Newsletter 580 – Taking Care of Yourself

self-care 1Here in the Northern Hemisphere, many people are planning their summer vacations. This group does not include people who are unable to take vacations or others, like me, who rarely bother to pull away from their regular work or routines. I’m not proud of this, and I shouldn’t be, according to an article by Siang Yan Tan and Melissa Castillo in the Journal of Psychology and Christianity (Spring 2014).

Writing to counselors, these authors argue that self-care (including vacations) is crucial for the well-being and effectiveness of care-givers and the people we try to help. We “must not be so self-sufficient, independent, and prideful to think that we can care for others and ourselves in our own strength.” It is self-delusion to conclude that self-care is never needed or is selfish pampering. Even Jesus took regular breaks.

Tan and Castillo list a number of strategies that are basic and well known to most leaders and therapists. They include getting rest and exercise, spending time with family and people who give support, and taking periodic breaks. But listing self-care strategies is not the same as practicing them or taking them seriously. There is evidence that leaders, counselors, and pastors often ignore, explain away, or find spiritual arguments to dismiss the need for self-care. Some corporate, academic, or church cultures foster the implicit attitude that people who are genuinely dedicated to their work have no time or need to get distracted with self-care. Of course this view is unhealthy and ultimately destructive for leaders and their followers or clients. Eventually, physical, emotional, spiritual or career collapse intervenes as a wake-up call to slow down.

How do we move ourselves or others to do something about their self-care? Pressure from others, new-year’s resolutions, or intellectual arguments rarely change behavior. But regular contact with strong support systems is effective. That includes setting boundaries and connecting with people who energize rather than drain us. Also effective are activities completely disconnected from work: music, involvement with nature, spiritual reflection, hobbies, sports, and vacations without cell phones or computers. Nobody can be forced into self-care but we either take time away voluntarily or face the physical and other consequences.

How do you take care of yourself or encourage others to do the same? Please comment.

6 Comments

  1. This article blessed my soul. It could not be more timely and well-said! This is just exactly what I have on my heart and it is actually my belief that this subject is one that needs more attention. I am playing with the idea to write a book about self care for councellors and coaches, because especially spiritual workers use a defence mechanism i would like to call ” spiritualizing” to deny the reality and necessicity of self care. Should self care not be practised the way is paved for distress, burnout and eventually even clinical depression. This subject lies heavy on my heart.

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  2. I coach doctors, primarily, and one of the biggest obstacles for taking time away for them is the chaos/mountain of work they face when they return. I hear that difficult issue, over and over. (If I weren’t so busy myself, I’d take a day or two off to think about it.) 🙂

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  3. I had a recent event in my life where if I had not been conscious of self care I would not have survived it as well as I did. How did i do that? I constantly asked myself what would I suggest to my clients at a time like this and tried to do that. The biggest thing is knowing and being willing to ask for help. I am glad I took the approach I did and of course the help I asked for was physical, psychological, emotional and spiritual and I needed all of it. Thanks Gary for the reminder of the importance of this.

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  4. I was so glad to read this post. I have been taking what I call an unplugged weekend, Fri- Sunday once a month for almost a year now. I have found that over the year, I get a great deal more done without the feeling of being overwhelmed or burn out. I plan to continue this practice in the future.

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  5. If anyone believes they do not need down time, they are kidding themselves. God rested on the seventh day.

    We need to put the big rocks in first. Then put enough smaller stuff around them so it is really difficult to get them out without emptying the jar.

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  6. Thanks to all of you for your posts. I read them with great interest and, to be honest, they spoke to me. How interesting, maybe sad, that I can easily write about this but I have so much difficulty applying it.
    I have a close friend who will turn 40 this year and celebrate his 15th wedding anniversary. He and his wife have planned a big trip to Italy. My wife and I will also reach a significant anniversary soon and I will bump into the next decade of my life soon. But we have nothing planned, except maybe taking the day off. It is easier to let things like this slide by rather than making events like these a cause for a break. I need to reread and apply my own newsletter! Thanks for your reminders about this.

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