Indulgent self care strategies seem to be all the buzz today! When discussing self care and self care strategies, most people would probably make an instant association with our physical bodies (and of course bubble baths and luxurious massages!) Although those things do sound amazing and can be part of an effective self care routine, that is not what we are going to park our time on today!
Do you ever feel like you are so busy and consumed by everyone else and their needs that you are caring for others at the expense of your own physical health and needs?
Come on now, BE HONEST!
I’ll wait right here while you try to rationalize why you are not part of this growing group of caregivers that consistently put themselves and their needs last or worse, don’t put their needs on the to-do list at all!
Why Caregiving Requires Self Care Strategies
Caregiving is an all-in, on all the time, kind of “job” on most days! Rarely are there days off, holidays, lengthy breaks or extended vacations. Some days we are blessed if we can get a shower or go to the grocery store alone.
This is the reality of many caregiving situations.
Caregiving requires every part of your human existence to be involved and engaged. Your mind, body and spirit are constantly being tested, challenged and pushed to their limits.
God designed our bodies in such a beautifully unique way, that our minds, bodies and spirits are also intricately connected; every part necessary and dependent on the other.
So, what happens when we neglect our physical, emotional, spiritual or relational needs? It is plain and simple really. We are not able to live our best lives that the Lord planned for us in advance.
Making our total self care a priority is not selfish, indulgent or optional. It is very much a critical, non-negotiable part of our lives that is modeled by Jesus himself and supported by Scripture.
What is Self Care?
There are several different types of self care that relate to different aspects of our lives as human beings: physical, spiritual, emotional, mental and relational. By God’s design, each are necessary and important to our overall health and wellness and our ability to fulfill the Kingdom work he has called us to and prepared for us in advance.
According to lexico.com, self care is defined as “The practice of taking an active role in protecting one’s own well-being and happiness, in particular during periods of stress.”
Basically, we are taking a proactive approach to meet our personal needs, not only for survival but to live into God’s best for our lives!
Over time, the idea of self care has become warped and tainted. I think it has evolved into something that seems selfish, luxurious, expensive, out of reach, frivolous and indulgent.
The concept of self care, when taken to the extreme, can truly be all of those things that I just previously mentioned. However, that is NOT what we are talking about today!
I want to focus our time today on physical self care strategies that are life giving choices and changes that we can make to be good stewards of our bodies and lives so that we can love and serve the Lord and His people well.
Physical Self Care is Biblical
Self care is a cultural hot button topic but it certainly is nothing new! The original concept of self care and self care strategies can be traced back to Jesus and biblical times.
Check out what Paul writes to the Corinthians:
“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.” (1 Cor 6:19-20, NIV)
Mic Drop, Paul…say no more!
Our bodies were designed to be a temple for God’s precious Holy Spirit! God created our bodies for his glory! His Son, Jesus, paid the ultimate price with his physical body and life for us on the cross.
Command…”Honor God with your bodies!”
How are you doing in this category? Are you treating your physical body as a temple?
What Happens When We Neglect Physical Self Care?
I’ll be the first to humbly admit, I have failed MISERABLY in this area! I have A LOT of catching up to do!
When I was caregiving for my Mom– this was one area that was hit and hit hard!
I often joke with my hubby that when I fall off the wagon, I usually get run over by it! That was definitely the case with my physical self care during my caregiving season!
-I gained an excessive amount of lbs. (I’ll spare you the details!)
-I never got proper rest. I lived exhausted on all levels, all the time.
-I was definitely NOT making time to exercise or even just move.
-I was feeding my emotions with ice cream and cheddar sour cream potato chips (they are even more delicious when you are sad, afraid, and stressed though, right?!)
-I felt like a decrepid 107 year old in a 30 something body with more aches and pains then a Ben-Gay commercial!
–I was cranky, edgy and constantly stressed out! (a real picnic to be around, right? Just ask my loved ones!)
Most days, my Mom was healthier than I was and she was the one with brain cancer!
I was overwhelmed…pressed for time…time management was in the toilet…and frankly, I was so hyper-focused on my Mom and her needs…that I didn’t have the bandwidth and refused to make time for my own needs!
We only get ONE BODY in this life!
