At the beginning of every academic quarter, I talk about self-care with my nursing students—just to “take their pulse” and get an idea of where they are emotionally, spiritually, and physically. I do this by asking them questions and offering them a safe space to express their concerns or apprehensions.
Burnout is a major mental health issue and work hazard in the nursing profession. It is paramount that they care for themselves while caring for others. I don’t want my students to have a panic attack or completely freeze at a bedside or during an exam. The pressure to be perfect is intense, the competition can be fierce, and one mistake can mean “failure,” as in F. For those reasons, we talk about tending our souls so that we can minister and deliver care through the strength of our Savior, not on our own.
Does this sound familiar? Self-care, tending our souls, whatever you want to call it, is an ever-present conversation piece for folks in ministry no matter where they serve. But, the incidence of burnout among overseas workers is especially high. We are probably all aware that caregivers—people who swing heavy on the side of compassion—struggle with caring for themselves.
We tend to the needs of others, while oftentimes ignoring our own needs. We are women who are good at pouring into the lives of others around us, but we must also let the Father pour into us! And yet, when it comes down to it, do we practice the message of self-care we ourselves endorse? Do we take time to check our own pulse or do we ignore our racing heart, telling ourselves that we will be fine?
That was my MO for years. I neglected getting into a routine of tending my soul; sure, there were bursts of refreshment here and there, but my pattern was to avoid my aches and pains til I hurt so bad I was forced to sit still. I knew I had taken on too much, but I didn’t feel the freedom to say “no” when “yes” seemed to be the only way. My “soul-pulse” was racing, my nerves were fried. Jesus was calling: Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly. (Matt 11: 30 The Message)
Tending my soul means spending intentional time with the lover of my soul—keeping company with Jesus so I can live more freely and more lightly in my life, work and ministry. This means choosing activities that promote my spiritual growth and giftings in ways that glorify the Father.
Recently, I have been practicing the Daily Office, and attending a 15 minute online Vespers service weekly for soul-tending purposes (it’s on a Monday at 5pm which is EXACTLY when I need it the most!). And some of my most powerful companion-moments with Jesus are in the form of short meditations on Scripture while doing mundane things (folding laundry, washing dishes, or going to the market). Practicing the presence of Jesus through worship, prayer and meditation keep me nourished throughout my days and weeks. When I neglect keeping company with Jesus, I falter and spiral in ways that harm my well-being.
Other things that help feed my soul include writing, reading poetry, and cuddling my kids. Getting outdoors regularly for a walk with a friend or hiking with my hubby offers an opportunity to find deep connection as well. Taking care of myself means swimming laps three times a week, something I could never do in the rural area where I lived in Asia (rice paddies don’t have lane lines). Finally, tending my soul also means creating boundaries and being thoughtful about what I say yes to. This is probably a struggle for most of us!
Bottom line: We cannot neglect the careful tending of our souls. We know that Jesus shows concern and compassion for our well-being; we see this in the way he cared for himself and others (Mark 6:31,32; Matt 15:32). Renewing our minds and thinking on good things that come from above is part of our wellness and how we better tune in to God’s will (Romans 12:2; 1 Peter 5:7; Phil. 4:8). Furthermore, health and wellness of the body and soul is noted in the Bible from one disciple to another (3 John 1:2)
So, here are some questions you may want to ask yourself today:
How can I glorify God with tending my soul?
What kind of Godly character do I desire to cultivate by tending to my soul?
What are the rhythms and routines I have in place that help me tend my soul?
Am I filling myself up with things that leave me feeling empty or am I refueling with God?
Do I feel guilty about ‘self-care’? Why?
If you need refreshment or a chance to “take your pulse,” I’d like to encourage you to sign-up for the Velvet Ashes Unplugged Retreat. Registration is open now, and it will be a great opportunity to sit with the Lord and explore the covenant words, “Here I am.” This simple retreat will give you the space to process where you are at– heart, soul, mind and body. I think all of us could use that sort of soul care, don’t you?
What are ways you have found to “take your pulse” and check in on how you are doing physically, emotionally and spiritually?