Debunking the Myth – Self-Care is Selfish- Myths and Misconceptions About Self-Care Part 1

Myths and Misconceptions About Self-Care

Do We Need Self-Care?

There are a lot of myths and misconceptions about self-care. I have believed, wrestled with, and reframed many which I will talk about in this series. Maybe you have read/heard some of the myths and misconceptions and you are mentally wrestling with them yourself. I’m going to tackle one myth today. Won’t you join me?

Before we begin, let me ask you a question -Do you think self-care is selfish? Do you think self-care contradicts servanthood, Christianity, or just being a good Mom or person in general?

One teeny assignment -before I get into the meat of “The Myths and Misconceptions About Self-Care” -I’d like you to do a little exercise with me. All you need is a pen and paper or your notes app on your phone.

The Exercise

Ready? List everything you have done in the past week. You can read my list below to start the gears in your brain. Feel free to be more detailed than I was. I didn’t include every pilates workout, when I prepared food, cleaned, did laundry (you get the point). The more detailed your list is, the better for you. It’s a great way to see all you do, especially if you are raising kiddos with a trauma history or who have a capital letter syndrome (ADD, ADHD, SPD, ODD, FAS, FAE, on the Spectrum, etc…)

I’ve had a busy week, including :

  • A trip to IKEA two hours away
  • A leaf-peeping hour drive up to Thomas to grab coffee at the Tip Top Coffee, and a hike
  • Kayaking with a friend
  • A mammogram (can anyone say streessssfullll?)
  • Helping my hubby clear baneberry bushes and roots out of our yard
  • Not to mention my regular job of – revising, editing, and writing. 

Just typing this list makes me want more coffee.

Are You Tired? Worn Out?

Are you tired? Worn out? Does listing your reveal some clues about your exhaustion? Do you want a nap now? I get it. We work hard. We fill our schedules to the brim. We do all the things and many of them are GOOD things, celebrations, outings, and feeding our families. BUT WE ARE EXHAUSTED AND WE FEEL GUILTY FOR BEING WORN OUT AND BURNED OUT. After all – isn’t this what we asked for? A home. A family. Children. We adopted/fostered because we love these kiddos. But it’s the hardest work we’ve ever done and some days we just want to say, “Stop the world, I want to get off.” And that’s okay. Say it. And then read what Jesus has to say:

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

Matthew 11:28-30

Self-Care Is Not Selfish

Let’s look at the definition of self-care

self-care

/ˌselfˈker/

noun

  1. the practice of taking action to preserve or improve one’s own health.
    “autonomy in self-care and insulin administration”
    • the practice of taking an active role in protecting one’s own well-being and happiness, in particular during periods of stress.
      “expressing oneself is an essential form of self-care”

Imagine your child coming to you and saying he is hungry, tired, or angry. Or if you are raising a kiddo with a trauma history or capital letter syndrome, you’re watching for signals or have a timer set for snacks, water, and rest. When the child comes to you or your timer goes off, you tell the child. “You don’t need to eat healthy foods or stop and rest or acknowledge and sort out your feelings. That’s selfish. We don’t do that.” Sounds downright wrong, doesn’t it? 

When I Believed the Myth: Self-Care Is Selfish

I rushed around the table making sure all my kiddos had dinner and were eating it before we rushed out the door to the church. Like a jack-in-the-box, as soon as my butt hit the chair, I popped up again and met another need. And I barely took a bite.

Here’s the thing, I thought I was being a good mom, setting my need to eat aside so I could hover around my kids (that’s another post for another time) and make sure they ate food. Then I loaded everyone in the car to go to Wednesday night service so I could teach lady’s Bible study and my kiddos could go to class. I got home hours later, empty, depleted, and feeling as if I had done the holy and right thing.

And that’s what I have done to myself for YEARS. How about you? Do you deny your own needs? Do you think self-care is selfish? Do you not take the time to care for your own body? Do you stuff a few bites in your mouth while making sure you feed the rest of the family? Do you neglect yourself and call it self-sacrifice? Raising my hand here. Read the verse again and look at the phrase “Burned Out on Religion.” Hover there for a moment.

Self- Sufficiency is Not Holiness

I used to think being self-sufficient meant being holy. Self-sacrifice meant offering every bit of my energy and then some to the task at hand or life in general. And then I physically couldn’t do anything anymore. I don’t want you to go there. Jesus promises rest. He promises to teach us the “unforced rhythms of grace.” His burden is light. It’s not harsh, hard, or pressing. Self-care is recovering your life. Self-care is not selfish. Self-care is simple practices such as:

  • Eating healthy foods
  • Resting
  • Hydrating
  • Acknowledging, and sorting out your feelings

*I’ll go more into detail pertaining to these practices in later posts.