So why then do we have such a difficult time taking care of them? (or maybe it’s just a personal problem?)
Why Physical Self Care Strategies Are Not Optional
We cannot fulfill any of our competing roles and responsibilities well without caring for our physical bodies!
Trust me when I say this, I’m preaching to myself just as loudly!
I know what it’s like to be frazzled, frustrated, fearful and forgetful!
As a caregiver, I was parked in that camp quite often!
What about you?
As caregivers, parents, spouses & busy humans, WE HAVE A BIG PROBLEM!
We are great at making excuses, aren’t we? We have a laundry list of why we CAN’T, won’t or why we never have the time.
But here is the reality, if we do not start making the time now, we are not going to have the luxury of time later on.
We must start meeting our needs right now, in the present! We have to ditch the “later on” mentality and stop saying next week, next month or next year!
Truthfully, we might not get the blessing of “later.”
I’m not trying to be a downer. But sometimes, the truth cannot and should not be sugar coated! Physical stress, chronic exhaustion and worry can lead to burnout and be detrimental to our physical health over time, even leading to death.
According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, if you are a caregiving spouse between the ages of 66 and 96 and experience excessive amounts of stress and emotional strain, you are a 63% higher risk of dying!
This is serious business and should not be taken lightly!
Instead of prioritizing our physical health so that we can:
-Carry out God’s call on our lives
-Meet the demands and challenges of our lives and competing roles with renewed strength, energy, vitality and abundance
We are neglecting the ONE BODY that God created just for us!
We are starving our bodies of the life giving things it craves and desperately needs!
God’s desire for our lives is WAY BIGGER than just merely surviving!
He created us to live an ABUNDANT LIFE! In John 10:10 it says:
” A thief is only there to steal and kill and destroy. I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.” (MSG)
Our physical bodies need our time investment, our love, attention and affection!
Our bodies were not designed to live forever. However, we can position ourselves to live our best life, in our best bodies, by proactively loving and caring for our physical selves by controlling what we can control!
The time is NOW to make our physical needs a priority.
Practical Physical Self Care Strategies
Physical self care does not have to be complicated, expensive or time consuming. Let’s be real, our lives as caregivers are complex enough and Lord knows, extra time is not something we have the luxury of.
Therefore, we need some simple self care strategies that we can incorporate into the margins of our day or easily weave into the demands that already exist in our daily routines!
Exercise/Move Your Body
Intentionally MOVE your body! Plain and simple. The gym might not be your jam and you know what? That is totally OK! It’s not really mine either! But, that does not excuse us from intentionally moving our bodies every day!
There are so many physical benefits of exercise to our bodies that we cannot deny ourselves physical activity. Get those arms pumping, that heart beating and that blood flowing!
Find a physical activity you enjoy and go out and do it! Even if it’s simply taking a walk in the neighborhood or around the local Target. There are physical activities that you can do alone or you can include your care receiver. Having a variety of activities that can be done in different pockets of time will increase your chances of actually following through!
Properly Fuel Your Body With Well Balanced Nutrition
Don’t get me wrong, I am a foodie! I joke around that food is my love language! But, I do love all kinds of food…delicious and nutritious foods (along with the not so good for you favorites!) Make a conscious effort to fuel your body with nourishing whole foods, healthy fats, fruits and vegetables. One of the first books I ever bought that introduced me to the concept of eating whole foods and eliminating processed food from our diets is 100 Days of Real Food: How We Did It, What We Learned, and 100 Easy, Wholesome Recipes Your Family Will Love. It is easy to follow, rooted in real life and by the end of it, you will feel empowered and equipped to make the necessary changes!
Just ask my husband, this is an absolute weakness of mine! I think I have been living completely dehydrated for over 30 years of my life! However, you cannot deny the benefits of healthy hydration! Your cells NEED water! If you are anything like me, drinking water is always more enjoyable out of a great bottle. Here is the one I just got for my birthday and I LOVE it! Keeps my water cold for hours and hours and is safe enough to ride in my computer bag…no spills or leaks!
The other key to my hydration success story is a little bit more of an investment, but I can honestly say it has been worth every single penny!
