So as I’m sure you’re all aware, it’s midterms right now. I’m actually blissfully working an internship this semester, and so I’m not studying like a maniac, but I know all my friends are, and I’m pretty busy myself. These last few weeks, as the year is waning and we’re all ramping up our fall activities and commitments are coming thick and fast, it’s been tough for me (and from what I hear, many of my friends and coworkers) to strike a good balance. It’s all too common in this culture that no matter how hard we try, we’re in over our heads, we’re overworked, we’re stressed, and we’re exhausted. I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t feel like the abundant life that Jesus promises us in John 10:10!
But the good news is that Jesus doesn’t make any promises that he doesn’t keep – he just expects us to do a little something on our end to receive his gifts. In the case of abundant life, there are a few key aspects, and one of them is particularly easy to lose sight of this time of year. The trendy term that we hear a lot is “self-care,” but the principle is an old Biblical one: taking time for yourself, to keep yourself, rested, peaceful, and open to God. When we’re running ourselves ragged, when every minute of every day is full of tasks and responsibilities, when we don’t take any time to be restful and quiet, often times our spiritual lives suffer. To that end, I want to share with you a few truths and a few suggestions on how you can take great care of yourself when you’re tight on time and feeling the strain of your 21st century life.
Self care encompasses three areas: body, mind, and spirit.
You’ve probably heard some pop psychologist talk about how you’re divided into a body, a mind, and a spirit, and while that’s not the whole truth, there is something to it. You have a physical body with demands like sleep, food, rest, exercise, and fresh air. You have a mind that needs intellectual challenges, problems to solve, music to entertain. Finally, you have a soul, with a deep longing for connection to God and to other created beings. I firmly believe that you have to engage each of these aspects of yourself every single day. I think it’s really key to do something each day for your body, your mind, and your spirit.
Self care isn’t selfish.
If you’re like most people, you’ve heard a lot about how kids, particularly college kids, are really selfish these days, and they need to think about someone else for a change. But self care, taking the time and effort to be a good steward of the body, mind, and spirit that God has blessed you with, isn’t selfish! Now, it might be a little special to spend all weekend, every weekend at the spa, and never call your parents or volunteer. But it’s critical that you make investments in your emotional, physical, spiritual, psychological, and intellectual health. But every day, you need to take a little time to invest in yourself, even if on your busy days you can only snatch a few moments. After all, you can’t pour from an empty pitcher. If you’re overcommitted and struggling to find margin in your life, you’re not going to be able to pour into those around you like you would if you were feeling more peaceful within yourself.
Self care doesn’t have to be time-consuming, expensive, or elaborate.
There’s probably about a thousand songs that remind us that “it’s the little things in life that mean the most.” This couldn’t be more true than with self care! Even if you have three tests, a grandma in the hospital, and a paper to write on a given day, I guarantee that taking 15 minutes to drink a cup of tea, meditate, or do pushups, will make a world of difference. When you have a little more time, enjoying a walk in nature is incredibly soothing. It’s not about having some complex ritual or expensive spa treatments or spending all your time on yourself, it’s about having a little margin in your life where you can just do things because they’re good for you as a person, not because they need to be done to advance your career or fulfill your responsibilities.
So that’s my two cents on self care, in a nutshell (after all, why should read a lengthy blog post when you could be self-caring?). Following is a list of suggestions of quick, easy, inexpensive or free ways to give yourself a little TLC that are field-tested and approved by yours truly. Some of them obviously lean towards serving one realm of the individual – for instance, massaging your feet is largely physical. Others are hard to divide into one category, like yoga, which is physical, mental, and even spiritual. Some can be done in 90 seconds, others can take all day – it’s all about what helps you be happier, healthier, and more loving and open to those around you and the One who created you.
Field-tested self care ideas:
- Drink a cup of tea (outside if possible!)
- Pet an animal
- Take 10 deep breaths
- Do the longest plank you can hold
- Write down the names of 5 people you love, and say a prayer of thanks for each of them
- Smell a flower, a fruit, a pet – something natural and organic
- Rub your feet (there are great YouTube tutorials on how to really work your fascia)
- Do yoga – whether it’s a two-minute downward facing dog or a 90-minute pretzel session
- Write down as many things as you can think of that you’re grateful for
- Eat a healthy snack that you like
- Drink more water
- Watch a show that you really love, and stretch while you enjoy it
- Take a long, hot bath or shower
- Paint your nails
- Read a poem
- Write a poem
- Draw a picture of something that makes you happy
- Hug a stuffed animal
- Spend some time in the sun
- Bake cookies or muffins
- Read a classic
- Give yourself a facial (don’t have a fancy organic clay? Fear not, there are only 15 million DIY face masks you can make with $0.75 and 10 minutes)
- Jump in a puddle
- Look at pictures of cute animals
- Pray (see my list of suggestions on times to squeeze extra talk-time with the Father here)
What do you do when you really need some relaxation, rejuvenation, or invigoration?