Basically, what you do for your kids is what you need to do for yourself. We can serve others if we running on empty. In fact, when we are running on empty, we are more tempted to sink into bitterness, anger, depression, and an overall gloomy outlook (more on that in another post). When we are rested, we can approach life with a more positive and energetic outlook.

Summing It Up And A Prayer

Take one last look at the list you made. While you are adding up the activities, ask yourself, did I feed myself nutritious food, hydrate, rest well, and add some joy into and in between the work? Did I believe the myth – Self-Care is selfish? Are you tired and worn out and rethinking the limiting belief? I’d like to pray with you before you go.

Dear Jesus, show me how to take a real rest and walk in the unforced rhythms of grace. Thank you that you won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on me. Help me not to wallow in guilt, shame, or the habit of self-sufficiency or the kind of self-sacrifice that doesn’t serve you or anyone. Help me to take a deep breath right now and walk away lighter, fresher, and full of grace.

*Join me next time when I tackle a Misconception – Self-care is doing whatever you FEEL like doing.

The Language of Rest

Last week, I talked about “When Trauma Affects Your Ability to Listen to Your Body.” I finished the article with:

THE FOREIGN LANGUAGE OF REST

Why? I didn’t know what my own body was telling me. I didn’t know how to cue into it. I still struggle with knowing what it’s trying to tell me. It’s as if we don’t speak the same language. It says, “rest” and I don’t speak the rest language. It’s foreign to me. I put my self-imposed to-do list above my body’s needs. Not good. I understand there are things we have to do as women, moms, and grandmas. Whatever your title is, there are tasks or appointments we should keep. One of those appointments is with ourselves. Did Jesus care for the needs of his own body? If so, how? 

Today I’d like to spend a few minutes on the language of rest and how Jesus understands the needs your body.

When do you rest?

  • Do you wait until your body is completely depleted?
  • Do you schedule rest?
  • Do you work your body as if it has infinite energy and then are flabbergasted when it shuts down?
  • Did you know enough about your body to know when it’s telling you to rest?
  • Do you feed your body the food it needs to work well?
  • Do you fuel your body often?

Answering these questions is a great starting point. For me, I used to wait until my body was shutting down before I rested. Now I schedule rest. I do sometimes still get flabbergasted when my body says, “STOP!” For instance, (last week) I’ve had two Easter Egg hunts on consecutive days, followed by a doctor’s appointment the next day, and then more days of outings, including hiking, church, grocery shopping, running errands, and date night. Reading the list exhausts me. In fact, today I’m suffering from an introvert hangover after all the peopling I’ve done. (If you’re an introvert and want to know more about the science, embracing your introvert-self, check out Holley Gerth’s – The Powerful Purpose of Introverts.) How did you answer these questions?

Getting to Know YOurself

  • Do you know yourself?
  • Do you know what stresses you?
  • What energizes you?
  • What exhausts you?
  • Which foods give you energy?
  • Which foods leave you feeling wired, tired, bloated, or fill in the blank.

If you read last week’s article, you’ll know I followed the voice of trauma and survival mode for years. I didn’t know myself at all. I even went so far as thinking I was being sinful if I took time to know myself or do anything for myself. If you think that way, it’s not true. Not Biblical. Not how Jesus sees things. He not only promises to give us heavy-burdened, trauma-driven, codependent, perfectionists REST, He says He will “ease, relieve, and refresh our souls.” (Matthew 12: 28,29) Read that again and take a deep breath or two. Jesus cares about you and your body. He listened to and knew His own needs. Even though he is God, as a man, He became tired and needed a break. He needed rest and He knew the apostles did too. After they told Jesus all they had done and taught-

He said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a little while”—for there were many [people who were continually] coming and going, and they could not even find time to eat.

Mark 6: 31

Find A Co-regualtor

On a comment on my Instagram post last week, I mentioned when we need to use the same parenting tools we employ with our kids who have experienced trauma with ourselves. We need to re-parent ourselves. Maybe you missed the season of co-regulation in your childhood. Maybe there was too much chaos in your home (or is now), and no one helped you know what your body was telling you. Basic things such as hunger, thirst, need for rest, and what we feel (anxiety, excitement, depression, uncertainty, joy) – all these feelings we need co-regulators guiding us. EVEN if you are an adult, you may need a co-regulator and some re-parenting!

