20 December 2007

learning self-care

There are many things these days that have prompted me to take some personal inventory. Having taken some time to do this, it stikes me that sometimes the simplest lessons are the hardest to learn.

I've had much on my plate these days: increasing demands on my time with work over the last several months (50-60 hour weeks have become the norm temporarily), some mind-bending life transitions, relational ups & downs, and facing a milestone birthday. On top of all this, I've been thriving creatively and have been struggling to give adequate time to pursue those things that inspire and quicken my heart.

All these things are causing me to pause and take stock: to assess where my life is at in relation to where I want it to be and to examine how my day to day activities and behaviors reflect what I truly value (the planner can be quite telling!). I can hardly be objective where I am concerned, but if I were an onlooker into my own life, I'd probably tell myself this:
  • Work less hours and don't be afraid to take time for yourself.
  • Say "no" when you don't want to commit to something and don't feel guilty or apologetic for it. People might think you are selfish, irresponsible, flaky, or rude. They will always have their own ideas of what you should be doing. But they're not taking care of you: you are, and you are in the best position to know what is good for you and what you need.
  • Spend more time with the people you like and don't get miffed when they tell you you're working too much and that they're disappointed they don't get to see you as much as they'd like.
  • No one else has all the answers; don't expect that you are an exception to this.
  • Be kind and gracious to yourself; you cannot give others what you are not willing to receive for yourself.
  • Take care of your heart and don't try to ignore or talk it out if what it needs. A wise man once said it is the wellspring of life, and you would do well to tend to it, feed it, defend it, and fight for it when necessary.
  • Not every good thing demands your "yes". Learn to know what you can handle, and expect that in order to safeguard your heart and your wellness, you will sometimes have to say "no" to some good & worthwhile things.
  • Be willing to stumble a little (or a lot) and to step into the unknown. No one who realizes their dreams does so without risk.
  • Exercise patience with yourself: it does no good to get stuck browbeating yourself for perceived failures and shortfalls. Acknowledge them honestly and accept the lessons they offer as a gift. Let them inspire forward movement.
  • Approach God with open hands, always. Allow Him to take away or give as He will, always trusting His goodness in whatever He does. NOTE: this will (no doubt) mean tears and heartache. Take this as gift also, it means you are alive and living fully.
  • Enjoy life!! Soak in the beauty around you, laugh, and take the opportunity to indulge in simple pleasures.

A year or two ago, many of these things would have sounded selfish or like sentimental fluff to me. I am someone who loves to give and have been in the habit of extending myself without taking care to ensure that I was staying filled, healthy, and whole. It's a great recipe for burnout! I've heard it so often (and have probably advised others) that you must be responsible for caring for yourself before you can extend it to others. My personal beliefs are finally moving in this direction, letting go of those cement bags of guilt that have been hindering me from fully embodying this value. How I spend my time is now a better reflection of those things in which I place value.

I envision a ripple effect in my relationships. After all, I cannot approach God or any human relationship with integrity if I sabotage my end of the relationship by coming in ignorance of myself or by refusing to let go of self-defeating behaviors. By placing a higher value on self-care, I will be a better friend, daughter, and child of God. More fully invested in myself, I will truly be able to live life to its fullest.


  1. good on ya mate. Be sure to take care of that which is the most important... you! Relationships will come only when you are taking care of yourself and making sure you are spiritually mentally and pyhsically whole. I am learning this very hard right now.

    So how is it that you and I seem to post along the same lines, on the same day lately? God is so funny that way.

  2. I am over here cheering and applauding you Kristen!!! These are such important concepts but sometimes hard to follow. Thanks for the reminder!

  3. I'm cheering for you, too, friend! This is so great, to read about your investment in self-care understanding. It's so hard, isn't it? But it sounds like you're definitely on the right track. I love what you said about not being able to approach a relationship with integrity if you're not caring for yourself in the process. That's such a powerful truth but one so easy to overlook -- or convince ourselves otherwise!

