The other day, I sat down at the kitchen table and did something I haven’t done in probably close to a year. Baby Girl was down for a nap, the Oldest was still at school, and the Middle was sitting with me at the table working with some play dough. I sat with a canvas pad and some Sharpies and drew (or doodled, whatever you want to call it) for a few minutes.
There were a million other tasks I could have been doing at that moment, but one of the things I’ve really tried to focus on these past couple of months, is slowing down and doing things that bring me joy and give me energy.
I’ve talked about the importance of self-care, and heaven knows we need it. But as I’ve discovered this past year, self-care is more than just exercising, eating well, and getting a hair cut once in a while. Those things are important and we should do them. Self-care is also about surrounding yourself with people and things that give you energy and reduce your stress. You have enough going on that zaps your energy and leaves you stressed, why try and incorporate more of that?
This is a lesson I’m still learning, but I’d like to share some of my favorite, perhaps unexpected ways of taking care of yourself.
I’m talking to you, caregivers, people-pleasers, control freaks, and perfectionists. (Yes, I fall into just about all of those categories – no judgement.) Time to face the music. One of the biggest ways we can take care of ourselves and protect our time and health is just saying NO.
I get it. That tiny word is often impossible to say. Whether it’s because you have a servant’s heart and genuinely wish to help others, or you have control issues and are afraid no one will do it as well as you can, we can’t seem to say no. I tend to fall into the latter category. It’s very difficult for me to say no to something (or to myself) and let someone else take over. But once we give ourselves permission to say no, we get to say yes to the things that are truly important to us!
Now, if you genuinely love to help others and give of your time, then do it! That’s a wonderful gift of the Holy Spirit and I would never suggest you stop completely. I just want to encourage you to remember that you don’t have to do EVERYTHING. Give and serve when you can, but say no without guilt to the things you can’t do.
Find a Hobby that Gets You in the Zone
The first time I experienced the “zone” was in high school. I was sitting in art class, trying to draw a little elephant figurine. The class was quiet, except for a little Enya softly playing in the background. As I focused on my task, I suddenly realized that I wasn’t preoccupied with something else. I wasn’t thinking about anything, or talking to my neighbor, or even watching the clock. I was completely engaged in the task at hand, and it was a very relaxing and peaceful moment. It was then I realized how soothing drawing was for me.
I call that the “zone,” being totally engaged in whatever task you are completing. It’s different for everyone, but anything that keeps your mind quiet and draws all of your focus is a hobby that gets you in the zone. What task or job or hobby, when you sit down to do it, draws all of your focus, and leaves your mind blank? Maybe it’s gardening or crocheting. Perhaps it’s needlepoint or baking. Maybe it’s sewing or making cards or cleaning. It doesn’t matter. You don’t even have to be particularly great at it, as long as it brings your joy and energy.
You can have plenty of hobbies that don’t do this. For example, I love running and reading, neither of which allow me to stop thinking and just focus on the moment. Running is when I do ALL of my thinking. Some things that have gotten me in the zone are drawing (or painting), swimming, and painting my nails. Find what works for you and make some time for it.
Give Yourself Introvert (or Extrovert) Time
I’m an introvert by nature, yet I’m constantly surrounded by people. Now, I like people. I like engaging and interacting with people. In fact, I think life would be fairly boring if I didn’t get to be around people.
But I need down time. If you’re introverted like me, you might discover that you also get exhausted if you don’t get your alone time. I deliberately put time in my day where I can be alone and not have to talk to anyone, which is often why I will get up and hour or 2 before anyone else in the house. (Yes, sometimes that means I’m up at 4 am to have an hour to myself before I run or start my day.) That might not work for you and that’s ok. Find what does.
On the flip side, if you need interaction with people, then you need to give yourself some. Remember, it’s about surrounding yourself with what gives you energy.
Spend Time Outside
I cannot emphasis enough how much I believe in the power of outside. I always feel better after time spent outside, whether I was running, working in the yard, or just playing with my kids. I’m pretty sure God made such an amazing creation so that we would spend time in it and enjoy it.
Most of us spend far too much time indoors, whether because of our jobs or weather conditions or whatever. Start making outside time a priority. The benefits are fantastic: lifts the mood, helps your sleep, lowers stress levels, and helps with depression. (Bonus points if you go barefoot.)
Summer is just around the corner, and I fully intend to take advantages of the wonderfully hot weather every day.
Whether it’s making time to go outside or pursing a long-lost hobby, try some of these unexpected methods of self-care. You’ll find that once you make time for things that give you energy, you’ll be better prepared to love and serve those around you.