I started the practice of reporting all I have done to my husband. It’s not for approval’s sake. It’s so he can weigh in and advise me. He’s often told me – “You do more on a rest day than most people do on a work day.” I had no clue. I thought everyone worked the way I did. Maybe you are the same and you don’t know how much you really push your body. Find someone to help you regulate until you can do it on your own. Do you have someone in mind? If you don’t pray about it?

Do you speak the language of rest? Share in the comments!

*If you struggle with knowing what your body is telling you, take some time this week and answer all the questions in this article in a journal or on you phone. If you struggle with knowing the answers, you may not speak the language of rest. Ask a trusted close friend or spouse to help you begin to recognize what your body is telling you or find a counselor.

When Trauma Affects Your Ability to Listen to Your Body

“Listen to your body,” a few friends have told me recently. But what does that mean? If you grew up in an alcoholic, codependent, legalist, neglectful,  or abusive environment (or married into one)- this advice may stump you as it did me. 

My Body Didn’t get a say

Growing up, my body didn’t get a say. I was bossed around by others’ feelings or opinions whether it was intended or not. I didn’t tune in with my body in those early years. The trauma tuned my body out and I lived in survival mode.

Fast Forward to my adult years, marriage, building a family through birth and adoption. I was BUSY meeting the needs of others. My adopted children, who had experienced early trauma, sent me back to the land of codependency. Before I realized it, I was feeling what their bodies were feeling.

I knew nothing of what my body was telling me. I cut it off. Silenced it. Pushed it. Overdid it. Crashed it. Abused it. Starved it. Over fed it. All the while, I told myself I was offering my body as a living sacrifice by taking care of others. (Not accurate, by the way).

A Diagnosis

In the middle of my child rearing years,  after years of health struggles – I  finally received a diagnosis -CFS (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome), hypothyroidism, and later Celiac disease. My sister located an amazing doctor in Pittsburgh (Dr. Pierotti),  who has helped me tremendously. With his understanding of the body, how it all works together, and immune system function, I began to get some energy back and lose the brain fog. I won’t go into detail about the treatment (you can pm or email me – positiveadoption@gmail.com, if you want to know more). 

Pushing And Crashing

What happened next is super sad. I began a cycle of pushing and crashing. This cycle lasted for years. As soon as I was able to function, I began doing ALL the things I was doing before. Then I began reading about adding  margins to my day, scheduling rest, stopping before exhaustion, all kinds of great information (check out Toby Morrison’s book and youtube channel!) I would try to implement some practices with success and then go right back to pushing and crashing.

The foreign Language of Rest

Why? I didn’t know what my own body was telling me. I didn’t know how to cue into it. I still struggle with knowing what it’s trying to tell me. It’s as if we don’t speak the same language. It says, “rest” and I don’t speak the rest language. It’s foreign to me. I put my self-imposed to-do list above my body’s needs. Not good. I understand there are things we have to do as women, moms, and grandmas. Whatever your title is, there are tasks or appointments we should keep. One of those appointments is with ourselves. Did Jesus care for the needs of his own body? If so, how? 

Next week – How to tune into what your body is saying and how Jesus took care of his.

Three Tips for Thriving Through the Holidays

Every year the calendar flips to December and we Moms hit the ground with skis on and head down the slope to things to do and places to be before that magic goal day on the calendar, December 25th. We don’t want to just survive the holidays, we want to thrive!

1. Rest

This doesn’t mean do nothing at all. Rest can and should be planned.

Rest often means a different kind of work than you usually do.

Rest doesn’t necessarily mean vegging or bingeing on Netflix (it can be, but not always). This rest means doing something that pour back into you and your family. This is the kind of rest that you plan and always remember. It’s another group of coins in your memory bank.

  • In order for your kiddos to watch a Christmas movie, you make the popcorn and the hot chocolate. You snuggle on on the couch with your kiddos. Take the time to listen to their commentary and questions during the movie.
  • Visiting a tree farm and chopping down a live tree.
  • Decorating a tree.
  • Reading Christmas books aloud.
  • Singing Christmas carols.
  • Having a coffee date with a friend who is a kindred spirit.
  • Go to a Christmas market and look at the lights.
  • Listen to an audio book while you clean, bake or sit by the fire (Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is one I listen to every year.)

2. Go Deeper in your understanding of Christmas. Get an Advent Devotional for yourself as well as your children.

I’m never going to get to the place on this earth where I have arrived spiritually. I’m always learning. Going deeper. Having new revelations. Our children learn by repetition, layer by layer we add truths from the scripture as we read through the Advent Devotional. It’s the same for us adults. We need to add layer by layer of Christmas truth to our understanding. Each year we pray that God gives us a new “book of revelations”. God can’t do that if we aren’t willing to take the time to read and study. There are plenty of Advent Devotionals out there. Find one that fits your life for now. If you have small children, try one that you can read in the few minutes you have after everyone is asleep. If you have more time because you have teens or are an empty nester, find a longer version to invest in!

