by Rev. Hilda R. Davis
And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.” Revelation 21:5a
The Christmas pageants are over. All the faithful have come, brought joy to the silent nights, and departed in peace. We have celebrated the humble birth of Jesus—God with us—with family and friends, congregations and communities. Then, we prayed out 2015 as we welcomed the New Year.
We begin 2016 with anticipation, gratitude, and something else—exhaustion. As women, we have spent time preparing for, caring for, creating comfort for others; now it is time to think about our own self-care.
I invite you to join me as we look together at ways to make your self-care as much a priority as you make the care of others. Whether you are ministering across the world, in a local congregation or in your own home; you may be a caregiver or learning to care for your own changing needs; or you may be juggling all of the above with your capable hands—this is an opportunity to do a “new thing.” Regardless of your level of health and wellness, in 2016, begin this year by examining your lifestyle and asking if you can add more spaces for “Rest, Reflection, and Renewal.”
At the end of this post, you will find a link to download instructions to create your own “self-care plan” for body, mind, and spirit wellness. However, just in case you have to rush to the next thing after reading this, thank-you for joining us and you will not leave empty-handed. I have included brief, quick self-care tips that give instant benefits. Really! Rather than creating a list of New Year’s Resolutions (that sometimes don’t make it past January), I suggest using these wellness tips to incorporate small changes into your day, which create a wellness lifestyle and you never have to make another New Year’s Resolution!!
Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he [Jesus] said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” Mark 6:31
Jesus noticed the disciples were tired and encouraged them to rest. God rested on the seventh day after creating the world in six days. The prophet, Elijah, was instructed by God to eat and refresh himself for the journey ahead of him—he also took the time to sleep. (1 Kings 19)
It is often challenging for women to find time to eat and sleep. Our work is 24/7. Children need to eat every day (often all day). Congregations need care; crisis calls come during dinner and even when we are trying to sleep. Friends and family have emergencies and sleep has to be delayed and resting is only a memory. Women continue to be present for others and become sleep deprived, in spite of the research that emphasizes how necessary sleep is to our well-being. “If you’re sleep deficient, you may have trouble making decisions, solving problems, controlling your emotions and behavior, and coping with change. Sleep deficiency also has been linked to depression, suicide, and risk-taking behavior.”
However, you can improve your sleep and make some small changes to provide spaces to rest. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) gives some suggestions for improving sleep:
- Use the hour before bed for quiet time. Turn off the television before going to sleep.
- Make your bedroom cool, quiet, and dark at bedtime.
- Take a hot bath or use relaxation techniques before bedtime.
TIP: Breathe in to the count of three: 1-2-3; Breathe out to the count of six: 1-2-3-4-5-6. This is one of the quickest, cheapest, and immediately beneficial practices you can begin to relieve stress and boost your energy. Deep breathing is an easy way to take care of yourself. Practice often.
“Be still, and know that I am God” Psalm 46:10a
Jesus spent time in prayer and solitary reflection. (Matthew 14:23) When we spend time in quiet reflection, we are able to hear and respond to God’s call on our lives.
The Daily Room offers daily reflections online that give you a prayer, a meditation, a scripture, and more to guide your thoughts. You can subscribe and receive the daily reflections by email. Use their reflections or your favorite meditations to bring calm, comfort, and peace to your day.
TIP: You don’t have to spend a long time sitting in a meditation pose or repeat a mantra to benefit from the sense of calm and serenity that arises from time spent in quiet reflection. Sit in a comfortable position. Bring to mind a scripture, an affirmation (suggestion: “Today I have peace because I trust God for the outcome.”), or a positive word said to you by someone. Allow yourself to experience the joy and peace from your thoughts. Continue to reflect on how God is present in your situation. Sit and relax for 5-10 minutes. Go in peace.
“but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31
This is a favorite scripture of many, including me. What attracts me to this verse, aside from the poetry of it, is that it reminds me that when we wait for and trust in God we are able to take action. We have renewed strength, which allows us to soar or run or walk. Whatever our capability, God gives us the strength to do all we are able to do because our strength comes from God.
Creating a plan for your continued health and wellness begins with “rest, reflection, and renewal.” Once you are renewed, the next step is action. The Self-Care Plan can be downloaded. It gives you a model for how to bring body, mind, and spirit health to your day. It asks you to consider “What action will you take?” “When will you start?,” “Who will help you?” Once you write your answers you have a plan. It’s that simple!
TIP: Let your action begin with taking simple stretches every morning before you jump out of bed and rush into your day. Lie flat on your back. Begin by taking a deep breath. Release slowly. Place your arms next to your body and stretch them as if you are trying to stretch them to your feet. Relax. Next stretch your legs—extend them, point your toes—as if you are trying to touch the end of your bed. Relax. Finally, gently move your head from side to side; then up and down. Repeat, if you have time. Give your body a good shake and sit up refreshed.
Begin new wellness practices. Start now. May you live in renewed health and wellness in 2016 as you Breathe, Reflect, and Act.
Hilda Davis is an ordained Deacon in the Tennessee Conference and has had the privilege of serving as a local pastor, an Editor with the United Methodist Publishing House and first Project Manager for United Methodist Communications’ Global Health Initiative.
Currently, she is the founder of Hilda R Davis Consulting and has the honor of working with clients long distance through technology, but remains committed to delivering person-centered counseling. Her primary focus is the healing and wholeness of individuals, families, congregations, and communities. She has written articles for religious books, clinical publications, and a weekly health and spirituality column in a regional newspaper.
Her work in local congregations led to the publication of her book for women, Live Healthy & Be Well: Create an Action Plan, which offers Bible stories, meditation, and activities that are designed to encourage holistic wellness. For more information about her book and for other wellness tools you can download, visit her website: www.hildardavis.com.
Another vocational opportunity was to serve as founding Director of the Faith Based Initiatives for the Tennessee Department of Health where she reported to the Commissioner of Health. As Director, she cultivated public health and faith collaborations across the State, designed and led trainings in congregations to promote healthy behaviors, and developed a multimedia curriculum for building a health ministry, Power in the Pews: Having a Heart for Health.
She has taught at Vanderbilt Divinity School and Tennessee State University. Her collaboration on research projects at Meharry Medical College and the Cancer Center at Vanderbilt University Medical Center focused on the disparities in breast cancer mortality rates for African American women, cancer and spirituality, and faith and chronic illness. She also worked as Chaplain at Vanderbilt Cancer Clinic where she offered spiritual direction to people living with cancer.
Davis received her doctorate in Religion and Psychology from Vanderbilt University. She has both undergraduate and master’s work in Psychology and is a Licensed Professional Counselor in the State of Tennessee. She has a daughter, Erin A. Grimes, who makes her proud. Erin was a member of the first class to graduate from Dillard University after Hurricane Katrina and continues to flourish.