Take good care of yourself.
I wonder how many times I heard that phrase as I hacked and coughed my way into 2018.
I suspect people were hoping I would rest, drink lots of fluids, slow the pace of life, and maybe eat some homemade chicken noodle soup, all reasonable responses to being sick. All ways to take good care.
But what about when I’m not sick? Is there room for this sentiment in everyday life?
I believe it’s now called self-care and it is actually big business. Do a Google search of the term and you’ll be flooded with sites like: “45 Simple Self-Care Practices for a Healthy Body, Mind, and Soul”; “Coping and Self-care” and a roster of products designed to pamper oneself beyond comprehension.
I suspect there are many good tips to be found in such a search and I’m certainly not opposed to a hot, relaxing bath on a cold winter night. But is that the answer to self-care? Is it really about pampering, treating, and escaping?
Recently I bumped into an article by Brianna Wiest with a fresh take on this topic. She proposes:
Self-care is often a very unbeautiful thing …. It is often doing the ugliest thing that you have to do, like sweat through another workout or tell a toxic friend you don’t want to see them anymore or get a second job so you can have a savings account or figure out a way to accept yourself so that you’re not constantly exhausted from trying to be everything, all the time and then needing to take deliberate, mandated breaks from living to do basic things like drop some oil into a bath and read Marie Claire and turn your phone off for the day.”
She continues with a definition that resonates deeply with me. “True self-care is not salt baths and chocolate cake, it is making the choice to build a life you don’t need to regularly escape from.”
Building a life you don’t need to regularly escape from. Making the choice to build that life.
Perhaps this sentiment strikes a chord with me because of my passion for living with healthy boundaries. There is similarity between self-care and living a life with boundaries in that both include choices I have: to say yes or no; to speak the truth in love or avoid conflict; to build quiet space into each day or run wildly from dawn to dusk.
I do get to choose. Not everything, of course, because “life happens,” but I have to take responsibility for who I am and how I live.
So I ask, am I building a life with enough margin to accommodate the daily “unexpecteds” or will a surprise meeting derail me? Do I intentionally set aside time for quiet reflection, prayer, and reading or is the treadmill moving too quickly?
Is the treadmill moving at all? Have I built regular exercise into my routine along with healthy eating habits? Do I foster meaningful relationships, cultivate community and share joys and burdens with others? Are play and fun a habit?
As I generated this list of self check-in questions, I recognize how six weeks of sickness has thrown me off course in some areas which, in the name of “taking good care of myself,” is reasonable. However, the choice to get back on track is now mine.
And it’s hard work!
But it’s worth establishing that life from which I didn’t need or want to escape. My sore muscles, from the gym, remind me that strength can, and will return. Re-connecting with friends – now that fear of spreading “the plague” is gone – nourishes my soul.
I’m grateful that the author of this blog took time to sit and write. It’s been a timely reminder for me to take up my life and, by God’s grace, live it fully.
With love and gratitude,
In The Midst