I’m trying Jennifer Hand’s book:

I haven’t read it yet, but I’m super excited about it. Yes, I wrote an Advent book as well. You can find it here.

3. Pray Through.

Mark Batterson speaks of this in his book Circle Maker – here’s my paraphrase:

We don’t usually remember the days we did nothing, but we remember the days we had everything to do and God pulled us through.

If your plate is full this season and it’s all good things that you committed to, then pray through. If you’re tired and don’t think you can do it all, Jesus is all. He gives strength to the weary. When you wait upon Him, He will lift you up on wings as eagles.
Don’t do what I sometimes do – pray and then hang on by my fingernails hoping God will pull through. Thank Him in advance what what He is going to do. Enjoy the the “through” instead of waiting until you get to the other side.
I’ll leave you with this set of verses from Matthew 11.  Note that Jesus says His yoke is light. A yoke implies work. So, whatever work you must do this season, He can make it light. He can refresh your soul.

28 Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy-laden and overburdened, and I will cause you to rest. [I will [a]ease and relieve and [b]refresh [c]your souls.]

29 Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me, for I am gentle (meek) and humble (lowly) in heart, and you will find rest ([d]relief and ease and refreshment and [e]recreation and blessed quiet) for your souls.

30 For My yoke is wholesome (useful, [f]good—not harsh, hard, sharp, or pressing, but comfortable, gracious, and pleasant), and My burden is light and easy to be borne.

When your Child on the Spectrum Needs a day off

Ania and I were packing up the cooler and getting ready to head out the door to hike at Cooper’s Rock State Park, about an hour from our home. Youngest son decided at the last minute he would rather stay home. I mentally went back over the week’s events before I gave him the okay. It had been a busy week. Two trips to the local fair, one for a few concerts (and some rides). another for barrel racing and demolition derby, an eye appointment with news that he needed glasses and helping his older college-age brother move in and get somewhat situated. I was tired from the long week, but not overwhelmed. I could tell he was. He normally loves climbing on rocks, but it wouldn’t have been a fun outing for him this time. He was overloaded.

Sometimes kids on the spectrum don’t want to come out of their comfort zone at all. They would rather stay home and stick to their routine, play Minecraft or other video games and not have the stress of social interaction. They may want company some days, but only if they call the shots. Company overwhelms them because it requires social interaction. If a child on the spectrum doesn’t know how to walk away from the bustle of an extended family gathering, he may shut down the next day. Kids on the spectrum don’t bounce back quickly from extended social time.

So, where do you draw the line? How do you balance outings with time away from the fray? It’s different with each child. It’s important for us parents to read the signals and help the child regulate. When he is able, he needs to recognize the signals with some help from parents before he can move on to self-regulation. Some kids on the spectrum will grow into adults who need a trusted friend or spouse to help them watch for the signs of overload. It’s not a weakness. It’s a strength.

Think of it like waves. The waves come on the shore, then they recede. When they recede,they gather strength to surge onto the sand again. Life is busier than it has ever been. Our schedules are full to the max and if we are not careful, we can push our kids on the spectrum to meltdown mania. They need time to de-stress. They may need a day off with no demands. If we make this a priority, it will not only benefit us, but the whole household will be happier, calmer.

barbed wire rest

If you feel as if your family is drowning in a busy schedule and your child or children meltdown all the time, you may need a rest day. Not a day to stay home and do a bunch of other stuff that requires them to participate, just a good old fashioned day off. One where a kid can lie on the ground and watch the clouds go by. One where a kid can build a blanket fort and read books with a flashlight. One where he can pretend for hours. A day to eat dinner on the back deck and stay there talking, laughing, waiting for the fireflies to make their evening debut. A day where the clock doesn’t dictate. A day where Mom can sit down and see all the things a kid has designed on Minecraft and listen, really listen. These sorts of days don’t just happen anymore. Years ago, when I was a child, they  did. Now we have to plan them.

Most kids are under too much stress these days. It’s not just kids on the spectrum who need a day off. We all do. Watch for the symptoms of stress in your kids on the spectrum. Be the regulator. Take your foot off the gas and just idle for a day. Stay home. Watch the grass grow. Walmart will still be there tomorrow. So will everything else. If you don’t do what you planned in pen on your calendar, will it really matter ten years from now? Kick off your shoes and help your child de-stress by being the example.

*If you need some help warming up your pretending gears, check out this book to get you and your child going-