Self-Care and Sabbath: Learning to Trust Time

Photo of Shem-shem Pablo

By Catia Michelle

As a pastor, I think a lot about Faith and also about how to care for myself in a job that is both amazingly rewarding but also, at times, profoundly draining both physically and emotionally. Two weeks ago I wrote about the basics of Self-Care (Self-Care 101) and how I began thinking more seriously about caring for myself and practicing good Self-Care on a daily basis. But how does this relate to Faith and Spirituality?

At the heart of Spirituality is the idea of the Sacred. In my Christian tradition I understand each human and the environment to be Sacred because we are created by a loving God. It’s easy sometimes for me to look around at name everyone else in my world Sacred, Loved, Blessed and Beautiful and forget that I, too, am all of those things. Self-Care helps me to celebrate my own Sacredness and worth before God. And a reality of practicing Self-Care is that it takes time. If we are going to practice Self-Care we have to set aside intentional, focused time to do so. Interestingly, it has also been my Faith tradition that has helped me the most in learning to do this: 

Sabbath is a concept that originated with the Israelite people thousands and thousands of years ago. It was codified and written down, after passing through oral tradition, probably sometime shortly after the Jewish captivity in Babylon ended and the Israelites got serious about writing down their stories and laws. In the simplest, Biblical sense Sabbath is a day of rest practiced in imitation of God, who is said to have rested on the seventh day after creating the world.

Jewish law forbids nearly any kind of work from sundown on Friday through Saturday. It also asks that people stay close to home, eschew much technology and is traditionally celebrated with long, ritual-filled family meals, visiting with close friends and neighbors, drawn out theological discussion and quiet books and games. I have always been intrigued by the concept of Sabbath and Sabbath keeping. As a Christian we normally practice Sabbath on Sunday and don’t traditionally keep Jewish Sabbath law (such as staying close to home), but I think there are pieces of the Sabbath tradition in Judaism and in Christianity that can be revolutionary for our own Self-Care and sense of the Sacred in our lives. 

My question: What does Sabbath do for us? How does it help us maintain and deepen our Spiritual lives and practice good Self-Care?

Time: Interestingly, today people think they work far more than their counterparts in the 50’s or 60’s. If you ask the average person if they feel stressed, overworked and busy….well, just go ask your neighbor and I bet you will hear a resounding Yes!

It’s interesting, however, that in scientific studies when people have been asked how much they work and how much time they have for leisure, people today over-report how much time they work and always express that they wish they had more time for leisure. When asked to keep a time-diary of every activity in a day, the reality of how people spend their time doesn’t match up to what they report: people aren’t working any more than we used to and have plenty of time for leisure. 

So why do we FEEL so stressed?

I wonder if the amount of leisure time we spend on media (TV, Ipods, Computer, Netflix, Instant Messaging, Facebook….) takes up much of our leisure time but doesn’t give us the feeling of rest and fullness of life that other leisure activities do (like visiting with friends, writing hand-written letters, long walks outdoors, family-cooked meals and staying at the table chatting for hours with a glass of wine). I also believe we live in a culture that values business so much that we are all swept up in a mindset that we have to be busy to be worthwhile people. I recognize that their are real strains on our time, and many of us have to work odd hours and many jobs just to make ends meat.

And this is where Sabbath comes in.

Sabbath asks that we TRUST that the time we have is ENOUGH. To practice Sabbath, to set aside a day of the week to not work asks us to believe that there is plenty of time for the things that matter to us and plenty of time for work. It also asks us to trust that if we don’t get everything done….it isn’t the end of the world! We are still valuable, wonderful people created in the image of God! This is a fundamental attitude shift. Our culture relies on the mantra: there is never enough time so run, run, run! Sabbath’s mantra: there is plenty of time for the things that matter most in life. 

