Last week I wrote about the ministry of presence —presence with God, with ourselves, and with others. Self-care is a critical piece of living out the ministry of presence because we cannot effectively fulfill God’s call to love, serve, or care for others without it. We’ve all heard the term before, but many people dismiss the idea of self-care because it seem too time-consuming, or just one more thing to add to our daily checklist.
So here are fifteen creative self-care activities that can fit into the busiest schedules. Print them out, tape them to your mirror, keep them at your office desk. Adding a few of these to your routine can have a dramatic impact on your overall spiritual, emotional, and physical wellbeing and move us forward on our journey towards healing and wholeness.
- Prayer – Scripture tells us we can pray “without ceasing.” That means I can pray when I am in the shower, pray when I am putting on my makeup, pray walking into a meeting. Prayer allows us to identify places of stress, worry, or concern, and lay them at God’s feet. It slows down our breathing and puts us in the position of acceptance and surrender, trusting that God is for us, that He is working on our behalf, that He with us, and we do not walk alone.
- Drive in Silence— I do it all the time. Sometimes my quiet time in the car is the only quiet time I get and it is my favorite time to breathe slowly, to look around me, ground myself by noticing God in my surroundings. If you’ve never tried it, it’s powerful. When I arrive at my destination, I find myself more centered, more relaxed, and ready for what is ahead.
- Take short mental breaks throughout the day— Get an app like the CalmApp on your phone and stop every couple of hours for a quick two-minute mental break. Watch the rainforest, listen to the sounds of the beach, breathe deeply and give your mind a break. You’ll find that it is easier to focus, to stay calm, and that you become less overwhelmed by people and situations at work or home.
- Reframe, reframe, reframe—I find myself adding to my stress when I frame a situation as “I have to go to work,” or “I have to cook dinner.” Reframing my activities as “I get to go to work,” or “I get to cook,” “I have the privilege of earning an income,” I have the privilege of serving,” changes my perspective on my day and gives me excitement and gratitude, opening the door to more joy throughout my day.
- Write an encouraging comment on someone’s Facebook post—Tell someone you are praying for them (and do it), tell them you appreciate them, remind someone they are not alone. Encouraging someone else is great self-care because it prevents us from getting self-absorbed in our issues, problems, and worries, and allows us to remember that we are all on this healing journey together.
- Treat yourself to your favorite afternoon cup of tea or coffee for a pick-me-up— Sometimes having a special healthy treat allows us to feel nurtured. So as you are heading to the break room, grab a favorite hot tea (I love English Breakfast Tea or turmeric tea) and allow yourself a moment to enjoy something special.
- Journal—Yes, I did say journal. People resist it, but the stats are there. People who journal tend to have less overall stress, depression, and feel more empowered in their lives. The reason is simple: journaling gets the stress out of your body, onto paper, and allows us to process through our issues (externally). It keeps us moving forward on our journey as we reflect over our progress and encourages us that change, however small, is possible.
- Keep a centering statement handy—When life gets busy or hard, create a short affirmation will help you keep the faith: “God is with me. I am okay.” Repeat it silently or out loud throughout the day, trusting that God is working all things for your good and He will bring you the answers you need.
- Set boundaries to your time and your heart—Learn when you need to say “no,” and remain unapologetic. There are things we can do for others and things we cannot do for others. Learning where your energy and responsibility is best focused enables us to utilize God’s resources within us and use them wisely. It also gives others the same opportunity to discover the resources God has given them and teaches them at the same time.
- Step out of the gossip loop— Whether at church, work, or among friends, make a choice to be everyone’s friend. When gossip starts swirling, simply remain silent and make the choice not to join in. By honoring others we are honoring ourselves as well as God, and it keeps our heart pure and removes unnecessary stress from our heart and mind.
- Become a compassionate coach rather than an internal abuser—When you have a bad day or get something wrong at work or with family, don’t beat yourself up. Shame can derail us for days (or longer) and keep us from moving forward productively. Assess the situation, talk yourself through it, coach yourself through what went wrong, what you can learn from it, how you can do it differently next time. Remind yourself that you are on your journey and that you are committed to healing, learning and growing.
- Turn off your phone—Super easy. Schedule a regular time during your day/week that you put your phone away and go tech-free. Perhaps its one day per week, perhaps it is for the last hour before you go to bed. However it works in your schedule, being “tech-free” allows us to unplug from emails, social media, and schedules that disturb our mental and emotional equilibrium. Do it and see the rewards.
- Make choices to honor your spiritual, emotional, and physical wellbeing—Put time in to read a devotional, think about the food choices that would honor your physical wellbeing. Be aware of how you honor your wellbeing and be intentional with feeding your body, your soul, your spirit well throughout your day and week.
- Tell yourself the truth—Sometimes we can be our own worst enemies. We overgeneralize people and situations, we rationalize impulsive poor decisions, we formulate very critical black-or-white judgments about the environment around us. Learning how to cultivate a mindset that can recognize our unhealthy mental patterns and speak truthfully yet compassionately with ourselves can become one of our most powerful weapons to stop downward spirals or negative cesspools, and keep us solid, centered, and strong.
- Laugh— Laughter is a great stress-reducer. Find something at which you can smile, giggle, or fall into an all-out belly laugh.
These are a few things that help me care for myself well. They don’t have to take a lot of time but can make a significant difference in how we experience ourselves and engage the world around us.
What are a few activities from this list you could write down today and begin to implement that would help you reduce stress and live your best life this year?
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