In the field I work in, it is estimated that up to 67% of us experience high levels of burnout…something we can experience at any time in our careers, not just the later years.
Combine my drive with perfection and my world-view that tells me to put everyone else above myself:
I am a prime candidate for this. And, tonight, I’m right there.
The weight of it all bearing down on my shoulders.
Feeling like I am supposed to be all things for all people.
And, frustrated, embarrassed, and ashamed that I cannot be.
Because, I am not supposed to be.
I am supposed to take care of myself, like the airplane mask. I have to “put mine on before I help anyone else with theirs”
Yet, I have not been doing that all the time.
I go back to that early message that if I am to live a Godly life, I am to sacrifice for others – and Christ did so even to the point of death.
But, I am not meant to do that. At least, right now, I have not been called to die for the sake of the world. Jesus already had that covered.
And, before & after that point, there are places in the Bible where self-care is evident:
- Elijah in the cave & on the mountain (1 Kings 19)
- Jesus himself did this (Luke 5:19; and in His time in the Garden before his death)
- Ephesians 5:29-30 remind us we are to take care of our bodies
- And, Matthew 22:37-39 reminds me that I am to love God with my whole being, and then others as I love myself…
But, if I’m not taking care of myself, how can I expect to show love to anyone else…And, if I am a being created by God, how am I to love God with my whole being if my being is not whole? And, if I show no respect for His creation, namely, me?
It’s honestly a process.
And, when you are in the profession I am, with the background I have, it can get messy and sticky.
I have the desire to put up a wall of perfection even when I’m falling apart, because that is what people think of me;
The very words meant for encouragement are twisted in my head to give me an impossible standard to live up to rather than being a celebration of things I’ve already done.
Most days, lately, I am not good at this self-care thing. I am too busy trying to be all things to all people, fitting in where I can, feeling like I’m dropping balls everywhere, discouraged when I have to say “no” to someone, and
ashamed at how drained I am inside.
Because, I am supposed to know better…
I am supposed to do better…
I am supposed to be better…
At least, that’s what my head keeps telling me, giving no grace for myself to be human, leaving no room for me to breathe, calm, or relax.
Tonight, I’ve actually spent the evening doing just that…after a panic attack.
The tale-tell sign that I have been taking on too much.
I don’t control when they hit; and I hate when they do. But, when one happens (which hasn’t been in a while) – it is a screaming siren: something is amiss, you have taken on too much, you are putting too much pressure on yourself, you need to take corrective action.
So, I did that. And, in that, I made myself good food – food that I’m allowed to eat, rather than defaulting to gluten-filled food that may be part of the issue with all of this. (And, tomorrow, I will be sharing more about that…)
But, for tonight, I’m focusing on self-care:
- Leaving work at work (I only checked my email once and only answered one work-related text…it’s actually an improvement)
- Nourishing food & water. I’m usually driven by cravings, but I knew tonight I needed to be respectful of how my body is wired.
- Allowing myself to finally cry. It’s been building up. The release was necessary. Sometimes, we have to be allowed to feel all of the feelings.
- Read a book. That’s right, a whole book. It it was a needed book at this exact moment in my life.
- Writing. This blog, future posts. Thoughts. Quotes. Just pen to paper. I forget sometimes how alive that action actually makes me feel, how connected to me, and how human.
- Sketching. I’m not the best, but creating an image is incredibly cathartic.
- Bible reading & prayer time. I cannot be sustained if my spirit is not sustained. If my spirit is crushed and I do not tap into it’s hope, I will not survive
- Sleep – well, at least, that’s my plan. An earlier bed time. I hope it works out.
Tomorrow, I will wake up and do it all over again:
I will go to work and do my best to be supportive and helpful to my colleagues and our clients.
I will go to work and be called names & treated unkindly by our kiddos, who have not yet developed any other frames of reference for their little worlds; and I will work my hardest at not taking it personally & showing compassion and patience to their painful little worlds.
I will go to work and do my best to remember my own “calm down skills” and doing my best to offer a real-time example of calming, compassion, patience, self-care, and communication.
I will go to work and do my best to the extent that is humanly possible, and likely will still come home feeling like it was not enough.
But, I will wake up & do it all over again, because this is what I am called to at this time.
And, as He has called me, He will also strengthen me and walk with me daily.
Remembering all of this, and taking care of myself in the meantime, is a process, though.
And, addressing my self-care is the only way I will truly be able to get into the messiness with others.
And, it’s the only way I will be able to love God with my whole self & love others as I love myself.
But, it’s a process…
Have you ever found yourself nearing burnout or compassion fatigue?vDo you have any suggestions for self-care, for me or anyone else in the helping professions or ministry? What ways do you care for yourself?