and improves our self-esteem and mood.1
3. Soak in a bubble bath. Light candles. Play your favorite music. Don’t fall asleep.
4. Host a classic movie night. Invite a friend or two. Make popcorn. Begin with Charade, starring Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant. Next, try Grant and Grace Kelly in To Catch a Thief. And then branch out to Bogart and Bergman.
5. Nap. Set a timer. Slather on your favorite lotion. Doze.
6. Taste-test chocolate. Try a dark chocolate with raspberry or salted caramel. Make an occasion of it—like, after the dinner dishes are done and the fireplace is lit.
7. Start a gratitude journal. No, you’re not thankful your child has special needs, or you were rejected in that relationship. But may I gently ask a few questions: Do you have a safe place called home? Food in your pantry? Favorite tunes and ears to enjoy the music? Do you have people to love and people who love you? What about the breath you just took? Challenge yourself to daily add one thing to your gratitude journal.
In her book, Present Over Perfect, Shauna Niequist wrote about how she thought self-care was for the fragile. But not her. Because she was a linebacker. “Now I know that the best thing I can offer to this world,” wrote Niequist, “is not my force or energy, but a well-tended spirit, a wise and brave soul.”
It takes grit and grace to practice good self-care: Grit to carve out time to refuel our bodies, souls, and spirits, and grace to request (and accept) help.
Which is why we need to ask ourselves from time to time: Do I need to stay in my pajamas today?
1 “Take a Walk!” by Sally Augustin, Ph.D.; May 22, 2017, PsychologyToday.com
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