Let me start with a confession – I’m a true perfectionist and extremely competitive. In January we moved to Melbourne from Hervey Bay, Queensland and for weeks leading up to our move I had a rigid packing schedule which outlined what rooms had to be sorted, packed and cleaned by certain dates. Even though I was ahead of my own packing schedule, I worked tirelessly just so I could beat the deadlines I had set for myself. After all, why finish a task on time when you can finish early? But the process nearly killed us.
When lockdown was introduced in Victoria back in March, my perfectionism kicked in again and I saw this as another opportunity to ‘get ahead’ on life. Every morning, I wrote out an unrealistic ‘to-do’ list which outlined how I was going to complete all of my work and uni tasks, maintain a clean house, sort through unpacked boxes and clean out cupboards… as well as ensuring my three kids completed their online schooling to a high standard. I soon realised that the only thing I was achieving was burn-out. I was frustrated, exhausted and running on empty. In looking after everything else I had forgotten to look after myself!
I find it really hard to put things on hold, or let things go in order to create time for myself. However, lockdown soon taught me that I wasn’t helping anyone and needed to take some time out to do the things I enjoy. By doing this, I wasn’t being ‘selfish’ but I was energising myself so I could face the daily demands thrusted on me by lockdown. I had to teach myself that if I was going to thrive, I had to look after myself.
‘Being kind to yourself’ looks different for everyone. For me, the biggest change was my daily goals. Instead of having a never-ending list of to-do tasks, I narrowed it down to the top three things I needed to get done that day, as well as a few ‘extra’ tasks if I had the time. This helped me stay focused and gave me a sense of achievement.
Being kind to yourself could mean setting aside time each day for something you love to do. This could be as simple as going for a walk, drinking your favourite cup of tea in the sun, reading a good book, or phoning a friend just to say hi. For me, I love to exercise. This is a non-negotiable for me and my family knows that Mum’s exercise time is not to be messed with.
But as helpful as these changes were, I still struggled and found myself stopping to ask, “In all of this, what does God think about me?”
I realised that in my busyness to achieve, I couldn’t even hear God’s voice. To hear it, I had to force myself stop and listen, and when I did, God said, “You are loved, because you are mine, not because of your achievements.”
Spend time with God each day and let Him reaffirm this to you too. Be creative in how you do this – listen to worship music as you cook dinner, pray while you’re in the shower or brushing your teeth, listen to a Bible app while getting ready for the day or read the kids a Bible story throughout the day – God can speak to you in many ways!
The key here is to keep it simple. Making small changes to our daily routines will reap great rewards for our mental, physical and spiritual health. We need to be kind to ourselves to stay strong, healthy and resilient in this challenging time.
Carly is the Prep-Grade 4 Pastor at Crossway. Carly and her husband Andrew have three children and love spending time together outdoors.