Faith: I believe that God had a real purpose in modeling Sabbath for us and later asking us to be people who keep Sabbath. It’s not about rules and regulations. Sabbath, as Jesus points out later, isn’t something God designed so that we could please God…it’s something God designed for us. God perhaps foresaw that we would become a people obsessed with productivity, technology, fast-food and drive-thrus. And Sabbath is the anti-dote. In our Faith life and our Spirituality, trust is an important thing! Learning to trust God and be comfortable with vulnerability is a life long process. And I believe Sabbath is one tool in helping us do that. 

Sabbath gives us time and space for wonder. 

Sabbath lets us rest and honor the bodies God gave us. 

Sabbath opens us up to appreciated the deep human relationships God created. 

Sabbath gives us time to be in God’s creation, and to experience the beauty and transcendence in our world. 

…..I could go on and on and on 🙂 

Editor’s Note: Catia is a pastor, book lover, Mennonite, community gardener, tea drinker and writer. She is delighted to be contributing to AMS Daily! She blogs regularly at http://joyfortoday2012.wordpress.com. Have questions or great ideas for Self Care? She’d love to hear from you! 

Self-Care 101: How to Start Caring for Yourself

Photo of Shem-shem Pablo

By Catia Michelle

I was twenty-two years old when I first heard someone use the phrase “Self Care”. Perhaps because, for over a year, I had been feeling sluggish, pasty, and weak (even going to the doctor twice for muscle pain and spasm) that my ears perked and I turned my head.
“Self Care? Explain!”
My friend, a woman I  have always admired for her non-anxious and inviting demeanor towards life, explained that she understood Self Care to be fundamentally the attitude that we are ultimately responsible, and capable of influencing, our own well-being, stress levels, physical health and comfort. She explained that she had first begun researching Self Care after spending a year as a chaplain at our local women’s prison, a windowless place where she spent hours a day hearing stories of abandonment, injustice and deep depression. She realized quickly upon starting there that her own mental health and physical stability would be compromised if she didn’t pay careful attention to her mind and body both before she went to work and when she came home.
Learning Self Care: What is it?
I was intrigued. Something in me knew that the past year of trying to rely on medications and doctors to feel more energized, calm and inspired was not working and was never going to work. I scoured the internet when I got home that day for anything pertaining to Self Care and I was swimming in information on how to have more energy, live a happier life, and rest better.
Many of the ideas I came across were essentially basic. For instance: drink more water. Go to bed on time. The difference was this: no longer were these things I wanted to do because I should do them, or because a health professional or blogger told me they would be good for me, they were practices I was choosing because I love myself and want to take care of my body, mind and spirit.
I have decided that Self Care, fundamentally is defined by an attitude of care towards my body, mind and spirit and an absence of the word “should”.
Is Self Care selfish?
Over time, I’ve learned that Self Care, too, also isn’t really just about me.
It does involve my community because often good Self Care means saying No, and having a community that understands No is vitally important. This is especially true because often, in the name of Self-Care, I have to say ‘No’ to things simply because I know they won’t be good for me in the long run.
As a pastor, this is really hard. I feel like I am being selfish, like I should show up to every event, be prepared to work long hours every Sunday, and make sure I’m actively involved in everything happening in my community. And when I say No to some of those things, it feels a lot easier to have a “real” excuse: “I’m sorry, I need to be home taking care of my Mother” or “I have a previous engagement”.
Saying “I”m sorry, but I really need some extra time to rest this week” doesn’t feel as legitimate.
But sometime last year I started saying that, because it was the truth, and it was really difficult to do at first. Some people didn’t understand.
But as I began choosing to practice great Self Care, I knew I needed to only choose activities that were really life-giving for me, and by doing so I would actually be modeling healthy behavior for my community.
And you know what?
Despite working to focus more on my Self, because I have greater energy  and more inspiration and better emotional health: I actually have more time and energy for my community and more openness in my heart to form deeper relationships.
And – That’s not selfish at all!
Editor’s Note: Catia Michelle is a pastor, who loves to write about motivation, routines/habits, mornings, and exercise. She maintains a blog, Joy For Today and commits to contributing on AMSDaily twice a month.

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