What’s Your Self-Care Plan?

Written by Norm Henry
From his column A Sound Mind

When I first sat down to write this article, I really thought I was ready. I woke up early as usual, prepared for the day and sat down at my desk. I had a big cup of good coffee and… I sat, but I could not make sense of my thoughts. (You ever been there?) So I did what I often do, I went for a walk. Going for a walk clears my mind, gives me time to chat with God, and improves the circulation in my brain. The walk helped.

Next day, I grabbed my big cup of coffee, sat down at my desk, and again began thinking about writing until it became clear what I needed to do. I went to a state park close to our house and walked in the woods. (Some escapes are healthy.) Today it is raining, so I will stay at my desk and write.

Now, I am aware that this column focuses upon achieving a “sound mind.” One way to do this is to engage in regular, healthy exercise. Yes, regular exercise assists us in thinking more clearly and actually helps us to maintain a healthy mind later in life.

For many years now, I have been privileged to minister to pastors and missionaries. So far, every one of these individuals has been human! And every human lives in a physical body—even Jesus—and He walked a lot. When experiencing stress, our bodies release adrenaline to mobilize energy. The long-term results are tiredness and fatigue. We became drained, and adrenaline depletion contributes to temporary depressed feelings.

Monday mornings can be tough for pastors, with accompanying fatigue that is often more mental than physical. It takes energy to think. Ongoing uninterrupted stress also contributes to other physical consequences, some serious. My mom understood that without self-care our resistance suffers, creating higher risk for illness. Today, it’s known as psychoneuroimmunology.

Monday mornings can be tough for pastors, with accompanying fatigue that is often more mental than physical.

So we need to care for ourselves. Self-care is actually good stewardship. With the interruptions of ongoing life, self-care needs to be purposeful and intentional. Self-care is not selfishness; it is appropriate stewardship of the body, the temple of God’s Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19). It seems as though humans tend to go from one extreme to the other in caring for the body—from worshiping, to ignoring it. Humans need regular exercise to maintain a sound mind. Balanced self-care is not wasted time; it is invested time. I recommend taking a moment to think about what type of exercise would be restorative to you.

As I write this, I have another strange thought. I think even “passive exercise” is restorative. I know that is an oxymoron, but here is what I mean. The Psalmist said, “He makes me lie down in green pastures.” I think God sometimes wants to tell us we don’t need to do anything but rest or find something to do that is relaxing. Fishing is restorative even if you do not catch anything (of course, it’s more fun if you catch fish, but you get the idea). Many consider sleeping as wasted time. The majority of people today engage in less sleep than they need, staying up late or getting up early. I do know that I think better after a good night’s sleep. God created us to have a period of sustained rest at least once a day.

So let me try to provoke you into some physical activity. You may need a “personal trainer” to help. By this, I mean tell one of your friends you need to get more exercise, then accept their reminders as a caring incentive to help you getting moving. Start small. We are more successful beginning with small steps than trying to start a major self-care plan all at once.

With that, I think I have finally shared what I wanted to tell you. Now, what are you going to do to better care for yourself? Walk? Run? Hike? Swim? Ride your bicycle? Personally, I think I will go for a walk.

Dr. Norm Henry has served the Church of the Nazarene in numerous capacities as both psychologist and minister.