Do you care about self-care?
If you had the marvellous good fortune to host a goose who laid a golden egg for you daily, would you lovingly feed her the best worms in the garden, massage her little wings, make sure her bed was comfy (though not plumped with goose-down…) and generally cherish her?
Or are you more like the foolish people in the fable, greedy for more than one egg a day, who killed the goose to get more out of her?
You see where I’m going with this. Those who take the long view of productivity invest in self-care. If you want to keep up the pace you love, you also need to look after yourself.
Some of you will be great at this, and some of you won’t know what I’m talking about because you do it so naturally. And then there are the rest of you. You know who you are.
Do you get enough sleep and exercise? Do you see your friends often enough? Do you recognise and minimise your stressors? Do you take care of your body and your soul the way someone who loved you a lot would?
In my last year at Carey Baptist College, as part of the graduation process, we were tasked with writing a self-care plan for when we were pastors. I haven’t always been good at looking after myself, especially if it might stop me going a million miles an hour, but one lasting legacy of my training at Carey was a deeper understanding not just of the practical, logical need for self-care, but also of how God, who cares for me greatly, wants me to care for myself greatly too.
In my first year of pastoring I turned my Carey self-care plan into a page of questions for regular self-evaluation. Each month I would briefly answer all the questions in a written self-care report that I then gave to a designated member of the leadership team, whose role was to make sure I was taking good care of myself – for everyone’s sake. No one wants to be in a church where the pastor is three steps from burnout.
The questions were in several categories (physical, social, work, etc) and there were two kinds of questions: there were checklist-type things I tried to do, like eating well, exercising, and going to art galleries; and there were warning-bell questions, to reveal signs of stress.
Some of the questions were:
- Am I eating well?
- Am I feeling on top of my paperwork? [because if I’m not, it’s often a sign that I’m not feeling too great]
- Have I said yes when I should have said no? [the best question on the list!]
- When was my last retreat?
- Am I getting regular massage?
- Am I getting regular spiritual direction?
- Have I felt lonely lately?
- Am I feeling hurt about anything?
- Am I spending enough time with [some key friends’ names]?
- Is the mentoring relationship with [mentor’s name] working?
What would be on your list? What are the things you need in your life to help you flourish? What are the warning signs that things aren’t going so well? Who do you have in your life who asks you these questions?
A few people in my congregation made their own self-care questionnaires – you don’t have to be in a people-intensive job for it to be valuable.
If you think this could be helpful, just grab a piece of paper and pen and brainstorm some questions. Consider both the checklist and the warning-bell types of questions. Take a 360-degree view of your life, taking in work life, home life, social relationships, physical health, the kind of treats that make you fizz, the ways you get the best rest and re-creation (as opposed to recreation).
Everyone’s list will be different, of course. One of my mates put Sky Sport on his self-care plan. It takes all kinds.
I’d really love to hear what you think of this, and what kinds of things are important for your own self-care. Please speak up!