Today, my father is in surgery. It’s his second surgery in two months and his sixth in five years. The family has gathered from various points on the East Coast to support him, and frankly, we’re exhausted. As I sit writing this in the hospital waiting room, I am asking myself and God, “What does self-care look like in this season of life?”
You might consider asking yourself that question as well. It is an important question to consider if we hope to serve our clients well.
Parker Palmer observes:
Self-care is never a selfish act — it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer to others. Anytime we can listen to true self and give it the care it requires, we do so not only for ourselves, but for the many others whose lives we touch.
So, what is self-care?
What is Self-Care?
By its very definition, self-care must be defined by the individual coach. But generally speaking, most would agree that:
Self-Care includes the actions individuals and carers (caregivers) take for themselves, their children, their families and others to stay fit and maintain good physical and mental health; meet social and psychological needs; prevent illness or accidents; care for minor ailments and long-term conditions; and maintain health and wellbeing after acute illness or discharge from hospital. (UK Department of Health, 2005)
What steps do you need to take to maintain good physical, mental, and relational health?
Creating a Self-Care Plan
When creating your self-care plan, follow these few simple steps to begin:
Step 1: Write down what nurtures your soul and fills you with delight.
What makes your heart sing? Don’t censor yourself. For me, that includes reading, writing, spending time in nature, spending time with animals, talking with close friends, taking a Pilates class, and sipping gourmet coffee. Your list might include taking a painting class, cooking, or any number of other possibilities. List them all. You can always prune your list later.
Step 2: Write down what drains you, i.e., activities, people, and places that you need to avoid.
Some things just suck the life out of me, and I am intentional about limiting or avoiding them — such as critical people, shopping malls, and living beyond my limits. What things impact you negatively? How can you reduce or eliminate those things and focus your energy on what matters most?
Step 3: Write down any circumstances outside of your control.
Are you caring for aging parents? A special needs child? Do you live with chronic pain or illness? As someone who lives with chronic illness, I must manage it well, especially if I’m carrying a full client load. That means 7-8 hours of sleep a night, proper nutrition, regular exercise, and massage. What about you?
Step 4: Recognize you’re human and adjust as life happens.
Avoid perfectionism. If you expect to follow your plan without fail, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. Life happens. And when it does, just reassess and adjust. Listen to your heart’s desires and God when discerning what adjustments you need to make.
Remember, self-care is never selfish. It boils down to stewardship, to caring for what God has entrusted to us — our lives, our health, and our energy — so we might expend it for God’s glory.
What does self-care look like for you? Share your answers in the comments section below.