Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Self Care

I was talking to a friend a while ago about his recent trip to a tropical locale. After describing all of the fun things he did and the sights he saw he got quiet. "You know," he said, "I didn't realize how much I needed some self care. I didn't realize it until half way during the week, but I needed a break. I was starting to break down." In psychological circles we often talk about self care (a person actively doing things to care for their own needs).

I remember a similar time. I was a youth pastor and I had an incredibly intense weekend with one of my youth. This student (in my mind) needed my further attention, even though I was emotionally and physically exhausted. I was scheduled to go on a multi-day mountain biking trip with one of my friends in a few days, but I felt like I couldn't, that I should stay behind and be a support for this student. Ironically I too needed support (and rest and rejuvenation) but I had developed this over-developed sense of responsibility (a common symptom of burnout). Somehow I thought in my mind that cancelling my trip (a trip I really needed) was the responsible thing to do. Luckily my friend convinced me that I needed to take care of myself, that it wasn't just up to me to help this student, and that I deserved a break myself. I went on the trip and realized a day in exactly what my friend did - I needed this so bad! I hadn't realized what bad shape I was in. Thank God I was able to get away and be rejuvenated. God ministered to me hugely.

In counseling, ministry, and other helping professions it is so easy to get used up, burnt out, and lose yourself as you try to help others. Instead of giving ourselves self-care constantly many of us helpers are quite frankly morons, we wait until we are almost too far gone (in our pride) to minister to ourselves. Self-care is a discipline and should be undertaken daily, weekly, monthly, yearly, and after a few years. If you don't take the time, you will eventually run out of fuel. And it's not just for professional helpers. Everyone needs to care for themselves. God doesn't want any of us to serve him at the expense of our own bodies, sanity, and relationships. Yes, we are called to sacrifice but not to destroy ourselves. The best way you can be a true servant of others is to make sure you are healthy enough to serve. If you're not, you know what you need to do. No more excuses. Do it! If you won't, you are putting yourself in others in great danger . . .

May Light increase!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

That's one thing I've noticed about our church is their willingness to give our pastors time off to re-energize. We took an offering last year to send our senior pastor and his wife on a trip for their anniversary. They went to a Sandals resort. Then this year we took an offering to send our senior pastor and his son to Isreal for two weeks. I know he will come back with many stories and lessons learned from that trip and I can hardly wait to hear all about it! It's so important to take time for yourself and I'm really glad to be part of a church that realizes just how important our pastors are and gives them the tools to get away for a while.

Good post, Mark.

Love, Michele