I believe it is safe to say most of us are stressed and weary. We want the chaos and uncertainty to go away but there is no end in sight. In my last blog I talked mostly about the mindset that will help us weather the storm, but this time I want to address some practical things we can do to take care of ourselves.
Self-talk: The stories we make up in our minds drive our experiences. Are you often angry? Anxious? Hopeless? Pay attention to the things you are telling yourself. Philippians 4:8 gives us some useful direction:
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.
Schedule: We need to make self-care at least as much of a priority as our other obligations. I once worshiped in a church where the pastor told us, “Sometimes when you call and I tell you I already have something scheduled, it’s because I have scheduled time for myself or my family. If I did not do this, you all would take up all of my time!!” Let me just say he was not smiling as he said this.
I was impressed! This guy understood boundaries even before the word boundaries became popular! I now put just about everything on my calendar.
Prioritize: Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People is a must-read. One of the seven habits is to put first things first. Be careful not to overwork and take frequent breaks. Covey says effective people also “sharpen the saw”, meaning they intentionally practice self-care:
Exercise: Research is very clear on the fact that moving our bodies helps us resist anxiety and depression. Make it a priority.
Good Nutrition: What we eat and drink affects our mental health. Make healthy choices.
Sleep: We cannot survive without sleep. Adequate sleep improves mood, concentration, productivity, and our ability to maintain a healthy weight. If you are having trouble sleeping, research sleep hygiene.
Connection: Prioritize time with family and friends. We are designed for relationship. Part of the stress we feel is the lack of that connection. Whether you are comfortable with phone calls and zoom only, or face-to-face, try to connect with friends and family.
Unplug: There has been increasing attention to the addictive nature of social media, endless news cycles, and bottomless television. The definition of addiction is the compulsive use of something despite negative consequences. Hours and hours of watching the news and viewing social media can make people angry, anxious, and depressed. It shapes our minds and allows our culture to sink its hooks into us.
We are instructed to renew our minds by focusing on the things of God.
Do not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is his good, pleasing, and perfect will. Romans 12:2.
I am not talking about being oblivious to current events, rather being careful what we allow to shape us, and intentionally taking regular breaks from the constant chatter of our culture.
Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. Colossians 3:2
Hobbies: Find something you like to do just for the joy it gives you.
Get outside: Recently I had the pleasure of traveling through Denali National Park. We met the bus before 6 am and returned at 7:30 pm. Time flew by as we focused on spotting a grizzly bear, moose, Dall sheep, caribou, and Mt. Denali itself. It was so refreshing to forget about ourselves for nearly 14 hours, and focus on the beauty of God’s spectacular handiwork!
Nature puts things in proper perspective. It fosters humility and reminds us of who God is. At the base of those magnificent mountains, we see how small we are and how big God is. We recognize that we are only a part of a creation that is lavish in its variety and complexity. In nature we find hidden treasures-tenacious alpine flowers, for example, blowing in the frigid breeze-which speaks to the excruciating detail God pours into this world.
Jesus addressed evidence of God’s care and attention to even the smallest detail in Matthew 6:25-34.
“Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? 28“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you-you of little faith? 31So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.