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The Not-So-Secret Path to Self-Care and Leading Well

So, what exactly is “self care”? It is defined as any activity that we do deliberately in order to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health.
self-care in children's ministry

A few weeks ago I was wrapping up one of my Orange Specialist Strategy Sessions and I asked a simple question, “What does self care look like for you in this season?” I was shocked as I saw all 15 screens looking back at me with blank stares and shrugged shoulders. Some even looked off to the side to avoid eye contact.

It was right then and there that I realized this is a topic that needed to be discussed.  As pastors, directors, and leaders we’re called to shepherd and care for our people to the best of our ability. Honestly, we can’t do that if we’re personally in survival mode and functioning at a fraction of our capacity.

Let’s face it, we all have days where we’re just barely okay.  We put ourselves into enemy territory when we forget to slow down, rest, and do the growth work needed to take care of ourselves.

When we’re on an airplane, the attendants remind us: “In the event of an emergency, if oxygen masks are needed, put on your mask first and then attend to your children and others!” Same is true of self-care. If you take care of yourself first, you are able to take care of others. 

So, what exactly is “self care”? It is defined as any activity that we do deliberately in order to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health. Let’s dig a little deeper, shall we? Here are three “D’s” to consider:

DEFINE your current reality.

Where are you today? When was the last time you checked in with yourself? Get honest and then get brutally honest. There are several assessments you can take to identify energy levels and gain a deeper understanding into what makes you well . . . YOU.  Two ways I recommend to get started are Johnson and Johnson’s free energy assessment and the Enneagram assessment. Take a deeper look and define where you are.

DECIDE what needs to change and then choose to engage and invest.

Did something surface from your past that you need to work through? It might be time to schedule a therapy session and stop avoiding it. Do you feel stuck and not sure what you need or want? Perhaps invest in a personal coach. If you haven’t gone on a date with your spouse in months and you’re feeling like strangers in your home, make it happen! If your back has been hurting and you just keep popping Ibuprofen, maybe it’s time to schedule a doctor’s appointment. Stop settling for less than the best version of yourself. Decide what needs to happen and do it.

DEDICATE specific times for specific self-care rhythms.

Set a reminder and check in with yourself daily, weekly, and quarterly. Learn to identify how you feel and what you need. This feelings wheel is a fun resource to help with that.

Here it is, the “not-so-secret” secret sauce. Schedule time to do more of what energizes and restores YOU!   Eat a colorful and healthy meal. Get up and move your body even if it’s just for 10 minutes to get those endorphins working for you. Take a nap. Order take out. Say no. Dedicate time for fun.

If you can define, decide, and dedicate your next steps, you can move towards wholeness, allowing you to shepherd and care for those you lead with longevity. Take care of yourself—the world needs you to lead on!  

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