As parents we often put our children’s needs before our own. We are constantly giving and pouring out. Running them to music lessons, sports, youth group, friends’ houses, work, etc. Our lives are focused on their needs and activities. What little spare time we have goes to our jobs, churches, communities, and friends. Our leftovers often go to our spouses. (This is a blog post for another time!) If we are not careful we become exhausted. We’ve been pouring into the lives of other people leaving nothing for ourselves. Soon the fountain begins to dry up and there is nothing left to pour out.
It is not healthy for us to give, give, give, and give without nurturing ourselves. Self care is very important to our emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being. Matthew 22:37-39 alludes to self care.
“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Matthew 22:37-39
I am to love my neighbors (those I encounter in my day to day living) as myself. Jesus doesn’t want us to ignore our neighbors. He wants us to reach out to them, treat them with respect, and help them. Do we do that to ourselves? What does respecting myself look like? I believe when I respect myself I take care of myself. I make sure that my emotional, physical and spiritual needs are being met. In order to pour into the lives of my “neighbors,” those around me including my family, and best minister to them I need to make sure my fountain has been filled.
For many years I neglected myself. I was busy taking care of children, helping in my church, and volunteering with several different groups but these were not nurturing to me or print into my life they were pouring out instead. I was drying up; burning out. I was feeling overwhelmed, becoming impatient and irritable with the children, and fighting depression. I sought help through counseling.
Through counseling I learned that just as I reached out and nurtured others I needed to nurture myself. My counselor encouraged me to begin to cut things out of my schedule. To step back from my volunteer activities in order to find myself again and to start writing, getting together with friends and find hobbies I enjoyed. As I followed her advice, I found my irritation subsiding and my joy returning. I spent time with friends without feeling like I’m taking away from my family. I set aside time each day to write and find it very therapeutic! I even get together once a week to write with a writer’s group called Scribes Oasis and don’t feel a bit guilty for that “me time.” In fact, this past Friday night I participated in an all night writing retreat with Scribes Oasis. At one time I would have felt selfish for taking that time away but now I see it for what it is; a way to nurture and grow a gift the Lord has given me.
What about you? What are some things you can implement in your life to care for yourself? Self care is not selfish. Self care is what makes you a better mother, father, wife, husband, and friend. It’s a way to refill your fountain so you can pour out and better nurture and serve others. We need to take care of ourselves before we help those around us. In order to love our neighbor as ourselves we need to love and care for ourselves. Take time today to make a plan for how you will love and nurture yourself this week and in the coming year.