Small Steps to Big Self care

After surviving what feels like months of hard work, a thousand things to do in too little time, and the anxieties and sadness of separation, I have arrived at my Dad's house in Texas. Marcie, our dog, and I will be staying here until we can move into our new house in Frisco the Monday after Thanksgiving.

I am simply exhausted. I am physically worn out from packing, cleaning, loading, moving, and driving eleven hours to get here. I’m spiritually depleted, having led or assisted with nine funerals in the past six weeks. I’m emotionally drained after saying goodbye to St. Louis, treasured friends acquired over nineteen years, great colleagues and a wonderful congregation, and most of all, to my two children who remain behind in Missouri--Jacob, a personal trainer in St. Louis, and Leah, a freshman at Truman State.

What fills your cup when you are totally depleted? Better yet, what small rituals do you perform daily to prevent becoming completely tapped out when life is crammed full of essential tasks and other stressors are piling on? These past two months, I have re-learned the importance of small habits of self-care. Here are some things that have helped me recently:

• Asking for and accepting offers of help, and being specific about what kind of help I could use, when my habitual knee-jerk response most often is “no, thanks, I'm fine;"
• Resting, even if just for twenty minutes, with a healing meditation googled on YouTube;
• Replenishing my spirit with a daily devotion received via email from Fr. Richard Rohr (sign up here);
• Not worrying too much about stress-eating the Halloween candy;
• Taking time to say goodbye and letting people know what they've meant to me;
• Seeing my spiritual director regularly;
• Conversing with and fully attending to friends, if only for ten minutes, refilling my cup;
• Helping others and showing gratitude, even in small ways, like buying lunch for our movers;
• Taking a walk and breathing deeply when there wasn't time for the YMCA;
• Asking our neighbors for a prayer of blessing as Dan and I said goodbye to our house and drove off;
• Singing favorite tunes at the top of our lungs during the long drive;

. . . and then finally today, giving myself permission to lie on the couch, doing as little as possible!

All of this brings to mind a book I read several years ago, One Minute for Yourself by Spencer Johnson. Finding small ways to take care of ourselves daily enables us to manage and reduce stress, to care for others without becoming depleted, and to experience more meaning and joy in daily life, even during difficult times. It's a short read; I may have to revisit it.

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