I am stepping away from the sharp and jagged ledge of the “all or nothing” mentality.
For me, I have always lived by the belief that anything worth doing was worth overdoing. Through the span of the last 15 years, I have discovered and rediscovered myself through finding the things that give me joy. I have nurtured obsessions with crafting, quilting, fitness, cake baking, and book collecting. All I have to show for these compulsive assortments of Happy Planner stickers, fabric stashes, busted cake pans, and old whey protein is a sharp disappointment that none of it stuck (Well, everything blew over except the book collecting. I’m in the bibliophile club for life).
I tend to approach my own health and self-care in the same way; an obsessive and short-term attempt at overcorrection. My hysteric and all-encompassing approach includes finding a solution to fix my ever-present and looming “burn out” or lack of rest.
As military spouses, we are under constant stress. When we add the mental load of parenting, careers, or any other pursuit of purpose, we throw more tasks onto the proverbial laundry pile of responsibility. Part of the problem is that we say “yes” to too many things, but that is the subject for another article.
So, what do we do? If you, like me, believe you have to go “all in” for something to work or be beneficial, we will always be stuck in painful patterns of the “run and collapse” mentality.
Let’s change the way we think about self-care. Self-care is less about getting a monthly pedicure or drinking a glass of wine in a bath tub to “take the edge off,” and more like making small and achievable choices. The goal should be to build a life that requires less “escape” and filters in more rest and wellness.
Let’s break it down. I believe that there are four things that contribute to my own person wellness; physical activity, mental awareness, emotional wellbeing, and spiritual immersion. In the past, I subscribed to the thought process that I should be mastering the art of extremely “firing on all cylinders” within each slice of the “wellness pie.” I thought that I should be working out for two hours a day, staying on top of a million different checklists, vigorously pouring myself into building flourishing and healthy relationships, and spending hours upon hours translating my Bible into the original Greek.
Here’s what I’ve learned. A little bit of attention to these four areas often is better than no attention at all because I can’t commit to the ridiculously high expectations that I have set for myself.
If you are in this row boat with me, let’s stop fighting the current and change our mind.
Instead of committing myself to work out incessantly for hours on end, I’ve compromised for a half an hour on a spin bike right after I wake up (a couple of times a week). It gets the blood flowing and I don’t hover a daily expectation over my own head. This releases me from feeling like a failure. Get moving, but lower the bar.
Lighten the Load
My biggest obstacle in caring for myself mentally is the large amount of mental real-estate that burdens my brain. At any given moment, I am managing a bajillion different projects and open issues. I find that when I am desperately trying to remember all of the things I have to do and places that I need to be, I am overwhelmed. So, I created a landing place in my office to write down the things I need to remember and release it. I have a “six most important things” to-do list and a yellow note pad to scribble down things I need to remember. This helps me to “clear the cookies” and keep my mind fresh.
Define and defend your boundaries
Have you ever had a vampire in your life? Maybe a friend or close relationship that just sucks the life out of you? I’ve had my share. These are the relationship’s that lay waste to your emotional health. Instead of spending eons of time trying to fix or tolerate bad behavior, I have just begun to clearly define what is okay and what is not. I am not apologetic about my boundaries, nor do I make excuses for them. Laying these expectations out clearly will save you a ton of your emotional energy.
Get your time in
Lastly, for my spiritual health, I know that I need constant time in God’s Word. As a Christian, there is nothing more refreshing than reflection in the Scriptures. As a theology student, I am a bit “extra” in my Bible study time. I love word studies, connecting the dots, and diving deep. But, as a home-schooling mother of four, time is a luxury that I don’t often have. I have learned that 30 minutes of Bible reading is better than nothing at all.
We have to take a more holistic approach to our self-care. A wise friend of mine, James Watkins, taught me a principle that has changed the way I approach my health and walk with God. We tend to view things on a list of priorities. This first, that second, that over there is third, and we rigidly drive ourselves into burnout. It is better to think of our priorities as if they were on a wheel.
On my “well-being” wheel, I have my physical health, my mental health, my emotional needs, and my spiritual rest all on an imaginary wheel. As long as each one is regularly touching the road, I’m all good.
Megan Brown is a seasoned military spouse and military missionary. She is the Military Liaison for the Speak Up Conference Global Missions Military Scholarship and the 2019-Armed Forces Insurance Robins AFB Military Spouse of the Year. She is passionate about military mission work and teaching and preaching about Jesus in and out of the local church. She lives in middle Georgia with her husband, Keith, and their energetic kiddos. She is a Bible teacher, speaker, and freelance writer. To learn more or connect with Megan, visit www.meganbbrown.com.