Today’s blog post is written by guest writer Christine R. This week Christine will be hosting our Connection Group on Self Care.
A year and a half into my stay in Metro Manila, I realized that my exhaustion wasn’t only from culture shock: it was also tropical city shock. Growing up and living in the rural Northeastern United States, I was used to trees, seasons, and predictable (and reasonable) commute times. My new life in the Philippines was affected by the seemingly endless concrete and pollution, year round hot weather, and traffic, a lot of traffic.
We spent this past holiday season with my husband’s family in Western Canada and I soaked in the fresh air (no matter how cold it was!), the green scenery surrounding Vancouver, and our traffic-less drive through the Rockies. While I fed myself with what my soul needed: rest, quiet, and the outdoors, I reflected on what I would need to thrive while living back in Manila.
My frustration, angst, and exhaustion with daily life was the smoke rising up from the fire in my heart that could only be put out by taking better care of myself. In that process of learning what that looked like for me, I found some lies that had taken root in my heart keeping me from caring for myself better.
1. I’m alone in this. (I’m not.)
I told myself that I’m the foreigner who can’t manage, that since I didn’t grow up here I’m struggling to survive in this place. But when I admitted my exhaustion to myself, I started seeing it in others too. I started asking questions and hearing from friends and acquaintances that they, too, struggle to stay sane in the big city. They, too, miss the provinces and the rural Philippines where they grew up or have family. This changed my perspective from: how can I do this better to how can we, together, grow in our care for ourselves. The subtle switch from “me” to “we” gave me a new motivation to take what I felt like was holding me back and enter into the lives of those around me in a new way.
2. I’m not worth it. (I am!)
When I get caught in the cycle of to do lists and traffic, I get stuck in a spiral of believing that I need to do these things to be loved. Oh, if I’m healthy and well rested I know this isn’t true. But once I get sucked into the vortex of “do,” it’s hard to come out.
“If I don’t get the condo cleaned and dinner made, my husband will love me less.”
“If I’m not productive today with ministry, our financial partners will question why they support us.”
“If I don’t email this friend in need, she’ll think I don’t care about her.”
My husband has said before, “Sometimes the most deeply spiritual thing we can do, is take a nap.” And I would add to that, because we need different things at different times – sometimes it may not be a nap, it might be to take a run, read a book, or spend the extra time to cook a healthy meal. Why? Because we’re worth it. Because taking care of ourselves is the first step to taking care of others. Me being whole and healthy is what I actually need to do in order to love my husband well, serve God in ministry, and care for those around me.
3. I don’t have time. (I sure do.)
It’s so easy for me to say, “Take care of myself? I don’t have time!” That was one of the common responses I got from people when I asked how they take care of themselves in such a busy city. Commuting alone could take around four hours of someone’s day (that’s normal in Manila).
What I’ve found is that two things can happen to help this: I can make time. And I can be creative with my time.
Making time can be as simple as quieting the noises around me as I go about my day: turning off my phone when I drink my coffee in the morning, limiting my time on social media, and focusing on the person I’m talking with rather than making those to do lists in my head.
Creativity with my time has meant using my time in the Uber wisely! Now for some, that means reading books and getting caught up on emails. While I do that too, recently I’ve been listening to fun podcasts instead. I enjoy my time and I find myself feeling less stressed and frustration by the time I arrive at my destination.
What are some of the lies that keep you from taking better care of yourself? What are some things you’re doing to combat those lies?