By Rod Campbell, MAMFT, LPC-S
Pathways Professional Counseling
In my work with families I routinely come across moms and dads who are exhausted, burning the candle at both ends as well as in the middle, who give of themselves unselfishly in service to children, their churches and their extended families.
For these parents the day is often a blur of morning chaos, demanding jobs and evenings of homework, mealtime and extracurricular activities.
When I speak with these families about the importance of self-care, they often think I am talking about pampering themselves instead of taking care of their children. I contend parents must be capable of taking care of themselves in order to take care of their children.
Simply put, self-care is about being healthy physically, spiritually and emotionally.
Below are some specific tips to help you take better care of yourself.
Be certain you are getting 20–30 minutes of daily exercise. Walking or stretching is a good way to start but your doctor can help you determine your body’s capabilities. Both our bodies and brains work much better if we get regular exercise, so choose a time each day for exercise, write it on your calendar and stick to your schedule.
Use the calendar to schedule your sleep too. Write down your daily wake-up time, then count backwards eight hours. Then subtract one more hour to find your “start getting ready for bed” time. Use this hour to prepare for bed so you’ll be in bed and ready to get a good night’s sleep.
Next take a hard look at how you eat. One of the most important lessons I ever learned is to “eat for fuel, not for fun.” A disciplined diet is a difficult thing to do consistently, but it is necessary to keep us properly fueled and not riding the ups and downs of wildly fluctuating energy levels that comes from repeated doses of sugar and caffeine.
Our most important connections are our connections with God and with His people.
There is no substitute for consistent, intentional and protected time in personal Bible study. This is another item that must be specifically planned on your calendar.
Likewise, your calendar needs to contain regularly scheduled intentional time of meaningful interaction with other disciples. This can take the form of small group Bible studies, discipleship groups, accountability partners or prayer groups — but no matter what they are called, they are integral to the health of the believer.
We all need something that helps charge our batteries — something we look forward to and participate in because it offers us opportunities for challenge and self-improvement as individuals. This can be a meaningful hobby, an artistic expression, some form of competition or other activity in which we take part that is not centered so much around entertainment as it is nourishment.
Stress management means not just handling the stress we have, but also being ruthless in cutting out unnecessary stress from our lives. I see people on an almost daily basis who are involved in unhealthy relationships, who have accepted the burden of someone else’s responsibilities or who are substantially overloaded with “good” obligations.
We must recognize the very limited number of hours per day we have and prioritize well so we can accomplish those things that are most important to us.
Finally, we need to be certain we have attended to any old or recent emotional wounds that might keep us from operating at our full potential. Simply ignoring a history of abuse or neglect, past trauma, anxiety, depression or other significant emotional stress can radically lower our effectiveness, especially in terms of being healthy parents, spouses and coworkers.
Give this intentional approach to self-care a shot for a couple of weeks. Schedule times for sleep, exercise, Bible study and fun with your spouse, children and fellow believers — then write it all down on a real calendar.
I promise you’ll feel better, and I’m pretty sure you’ll find that you enjoy your life more as well.
EDITOR’S NOTE — Faith & Family is a monthly look at important spiritual, cultural and relational issues facing today’s families. Go to PathwaysProfessional.org/blog for more articles on contemporary topics like these.
Rod Campbell is a licensed professional counselor serving in central Alabama with Pathways Professional Counseling, a sister ministry of Alabama Baptist Children’s Homes & Family Ministries.
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