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Self-Care for the Stretched-Thin

What comes to mind when you hear the term self-care? Indulgent spa treatment? A night out? Treating yourself? Does it make you feel additionally burdened to figure out a way to work this type of self-care into your life? We all know self-care is vital, but some seasons of life are simply too draining and difficult to accommodate any decadence. We’ve all been there. But what happens when these seasons stretch into months or even years of long-suffering and perseverance? How could self-care feel anything but absurd when you’re barely keeping your head above water?

Are you in the middle of a long, lonely, high-stress parenting journey? Are you stretched-thin by grief or chronic health challenges in the midst of motherhood? Settle in as I consider opportunities to be gentle with yourself as we rethink self-care.

This topic was brought to mind as I was working through a recent Bible study on the life of King Solomon. Last week’s reading focused on the sections of 1 Kings and 2 Chronicles that describe the process of Solomon building the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem. These chapters share details of the intricate design of the temple and its decor, from the solid foundation to the opulent interior design elements. The temple was precious and revered. As I worked through the study, my thoughts kept straying to the notion of my physical body as a temple. There are scripture references that describe our bodies as temples, but no matter your belief system, I think we can agree that our bodies are sacred and meant to be cared for. I began to feel convicted that I do not take care of myself in a way that properly reflects my sacredness. I confess: I am not naturally good at self-care. I do not have the time or resources for self-indulgent treats or even the option to get more rest. So if your life circumstances feel equally demanding, try a couple of these suggestions. When you feel overwhelmed, these are small things you can do to honor yourself and your limits. And they are highly effective options for self-care.

Phone a Friend

Identify a trusted loved one to call when you need to chat. Texting works, too, though I am a verbal processor and often need to engage in actual conversation to help me unload a particular stressor. Because of the time commitment this option requires, I usually need to schedule phone calls into my calendar. But the connection is worth it. Another option for working through something that’s weighing on your mind is journaling, which can be done anywhere, anytime.

Schedule that Appointment

Are there any medical appointments that you are overdue on scheduling? Can I convince you to pick up the phone right now and call to get it scheduled? It’s true that as women we will put ourselves at the end of the list in this area, and the timing is never ideal. I understand how easy it is to let this one slide. And I acknowledge that I’m speaking as someone who has access to preventive healthcare. But if it would serve to ease your mind, would you make the phone call? This one is important. And once it is scheduled, it won’t be hanging over your head any longer.

Step Outside

Just a few minutes of fresh air, sights, and sounds of nature, and stretching will do you good. If you can work in a quick, brisk walk, even better. Enjoying the warmth of the sun is a bonus.

Practice Gratitude

Nothing extravagant, just take a few moments to jot down three things you are grateful for. Use the voice memo feature on your phone to record your thoughts, if you don’t feel like typing or writing.

Breathe…Pray

These can be done in conjunction with all of the above and with each other. There are times I need to be reminded to inhale and exhale, and I know I’m not alone. Sometimes I schedule a reminder and a timer to breathe deeply. And I can work in simple one-word prayers while breathing. These breath prayers serve as a wonderful calming technique.

Say No

This one is weighty and probably deserves a post of its own. But sometimes we need to draw clear boundaries in order to care for ourselves. I am learning how to do this. It is not easy. I am high-functioning, over-responsible, and it pains me to disappoint others. But my time, energy, and physical capabilities are limited. I need to be disciplined about recognizing what drains me and honoring my limits. Especially when you are stretched-thin, you have permission to draw boundaries and say no.

Hopefully one or two of these strategies seem manageable for you. The over-arching theme of this style of self-care is to simply be kind to yourself. Take care of yourself. Honor your body as the temple of the Lord would be honored. You are worth it.

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2 Responses to Self-Care for the Stretched-Thin

  1. Mary
    Mary May 20, 2019 at 11:20 pm #

    Yes! Encouraging!

  2. Avatar
    Susie Rearick May 23, 2019 at 8:04 am #

    Amy, thanks so much for sharing this beautifully written and helpful post, I can’t even comprehend how busy you are, but it helps to know that if you can do it, I have no reason to complain with my one special needs child. I found out recently that we both go to Be Hair Now! My stylist Wendy mentioned a woman who has five internationally adopted children (I often talk to her about Laynie’s issues), I said ‘hey, I know her!’ Since then I’ve been thinking a lot about you and wondering how you’ve been doing. I would love to get together and talk, if that’s even a possibility for you. If it would be easier if I came to you with coffee in tow, just let me know! Blessings to you and your beautiful family!

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