For Christmas, I asked my husband for a Berkey Water Filtration System! You see, we have well water at our home and even though many people have a love affair with their well water, I DO NOT! I think it tastes disgusting (and yes, we have had it tested!)
Therefore, I was spending a small fortune on bottled water! So, after a few years, we decided to make the leap and we haven’t looked back! It has truly been life changing! Our water is OH.SO.GOOD!
Now, this self care strategy sounds a bit silly and kind of a no-brainer, right? However, I’m not talking about our normal kind of breathing. This kind of breathing is very intentional, methodical, and rhythmic. Before you laugh it off and discount it, check it out here.
I love my Young Living Essential Oils! They support my mind, body and spirit as well as my entire family’s. There truly is an oil to support your every need but I would encourage you to dive in and learn more about how oils are not only biblical but how they can be an effective self care strategy through diffusing and topical application.
Declutter Your Physical Space
I don’t know about you but when my physical space is cluttered, it has a very visceral effect on my mind and body. My physical environment has a direct impact on how I think and how I feel. I found this article from Psychology Today to be very insightful on the correlation between our physical environments and our levels of stress. It also provides some simple strategies for how to declutter your space and reduce your physical stress.
Getting good sleep is so important to our overall health and well being. Unfortunately, most of us would probably admit to being sleep deprived in some way, whether it was not enough sleep or that our current sleep is lacking in quality. Here is a great article from the National Institute of Health on the benefits of sleep and how it impacts our overall physical health and wellbeing.
One of the best sleep investments we made was purchasing a weighted blanket! My husband originally purchased it for my mom but after her passing, it became a necessity for my nighttime sleep. Sleeping with it every night is like being hugged the whole night long (and my husband’s arms don’t go numb when I have my blanket!)
Our bodies are starving for rest, for an opportunity to disconnect and refuel for the next day. Make sleep a top priority and self care strategy!
We live in a day and time where we are all accustomed to being heavily connected and always accessible throughout the day as a result of the convenience and availability of our technology gadgets!
Set aside some tech free time each day and allow yourself to disconnect from the world around you and reconnect with yourself and with the Lord. I know many of us as caregivers do not have the luxury of doing this for extended periods of time, but have a plan for how you can make this a reality in your life, even for just five minutes a day, without guilt or hesitation.
It is possible!
Get Outdoors in Creation
Fresh air and sunshine can do our physical bodies good! Whether you go out for a short walk or sit outside with your care receiver, make time in your week to get out into creation and break up the monotony of your day!
Routine Physical Care Maintenance
As caregivers, we are constantly taxiing our loved ones around from appointment to treatment, to a follow up and then to the next appointment. However, we make everyone else’s appointments a priority, except for our own!
Take time and intentionally schedule your own routine appointments like the dentist, the eye doctor, and your family practitioner, for your routine physical exams and any specialty appointments you may need to keep for your own self care and wellness. This is a simple, yet critical self care strategy that most of us are guilty of avoiding! Here are some general preventative health screening guidelines to get you started.
Get Some Beautiful Indoor Plants
Now, before you throw your computer at me, hear me out!
I’m the first to say that I have a “black” thumb…nothing green about it! I kill things as quickly as I get them because I rarely remember how to maintain some of the higher maintenance house plants and Lord knows I don’t necessarily NEED another thing to care for!
However, this article intrigued me by discussing the physical health benefits of having plants indoors.
Here are some little beauties that can bring a smile to your face and bring physical benefits to your body!
Why Physical Self Care Strategies are Critical for Survival and Fulfillment
There are a lot of things in this life that are beyond our control. However, there are still some things that we do have control over.
First, we must recognize that we are worthy of self compassion, love, respect, and care, in addition to the time and energy investment!
We must then give ourselves permission to make our physical bodies and overall wellness a non negotiable priority in our lives!
Once we commit to ourselves, it is time to decide what necessary changes and adjustments you can make right now to protect your physical health and overall well being.
Have you ever heard the old saying, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure?” You don’t have to overhaul your entire life to reap the physical benefits. Small, consistent changes over time can pay off big dividends for the present and for the future.
What is ONE small change you can make today, or self care strategy that you can implement, right now, that will have a positive effect on your physical well being?
You are worth the investment! Never let anyone tell you otherwise!