In college, people would always ask me what I wanted to do after I graduated. I remember thinking, “All I really want to do is sleep for a month.” Most of my college year were spent sleep deprived and spread too thin. I had some amazing experiences and opportunities, but also times where I broke down emotionally, felt extremely unmotivated, and chronically fatigued. I thought that after graduation, things would “slow down” a little. I kept thinking, “If I can just make it through, I can take a break.” What I didn’t account for is that after college, things didn’t slow down at all! I moved away from almost everyone I knew, got engaged, started working 12 hour shifts full time at an emotionally exhausting job, planned a wedding, got married, bought a house with my husband, and started my first career job in less than a year! I had a lot of trouble adjusting as life threw these changes my way. I stopped exercising almost completely, gained more weight than I ever had before in my life, stressed out a lot, ate unhealthy food, rarely saw friends (I didn’t know many in the area!), and stopped doing the things I loved (exploring nearby towns and cities, reading, art, deep conversations). Before I knew it life felt completely overwhelming, even more so than it did in college! I guess I should have seen the signs, but I was simply too busy with the tasks of life to realize how fried my soul had become. I had stopped caring for myself. I was running full speed ahead towards a life that weighed on me more and more each day. After my wedding, I knew I had to make a change. I couldn’t go on everyday for the rest of my life this way, squeezing every last drop of my energy into my obligations without taking the time to rest and refuel. Life wasn’t going to slow down, but I needed to.
It started with some minor changes… I started tumbling at an adult open gym once a week, I signed up for a 5K, I began to try to reach out to other women in the area, I tried to give myself a bedtime… Then, I started my job working as a crisis case manager. Suddenly, SELF-CARE was a new word in my vocabulary. My co-workers talked about it, my supervisor asked me about how I was practicing it, and I observed vividly through my clients the horrible things that can happen when a person neglects them self for too long. I started to realize that I felt guilty for taking a break, for taking care of myself!
Our society is one that guilts adults who practice self-care and glorifies workaholics. A healthy work ethic is a noble trait but we have become a people who are often held to a unhealthy standard. We praise ourselves for doing more, but what if doing less is really what we need?
What if instead of working through lunches at our desk, we took 20 minutes and ate our lunch in the sunshine. What if we called our family on our way home from work? What if instead of filling our free time with more commitments, we dedicated it to learning a new hobby that interests us? What if we treated ourselves to a slow walk in the neighborhood after cooking a healthy meal? Adults today are riddled with anxiety and depression, we spend time trying to make ourselves look good on social media but all too often wake up feeling tired of the rat-race and empty inside.
The need for self-care:
If you haven’t reach your breaking point yet, I promise, you will! Life is beautiful and oh so good, but man is it stressful! Things don’t slow down after college, they only speed up. Without intentionally and regularly planning time to refresh ourselves we will burn out. But by taking a healthy dose of time to refuel, we can continue to pour our lives and love into serving others, pursuing our passions, and working with a spirit of excellence. I have realized that self-care is both an essential part of wellness and a powerful key to balancing the stress of adulthood.
How do I practice self-care? Self-care looks different for everyone. God created us all so unique, it only makes sense that the things we do to recharge will vary greatly. But let's say you’re a newbie to the idea (like I still am)- self-care needs to be intentional, or it will never happen! You need to make a habit of it, and that takes lots of repetition! Here’s my challenge: take 30 minutes this next week to do something that helps you to recharge. This half-hour is not the time to catch up on emails or do a forgotten chore. Plan intentionally to do something that you enjoy or that renews you, but is not a task on your long to-do list. Examples of self-care: -Journal about an idea that has been on your mind recently -Listen to music while soaking in the tub -Meet one of your favorite people for coffee -Paint your nails -Try that Pinterest recipe you pinned 6 months ago -Read a chapter of the Bible or another inspirational book wrapped in a comfy blanket -Nap! -Call a friend or family member that you miss -Go for a run -Jump in your local pool -Pet puppies at the SPCA -Treat yourself to a healthy meal out -Meditate -Watch your favorite funny tv-show -Light some candles and stretch/practice yoga -Play a musical instrument -Research a topic you are interested in -Paint or make a craft Okay, so this this list could go on for miles, but I’m sure you get the point. Self-care is customizable, and achievable because you can do it on any budget in varying amounts of time. So no excuses, people! Our culture is running full speed ahead, and it’s time we put the brakes on, and refuel our tired spirits. For most, adulthood is overwhelming, fast paced, and exhausting. It healthy and necessary to press pause momentarily to on our path to becoming the awesome, fabulous, gifted, driven world changers that Christ empowers us to be. Self care is essential to performing well in the balancing act of adulthood. This week, how will you practice self-care? What will you do to prevent burnout and encourage living life with balance? Is self-care a new buzzword for you, or something you already feel well-versed in? I’d love to hear your thoughts! Together, we can create a trend young adults who are conscious of their health and practice regular self-care to refresh themselves with renewed positive outlook and motivation for living rather than plowing full speed ahead into burnout. Written by Deborah Dunman