Love Your Neighbor as Yourself… A Note on Self-Care

February is always an interesting month.  It’s a time characterized by expressions of love for our spouses, significant others and love interests. Children are often encouraged in school to create Valentine cards for their teachers, fellow classmates and parents during this festive season.  While this season is a happy time for some, there are those who dread this season because it can be reminder that they are without a special person to whom they can share the difficulties and joys of life.

While, I share my love with my husband, our three young-adult children, extended family and friends, I am also called to love myself.  Before you stone me, I’m not talking about selfish ambition or a life filled with self-centered activities and desires. Self-care is one of my personal values that is expressed in the way I conduct my daily affairs, manage my daily responsibilities as well as those special things I do to reward myself for the hard work and energy I put into caring for others.  

Being a wife, mother, pastor, business owner, college professor, coach, mentor, professional speaker and community leader, you can imagine that my life is pretty full. However, with all that I am called to be and do, I do not fail to put myself in the love equation. In fact, if I am not at the top of my “to-do list” all of things that I am gifted to do will greatly suffer.

Let’s see if you are something like me,  I can always tell when I am operating on fumes or when I need to rest by pulling away for a time of retreat or refreshment.  When my soul is depleted I’m extra-sensitive, teary, moody, snappy or just plain old tired.  When I overload my schedule, I regret that I am over-committed. I waste precious time fighting feelings of guilt and I do not enjoy my work as much as I should. What’s even worse, I begin to drop those balls I’ve been juggling, forget appointments and my work lacks the excellence that it requires.

What does self-care look like for me?  My self-care routine takes on many forms.  It includes, exercise, healthy eating, regular spa appointments, dates with my spouse, vacations, family time, girlfriends time, time alone, quiet time, music, reading, running, biking, yoga, and spiritual disciplines such as fasting, prayer and scripture reading.

In speaking of the Great Commandment, Jesus teaches us to love our neighbor as we love ourselves (Mark 12: 30-31).  This means that I am to love and sacrifice for the sake of others. This also means that I cannot truly love others if I neglect to care for myself. If you have not already done so, make a list of all the things you need and enjoy and create your self-care plan. You will love and appreciate others better, when you have properly loved on yourself.

Dr. Toni