Hey there! It’s been a while!
Classes are picking up, club meetings are every night, there are football games and benefit dinners and volunteer opportunities and jobs… but actually, I’m doing pretty well.
I’ve had some pretty busy semesters in the past, and I definitely learned a lot about myself from them. Like that I need downtime to be able to function. Time for books and writing and music and long walks in the October air.
And here’s the thing: I really don’t think it’s selfish to set aside some time every day for self-care. Because for me, at least, going from activity to activity makes me feel thin, sort of stretched. Like butter scraped over too much bread. (It’s always appropriate to work in a LOTR quote.) And when I’m stretched like that, I feel headache-y and tense and overwhelmingly that everything is wrong wrong wrong. Music and books and writing and time outside make me feel like things are really okay.
(Here’s my hot and heavy disclaimer: this is from my perspective as a Christian. But I respect and would love to hear your thoughts no matter what.)
As a Christian, I’ve struggled with this a lot. After all, God doesn’t call us to be comfortable. How can I justify spending an afternoon reading when I could be organizing a food drive or volunteering at a women’s shelter? Hiking through the woods doesn’t put food in bellies. Every minute spent alone seems like a luxury – I could be listening people’s stories, soothing hurting hearts.
Well. This is definitely an issue that I’m still working through – I probably always will be. But with Bible study and my journal and conversations with some people very important to me, I’ve reached a few conclusions on the tension between serving and self-care.
First, I’m vastly better at being there for others after I’ve taken the time to recharge. As the saying goes, you can’t serve from an empty vessel. If I’m itching to be alone, to process things in my journal, to wrap myself up in a music bubble, I’m not able to concentrate fully on whatever problems my friends want my help with. I can’t give them my full attention. (I literally can’t, it’s like I can’t focus my eyes or something when I’m stretched too thin.) A person’s full attention is a rare and precious thing. I think it’s worth the investment.
Second, it is not your job to save the world. God works through us on this one, but rest assured, He can handle it. The world is not ours to save. Things won’t fall apart if you take an afternoon off. Or even if you take the whole day off.
I look around me and I see all these hurting hearts, and I ache because I wish I could be what each of these people need, but I can’t. Not because I don’t have enough energy, but because I’m not what they need at all. People need Jesus. Not me.
Third, when you’ve found the right balance, you don’t have to force it. For me, when I’ve been reading and writing and learning about important issues, I get inspired to go out and work. For a better world. I don’t have to make myself; I want to. When you find the things that you’re truly passionate about, action comes naturally. It’s still tiring, of course, but it’s not quite so draining. That’s how it works for me, at least.
Fourth, you’re a lot more effective when you put a lot of time and energy into a few things, rather than putting a bit of your energy into all the things. Follow your interests, and guiltlessly say no to the rest. Don’t worry: there’s someone out there who’s just as passionate about drilling wells as you are about fostering shelter dogs. You’re allowed to specialize.
For me, that means volunteering at ESL classes and at nature preserves. For you, it might be working at your local library and mentoring a younger student. It’s all good. We all have our roles to play.
I’m on fall break right now, and guess how much work I got done yesterday.
I read and listened to music and went for a run and laughed with my family. It was fantastic. It refreshed me. And now I’m ready to go out and work.
Has anyone else felt this tension? How do you deal with it? Let me know below!