7 Ways to Take Care of Yourself
My life was a wreck. Honestly, I had so many areas of struggle that sometimes I felt like I had about a billion pounds of anxiety about to crush the life right out of me. I knew that it was affecting my marriage, my parenting, my health, and especially, my relationship with God. I looked around me at the chaos and mess that was my life, and I felt completely incapable of handling any of it very well.
Day after day, I gave it everything I had, and night after night I went to bed feeling like I’d been hit by a speeding train.
As a kid, I remember watching the cows come in from the field to drink from the watering trough. After they all had downed their fill of the water, there was usually nothing at the bottom of the trough, but the slimy dregs left by their slobber – and cows are pretty slobbery! That’s how I felt at the end of each day – like nothing was left by the slimy dregs of drool and grime after everyone had taken what they needed from me. Yeah, I know, not a pretty picture, but true, nonetheless.
I loved my kids and my husband. I loved being with them [most of the time], but I didn’t like me…or my inability to rise to the needed height of strength. I hated my imperfections. God had given me this beautiful family – why wasn’t I happy or fulfilled?
About 15 years ago, I had a major breakthrough. I stopped trying to be better. I know that sounds basically sacrilegious, so let me explain.
One morning, I was sitting quietly at the table before everyone else was up. I was dutifully having my quiet time. More than anything, I was bellyaching to God about my shortcomings, and apologizing profusely for letting Him down again by not being strong, organized, diligent – the perfect mom. I went on to tell Him that I was lazy, anxious, somewhat depressed, and completely overwhelmed by my life. I felt like I was a complete disappointment to Him.
“I love you just the way you are. I approve of you. You don’t have to be strong or any of those other things you think you need to be.” I really wasn’t expecting an answer, and certainly NOT that one! As a child, I had always been told that God expected perfect adherence to “the rules” to gain His approval.
God does not ask for perfection.
God says to us all, “I love you just the way you are. All I need is for you to be willing to be a platform for My strength. Your life, your family, it’s not about your ability at all. I knew before I gave them to you that you don’t have what it takes to do everything I’ve called you to do. You need Me, I designed you that way. I’ve set the stage. You do not have to be put together to come to Me. You don’t have to be perfect, or even better. You don’t have to be anything different than what you are right now. I am in the business of making beauty from a mess, growing trees of righteousness from the ashes of sorrow. I see your heart and your desire to serve Me. Instead of saying ‘I can’t!’ say ‘YOU can!’ Are you willing to work with Me?”
Wow. That experience marked the beginning of a new leg of my spiritual journey. In the years since then, God has taken every single pain and disappointment and turned it into an area of ministry.
One of the first things He taught me was that I need to take care of myself spiritually, emotionally, and physically, if I want to be able to serve others.
I am going to be completely transparent with you. There will never be a time that I will pretend to be anything that I am not. I will never tell you to not sweat the small stuff. Honey, I know that it is the small stuff that can wear us down and break our hearts. I will never tell you to walk through life with a shield up and a chip on your shoulder. I lived that way for far too long to ever want to see anyone else choose that. We are all on this journey together.
In my transparency, I want to share with you what I have learned (and am still learning) about taking care of myself so that I can take care of others. No more slobbery dregs in the bottom of the trough. We were made for so much more than that!
If you’re like me, you may recognize some of the symptoms that arise from a lack of self-care: procrastination, laziness, anxiety, insecurity, fear, perfectionism, inability to focus, major lack of diligence. I think we all have dealt with at least some of these tendencies at one time or another.
But God has shown me that when we take care of ourselves, the results are peace and harmony.
To Properly take Care of Yourself:
1. Control Your Thoughts. 2 Corinthians 10:5 says “and we destroy every proud thing that raises itself against the knowledge of God. We capture every thought and make it give up and obey Christ.”
I’ve learned that if I don’t control my thoughts, they will control me. I started asking myself, “Would Jesus stand there and say that to me?” The more I asked that question, the more I realized that I had been believing a whole lot of crap from the enemy of my soul. I studied to find out who I am to the great I AM.
2. Cut the Garbage. Garbage in – garbage out. I realized that I had become desensitized to the garbage in our culture. It’s amazing how much healthier I feel in every way since I cut out the mental garbage diet. What tv, social media, or other toxic influences can you cut back on?
3. Learn something new. Try something new! When was the last time you learned something new just for you? I love taking online classes and have at least one going at all times. I’ve also become addicted to in depth Bible studies.
4. Slow down. I used to live life at a dead run – feeling just antsy inside. I have learned that I actually accomplish more if I have a plan of action (HUGE for this fly by the seat of my pants girl). I’ve gotten to the place of focusing on the moment that I’m in. I pray for help to choose the best things and the ability to leave the good stuff.
5. Get rid of stuff. By getting rid of clutter (and yes, this in an ongoing battle), my mind is more clear. Weird, right? But it really is true. What I do keep around me needs to have purpose.
6. Surround yourself with goodies. I enjoy good books, good music, good coffee, and good chocolate. Every single day, I have my morning time with Jesus, while I drink my steaming-hot, creamy-sweet, strong-enough-to-stand-up-alone coffee. Every single day, I take a few minutes to relax with a cup of tea and a good book. You all know, life can be messy, crazy, noisy, stinky, and downright obnoxious sometimes. By taking a few minutes to breathe, lift my eyes, focus on Jesus, and enjoy a quiet moment or two, I am reminded that these things that agitate are not eternal.
7. Be okay with not being okay. I know. This is a BIG, HUGE, COLOSSAL undertaking for us women. We feel like our family needs us to be okay. You know what, honey? Sometimes life is not okay. Sometimes we need to be able to say, “I know that this doesn’t affect the state of the nation. I know it doesn’t decide my true joy level. I know it will pass. But right now, right here, this is making me sad. I don’t like it. I’m not okay. I need to cry!” Don’t panic if you aren’t happy. Don’t fixate on trying to get happy. We weren’t made for this world, so we really can’t expect to feel happy all of the time. Go ahead and thank God for the ability to feel the unhappy, not-okay feelings. It means you are alive…
Don’t dwell there, though. Don’t stop and pitch your tent or get a change of address. Move on through that Valley of Baca. Move on to the next strength. Psalm 84:5 – 7. We are pilgrims just traveling through a world that is not our home.
Love you, sister!
Are you enjoying this blog series? Let me know! And go ahead and share the love if you know someone who would be encouraged.