    PS: I love your handwriting. So "you," even down to the lowercased "dec" at the top of the page. :O)

  4. a great list, kirsten... the things on it are things we should all heed. lots of them are things i've discovered and am still working on....

    take care of yourself and merry christmas!

  5. Hi Carl! Thanks for the well wishes. :o) I guess we're all tending to think along the lines of wellness, peace, & rest at this time of year. It's easy to know, but so hard to do!

    Thanks, Chloe! I find it is much easier to pay lip service to these things than it is to actually do them (especially being one of those women who wants to be able to do it all). I wish you peace & rest also, friend.

    Christianne, thank you! It's amazing what moments of clarity can come as the fruit of our giving up, our letting go of the necessity of understanding! It hit me like a ton of bricks when I wrote this that I'm not doing anyone I'm in relationship with any favors by coming to them ragged, worn, & depleted.

    :o) thanks for the comment on that journal entry. Adding it just seemed to personalize it a bit more.

    P.S. SO glad to hear the camera fiasco has its resolution now!

    Blue - it is so true that these things are far easier to know than they are to do. Hopefully putting them out there will solidify them in my own mind and spur me toward embodying these in my life. I wish you & your family much wellness & peace!!

    P.S. I had a dream last night that you, the hubby, & Sir Laughsalot came to visit me. I was sad to wake up & find it wasn't true!

    Merry Christmas, all!

  6. Yay Yay Yay - I'm a HUGE advocate of self-care - with my clients, and with my friends, and especially for myself. If we aren't taking care of ourselves, we aren't best able to take care of others.

    Merry Christmas my friend!

  7. Merry Christmas Kirsten. I love this post and I love your blog in general. So much love and wisdom. Thanks for sharing.

  8. maybe a premonition, kirsten... who knows! i have a childhood friend who is an artist in seattle, and i've always wanted to visit oregon, too! :)

  9. Great words to live by Kristen. I have the hardest time saying No when someone asks me to do something. I took a pay cut this year to take a less stressful job and it has been wonderful for me. My whole life I have devoted myself to making everyone around me happy at my own expense. I am now taking time to improve myself and then I will go back to doing for others. I know I was on the edge of collapse.

  10. Kristen, I had to come back and make another comment. After reading your post and commenting this morning, my boss called me into his office for a private chat. He asked for my advice on what to do with a supervisor that works here. I used to hold that position at another plant in the company and the president of the company once told my boss that I was the best supervisor in the company and they had a hard time letting me accept this step down postion. Anyway my boss kept talking about this other supervisor's performance issues and I think wanting me to offer to take over the position. I kept thinking of what you wrote and kept my mouth shut so I wanted to say thank you for what you wrote. I feel that they will eventually make me an offer I can't refuse but for now I am safe. I need to rest up and recharge my batteries for what is ahead.


  11. Hey Ilse! I bet you are. Do you find women tend to have a more difficult time with living out this concept than men? Sometimes I wonder if we're hard-wired this way, if it's our culture, or some mixture of both that drives women to feel like they have to do it all & take care of themselves last. Hoorah for self-care!!

    Terri - Thank you so much for visiting & leaving a footprint here. I look forward to learning more from each other in the future.

    Blue - That would be a dream come true!! Imagine all the fun we could have traipsing around the great outdoors, drinking lattes, taking in each other's company. What fun!!

    Greg - Wow, that is true wisdom there. So many times we take care of ourselves last or sacrifice too much of ourselves to get where we think we need to be. It's so amazing (& very counter-cultural) that you took a step down so you could take care of yourself and the things & people that are most important to you. Kudos!! I have so much to learn ...

    Thanks for stopping by. I hope you had a wonderful Christmas!!

  12. I don't have that much difficulty with self-care - i think that's the way i'm wired - which is nice, considering the profession I'm in. But I have seen it is so many of my other female friends, and some of my male friends as well - I told Brian that I am going to teach him how to relax, be bored, and take naps - he laughed at me :)