With love, by Kristianna.
Self-Care includes any intentional actions you take to care for your physical, mental and emotional health.
I wish that I could sit down with each of you and have a frank conversation over a hot cup of tea. I want to hear about your lives, your hearts, your joys and your pains. I want to validate where you are and encourage you that YOU are worth taking the time to care for! I know how each of you gives to those around you. I also know the feeling of being depleted.
I am still in the middle of my own journey/process of emotional health. I can’t speak to any of you from a place of amazing maturity or profound wisdom, but I can speak from a place of confidence. I am CERTAIN that taking the time to learn Self-Care is one of the most important things that we can do for ourselves, our marriages, our children, our careers, and every relationship that we have.
I want to share with you a little piece of my process, a few of the things that I’ve learned along this very long road of discovery.
The first place to start is understanding what Self-Care is going to look like for you. So what do you look like? There are as many different kinds of people as there are grains of sand on the beach. (Hmm. Beach.)
Do you know what you need and how to get what you need?
I’ll tell you some things that I need and maybe that will help you. I need to stick to my dietary plan because, though I can function through foggy brain, itching skin, and crazy poop, I shouldn’t have to. I need to exercise and be outside. I need to dance and sing. I need to journal, talk to Jesus, process my emotions. I need a personal day of rest. I need to talk to a counselor about things I don’t know how to process.
If you’ll notice, my list includes things that care for my physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual health.
So, I know I need to stick to my dietary plan because the foggy brain and crazy poop are helpful at reminding me that all is not well in my digestive system.
But what are the symptoms that brought me to the conclusion that I need to spend time outside?
Can we talk about Self-awareness? (The conscious knowledge of one's own character, feelings, motives, and desires.) In order to figure out what we need, we are going to have to grow our Self-awareness. All of us can see that to care for yourself you have to know what you need. To know what you need you have to know what’s lacking. To know what’s lacking you have to be able to understand the symptoms, like crazy poop, that are manifesting themselves. And, ultimately, you have to be able to see the symptoms as symptoms of something out-of-alignment, and not accept them as unchangeable things about your life.
Oh sweet women, that is probably the hardest thing of all. Just look at my own life! For most people, it's easy to recognize intestinal problems as 'not normal' but I was a teenager before I realized that what was normal to me was actually very not-normal and a really awful way to live.
So maybe this is the perfect time to get a little quiet and ask yourself, what's the thing in your life that you've grown so used to that you think it's supposed to be there?
If you have trouble recognizing what you need, there are a lot of wonderful ways that you can begin to figure it out. One thing that has always helped me is a simple exercise. Take some quiet space and write down the circumstances of your life, physical and emotional, and ask yourself, “If an outside observer read this description, what would they think?”
You can always ask a trusted friend to dialogue with you. Talk to a counselor. Talk to people in your community who are safe. And, if it feels safe enough, talk to Jesus about all of this.
The second thing that I want to share is that you might not be able to do this process by yourself! It is OK to need help!
If you are able to make a list of all of the working pieces of your life and it’s sixteen pages long, or only one, but reading it makes you cry or you immediately start justifying/defending everything in that description and how you can’t possibly change/eliminate anything or extricate yourself from draining/toxic relationships/circumstances, this is probably a good indicator that you might not be able to evaluate your life. (Most of us can’t. They’re our freaking lives. We feel strongly about them!)
It’s important to note that there are seasons of intense demand in which there are elements that are absolutely out of your control and you can do nothing to change the circumstances. (Like after you have a baby or when tragedy strikes.) But those seasons don’t excuse us from practicing Self-care; if anything, they necessitate that we must!
The last thing I want to say is that sometimes, even when we can step back and look analytically at our lives, we still can’t manage to take care of ourselves. A lot of us wind up in this boat!
We don’t take care of ourselves because our lives are busy, because we came from families that didn’t teach us how, because our partners are non-supportive, because we’re mothers of small children, because we’re always taking care of someone else, because we don’t believe we’re worthy of care, or maybe we honestly have no idea that how we live isn’t “just the way life is.” Maybe we don't recognize toxic things as being toxic. Maybe we have no grid for self-nurture.
“I’m fine. I’ll figure it out. I’ll soldier through. I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” Is this your inner monologue, your inner self-justification? Or is it, “I couldn’t possibly take time for myself. My xyz needs that space more then I do. Other women have more on their plates and they can manage it. I’d feel guilty and/or selfish if I took time for myself. It’s fine, you can have the bigger piece of chicken.”
Ladies, I come from a family of strong, high-functioning women. I don’t come from a family system that had the luxury of Self-Care. Maybe hardest of all, my mother wasn’t cared for by my father so how could she care for herself? But we’re tough. We’re going to grit our teeth and make it happen for the people who don’t have the cajones to.
And in taking on that identity we forfeit the necessity of meeting our own needs.
I have two beautiful little girls. Right now they’re only 2 and 5 but I know that they’re looking at me and learning what it means to be a woman. (That’s equally parts amazing and terrifying, right?) When I think about Self-Care in relation to my daughters, I tend to freak-out.
I don’t want my daughters to grow up feeling like they carry the weight of the world until they finally hit the point where their lives break apart, their coping mechanisms stop working, their dysfunctional relationships draining the life out of them, suppressed anxiety wreaking havoc on their bodies. BUT, if I want my daughters to have a shot at something else then I’m going to have to learn a different way of Being, myself.
IS THAT TERRIFYING FOR ANY OF YOU?
This is the moment when I give you another cup of tea and possibly several donuts.
Beautiful women, when I come to this moment and my emotions surge because I want something healthier to impart to my daughters, my heart is quieted by the presence of the Lord. He meets me in that place of pain and reminds me that He is WITH me. He is WITH my daughters. He reminds me that no matter WHAT kind of home we grow up in or WHAT the circumstances of our lives have been, our spirits can encounter Him and receive healing and our brains can change and grow and learn new things.
There’s hope for each and every one of us.
The first step is always surrendering. And, like Hannah from Episode Eight of the podcast said, honesty may be the place that you start at.
Emotional health is a journey. We’re not going to figure it out tomorrow. We’re not going to magically acquire all of the skills that we’re lacking. Our wounds and broken places aren't going to heal on a time-table. We need to accept where we are and surrender what we cannot change or control. It’s ok to be exactly where you are, right now, at this moment in time.
There are people out there that can help you and me as we’re working to grow our self-awareness and figure out this whole Self-Care thing. And, above all else, Immanuel is the God with us; He’s ever present in time of need (which is always.) He is more committed to our healing, our restoration, our growth, our maturity, then we ever will be! It brings Him incredible, fathomless joy to be with us in the process. He is ALWAYS glad to be with you. He ALWAYS has tenderness for your weakness, for your hurty places, as a dear friend of mine likes to say. There’s a Safe Place for all of us to journey. My prayer for each and every one of you is that you find it.
BE HONEST AND GIVE YOURSELF COMPASSION.