Self Care | Putting Yourself First

There was a time in my life where I sat in coffee shops, having meetings after meetings. I sat with many girls who were going through hell on earth and needed someone to talk to. Between the meetings, I would get up, take a breath and go back in. Sometimes, meeting up with people over coffee wasn’t enough and I was getting texts in the early hours of the morning from girls who needed to talk and I freely gave up my bedtime for them.

In the midst of looking after everyone, I had forgotten what was going on in my own life. My assignments were mounting up, I was stressed and burnt out in church and I was worn down. The less I thought about taking care of myself, the worse my listening skills became.

It didn’t take long for me to sit on my friend’s bedroom floor sobbing because I was tired, drained and had enough.  My friend at that point said something that I always carry with me ‘you can’t help others if you aren’t helping yourself’ and that started a journey of intentional self-care.

It didn’t take long for me to see in the Bible that God cared about self-care too! Jesus often gave Himself some time apart from people to be with God and get filled up on Him. To be able to speak effectively into people’s lives meant to hear effectively from God on a regular basis. Friend, I can’t stress enough how important it is to hear from God, hear Him speak life into you and strengthen you so that you can walk into your gifting of pastoral care and flourish.

But my favourite self-care technique in the Bible, which I LOVE is the angel told Elijah to eat and sleep. My mentor at the time told me about her pastoral care rules: unless someone is dying, you don’t respond to pastoral care needs after 8 PM. It teaches them to be less dependent on you and more dependent on God and it gives you time to rest. It sets healthy boundaries between you and your friend and it protects you from any toxic emotion that you might soak up and disrupt your sleep.

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However, sometimes, no matter how good your self-care is, you are bound to feel burdened, heavy and sad for the person under your care. That’s why it is so important to give it God, as soon as you receive it, give it to God. I met up with a pastoral care leader a while ago and he said counsellors often have a support network to help them - they meet up with their peers outside of their workplace to talk through some things they are feeling. Friend, do you have a support network to help you while you help someone? I had two friends who I met up with once a week and spoke about what some of my girls were going through, while we wouldn’t share names, we would share what we are feeling, how we could help each other and hold each other in prayer. One of the biggest prayers in that season was ‘Lord, help us give this over to you, help us not pick back up what we left at the foot of the cross’.

Girlfriend, having our support group, our peers are so crucial, but are we giving it to God first?

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 11:26-30 MSG

It is God, it is only God who can take it and give us rest, real rest.

Whatever we do self-care must be giving us rest, physical rest like sleep, mental rest like digital switch off after 8 PM and spiritual rest like meeting with God.

It is only when we get to rest that we can love the Lord and love our neighbours with all our hearts, our mind and our strength.