Emphasis on Self-Care to then turn to help others, not only right but healthy
By: Paul P. Jesep*/TRT Columnist—
In offering spiritual direction, I’ve spoken with folks who are stressed, overwhelmed, and sometimes near burnout. In some cases, there is a sense of hopelessness. Life can take its toll on anyone. Hence, actively pursuing “self-care” is a must. You cannot be the best wife, husband, boyfriend, girlfriend, or good friend if you don’t take care of yourself.
Self-care sounds selfish, but it is “selfless.” I’ve often heard it said, “I don’t have time to do something for myself.” Wrong. You do have the time if you make it a priority. No matter how stressed or over-extended, I’ve never heard anyone say they didn’t have time to shower or brush their teeth once a day. You make it part of your daily routine.
Taking care of yourself is no different. Your family, significant other, and good friends depend on it. You can’t be there for anyone if you don’t take care of your mental, spiritual, and physical wellbeing. Inner wellbeing is one component of self-care. It is a form of spirituality, broadly defined.
Even an atheist or an agnostic is spiritual. Several years ago, an atheist challenged me at a workshop. The man insisted he wasn’t spiritual.
I asked the guy, a father, “Did time stand still when you held your baby for the first time? Did you ever hold someone watching a sunset? Have you ever had a cup of tea or coffee early morning and listen to the birds chirp their wakeup songs?”
He acknowledged yes to all my questions. I asked, “Didn’t time stand still?” He smiled. At that moment the gent realized he too, an atheist, was spiritual. Spirituality is about something transcendental. It is a moment in time where peace, beauty, and tranquility are supreme.
LGBTQ individuals are inherently spiritual. For centuries they have had to live their truth in an unwelcoming world. This spiritual struggle gives definition to a different kind of collective consciousness and spiritual depth. It provides a very different perspective of the world and one’s place in it.
Mayor Pete Buttigieg (“The Mayor”), the first viable gay presidential candidate in America’s history, often and comfortably speaks about his faith and spirituality on the campaign trail. He’s an Episcopalian (Christian). His self-care is both religious and spiritual. Mayor Pete is an example to any LGBTQ person recovering from religion. He’s also helping to take back God from extremists.
Self-care often requires us to find a quiet place to engage in self-awareness. Fear, anxiety, unhappiness, or low self-esteem are some of the challenges we all have faced at one time or another. Sometimes they lead to self-medicating whether alcohol or too much eating.
Self-care of the soul takes on different forms, but the goal is always the same. Regardless of whether someone embraces some form of faith, religion, or spirituality (Sikh, Muslim, Jewish, Pagan, Wiccan, Unitarian, etc.), the result is to enhance inner wellbeing and to connect us to something bigger than our temporal challenges.
Starting your day with gratefulness for something in your life is empowering, especially during difficult times. Living in the moment can shut out, even temporarily, the drama of the day. Taking a walk around the block at work, the cup of tea on a nearby park bench to clear your mind, bringing home flowers for yourself are all simple ways to decompress. Think about what you take for granted, like a sunrise or sunset. Adjust your time to be available to enjoy one.
All of us are spiritual beings. If this aspect of our humanity is nurtured, we’re better able to be there for the people we love.
*Paul is a personal chaplain, seminary trained priest, and lawyer in greater Albany, NY. He’s also the author of “Lost Sense of Self & the Ethics Crisis.”