All of us, I think it is safe to say, are under an increased measure of stress and anxiety. In times like this one, of the first things we abandon are healthy rhythms of self-care. Here are some things I’m learning about how to love myself.
“Love myself.” Isn’t that a strange phrase? In our narcissistic world, self-love is at an all time high. But we must find a way to distinguish between self-love and love of self. May I suggest that “love of self” is what Jesus commands in the Great Commandment: “and you shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt 22:36-40).
Jesus isn’t telling us to be narcissists; he’s saying that each of us need to learn to treat ourselves with care, dignity, respect, honor, and gentleness. This is a far cry from the narcissistic self-love (i.e. indulgence, selfishness, pride, vanity) that passes as a cheap substitute for love of self in our world. It’s the “self” of self-love that Jesus commands us to die to.
But Jesus isn’t saying we are to neglect or abuse ourselves either; rather, we are commanded to love others as we love ourselves. So how do we love ourselves? One way is to practice self-care.
Self care is an idea that I think I only heard about around 10 years ago. Growing up, I don’t think I had an awareness of how to take care of myself. Yes, I knew how to stay alive; but the idea that I could proactively contribute to my emotional and physical health was not on my radar at all!
Self-care is nothing less than being intentional and practical on how to love ourselves so we can love others.
So how do you take care of yourself? Do you know the signals and indications that you are afraid, anxious, stressed out? How do you order your daily rhythms or commitments in order to make sure you are loved?
Here are some questions to ask when you are stressed:
- Do I tend to overfunction or underfuntion in a crisis? (Overfunction = clean the whole house, take care of everyone, build a desk, adopt a child, etc. / Underfunction = check out, go to sleep, not get out of bed, eat an entire box of cookies.)
- Do I gorge myself on information, or do I hide from news and information to escape it?
- Does my schedule tend to get rigid and extremely ordered, or does my schedule get chaotic and structure-less?
- What is my relationship right now to food? Am I snacking more than normal? Am I dieting and controlling my appetites?
- What is my relationship right now to sleep? Sleeping more or less than usual? Waking up in middle of the night to work?
- What is my relationship right now to shopping and spending money? Am I buying stuff I don’t need, or am I being extremely austere and frugal?
As you reflect on your answers to those questions, reflect:
- Do you notice something in your rhythms or appetites that has shifted under Covid-19?
- Is it due to stress or anxiety or fear, or some other factor?
- How would you make a move towards health? For example, setting an alarm and getting up at 7am every day, or going to bed at 10pm every night, or not working after 5pm, or only checking the news once in the morning.
Imagine that you were tasked with loving a dear friend who answered the above questions the way you did. What encouragement would you give to them on how to care for him- or herself?
Let us not neglect taking care of ourselves, friends. Let us face the reality of a pandemic, and the way we respond to it, and let us meet God there in the midst.
Love and prayers,