There is a topic that comes up a great deal in recovery – it’s called self-care. As I talk to women I work with about their own self-care, often I get the deer in the headlights look from them. It’s a foreign concept to many.
Self-care is an essential yet unknown and unexperienced part of a healthy life for lots of people. For those seeking healing, there has to be intentional work on caring for oneself. There are many reasons that we have difficulty understanding and prioritizing self-care in our lives.
A very common reason is the messages we receive from other people and our culture in general. We begin to believe messages such as “pull up your boot-straps and move on” or “it’s a weakness to need anything”, or “it’s selfish or frivolous to focus on my needs”.
The truth is that God created us with needs and He actually wants us to be aware of what they are and how to meet those needs. When we take time to care for ourselves, we speak these messages over ourselves and our needs – “ you have value”, “you have worth”, “your needs are important”, “you matter”.
When we stop to take time for our needs, we align our value with what God already says, thinks, and feels about us. Not only for this reason is self-care important, but also for those we are in relationships with. If we are caring well for ourselves, we have more to offer those around us. This is a secondary reason to be diligent in our attempts to care for ourselves.
So, what does self-care look like in our lives? How do we do it? Where do we even begin? These are some of the questions I hear regularly. There is no quick answer to these questions. There is much to think about when it comes to caring for ourselves and our needs.
I want to share some thoughts and challenges for us all in this area of self-care. Many of the women I counsel have become quite accustomed to my asking them “what do you have planned for later today?” on their way out of a session.
This is not about me being nosey or making small talk. As women are on a healing journey, it is imperative that they learn how to care for themselves. It’s especially important on days when they come for counseling or do some intentional and difficult work on their healing.
I challenge women to have an activity planned for these days that is restful, pleasurable, enjoyable, refueling, energizing, or they feel passionate about. I call them “soul food” activities. The only guidelines are that they are healthy (meaning not old or destructive coping activities) and that they are enjoyable – not obligatory.
So many women have difficulty even identifying what those activities would be! Often, the first assignment they are given is to begin a list of things they know or think they might enjoy doing. If they are unsure, then they are to come up with a list of activities they are willing to try and discover what things they enjoy from that list.
So often, women aren’t self-aware in this area because of abuse and neglect. If someone grows up without people around them giving them permission or encouraging them to do things they enjoy, they won’t learn the value of self-care. If they haven’t experienced others caring for them, they learn it isn’t important to care for themselves either.
In their healing journey, they now have to learn those things they didn’t learn as children. What are those activities for you? I challenge you to think about how you could incorporate more “soul-food” activities in your plan for self-care.
For me personally, the list includes calling a friend for coffee and a conversation, snuggling up and watching a sappy movie, doing a craft, or sitting outside reading a good book.
In our world, there is a great temptation to feel guilt about taking the time to do these things. But if you see that engaging with your soul food activities as a way to speak value and worth over yourself in the unique and special way God has created you, I think you will begin to see that these activities are in line with how God sees you and values you. Take time to care for yourself today.
Watch for upcoming articles about other ways to care for yourself!