I’ve been traveling a lot this past year - mostly by plane. I’ve grown quite accustomed to packing less than 50lbs, never loosening my grip on my passport, negotiating seat arrangements with other passengers so I can sit by my husband…you know the drill.
Before take off they always play a fairly annoying, but I guess pretty necessary, video of safety instructions. Getting you accustomed with the exits, showing you how to put on your seatbelt, etc. There is a point in that video where they prepare you for the possible event of losing oxygen. They say that these masks will magically fall from the ceiling and all you do is strap it on and you’re good to go. They always make it very clear that if you’re with someone who needs help – even an infant – you must put your own mask on before assisting them with theirs.
Is that morally right? Does putting my own mask on before helping the kid next to me make me a selfish person? Is that something I should feel shame about?
I’ve never been put in that specific situation – and goodness I pray I never am. But I imagine they made that rule of thumb knowing that if you haven’t taken care of yourself, you might not be able to effectively take care of someone else.
There was a moment in the midst of my depression where I became incredibly aware of how little I was taking care of myself. I would go a week without a shower. I’d go to bed at night without brushing my teeth or washing my face. I hadn’t exercised in months. I would spend the majority of my free time watching Netflix. I canceled or avoided as many social situations as possible. My time spent with God was little to none.
As you can imagine, during this season I was the lowest I had ever been physically, spiritually, and emotionally. I wasn’t giving or pouring out to anyone because I had nothing to give or pour. I was doing quite the opposite. To be blunt, I was acting as a leech to those around me. I was counting on using other people’s energy to keep me going.
I learned from experience that to be able to pour out and help others, I had to first take care of myself. That came in simple ways like daily hygiene, having consistent quiet times truly meeting with God, exercising and getting my heart rate up, or getting outside.
As you may know if you have experienced depression, those things aren’t easy in the midst of being mentally ill. Getting out of bed was sometimes the biggest victory I could fathom. But I began working towards those things and giving myself grace when I would fail. I prayed that God would give me strength to spend time with Him. I prayed that He would help me build up the will power to turn off Netflix and take a walk outside. I prayed that all of those things wouldn't be selfishly motivated, but so that I could be healthy enough to love and pour myself out to others. Slowly but surely, He began to answer those prayers.
I have also come up with a self care plan for when I’m in times of hard mental battles. I call them my “off ramps” because if my depression is a highway heading towards destruction, these things act as my exits. They help to clear my mind so I can get back to a healthy place where I am ready to fight again.
A few of mine include:
- Taking a bubble bath
- Artistically writing out a Bible verse or phrase of truth
- Reading a book in my hammock
- Taking Summit to the dog park
- Going to a coffee shop to draw or read
- Long boarding outside around my apartment complex
- Getting dressed up nice with make up and all – even if I have nowhere to go
- Calling up a friend to grab coffee
- Writing a letter for the readers here
What are your self-care go-tos? How can you fight by taking care of yourself? What are your signs that lead you to taking action and fighting? I’d love to hear more of what this looks like for you. Feel free to leave a comment or reach out through the “Lets Chat” tab on the top of the webpage.
Take care of yourselves. You’re worth it.
The world needs you.