[guestpost]This week, I’m hidden away in the Colorado mountains working on the final chapters of my rough draft. Make that a rough, ROUGH draft. While I’m cranking out word count, I asked friend and couselor, Lucille Zimmerman, to join me for a conversation about self-care. If you don’t know what “self-care” is, there’s a good chance you need to read what she has to say. To learn more about Lucille Zimmerman and her book “Renewed,” check out her website: www.LucilleZimmerman.com[/guestpost]

Welcome, Lucille! 

Renewed

You recently released a new book on self-care titled, Renewed: Finding Your Inner Happy In An Overwhelmed World. So tell us: Exactly what is self-care? 

Years ago when I was in grad school and unraveling my own trauma history, I became emotionally overwhelmed. I wanted to move through my healing quickly, but my mentors and supervisors kept telling that’s not how it works. They said I needed to slow down and do self-care. I was bewildered. What was self-care?

All my life I had put other’s needs ahead of mine; that was the Christian way. I was a people pleaser rushing around taking care of everyone but me. I had a lot of shame and low self-esteem. I got my sense of self from others. So I began a long quest to understand what self-care was, and what would help me heal.

After years of academic study, research, and personal experience, I came to the conclusion that self-care just means putting yourself on the list. It means valuing yourself enough to know you need to spend time resting, setting boundaries, and engaging in activities that made me happy (or cared for), without feeling guilty.

Your occupation gives you unique insight and expertise into the subject. Tell us what you do for a living, and how your experiences have made you more aware of the need for self-care. 

I am a Licensed Professional Counselor and a teacher at Colorado Christian University. Many times clients come to me for relationship problems. Here’s a pretend example: A young mom tells me her parents-in-law spend thousands of dollars on her and her family at Christmas. She feels tremendous pressure to buy expensive gifts for her husband’s family, thus putting her own family in debt. I explain that just because others do something doesn’t mean she has to respond in a similar fashion. If they get upset, that is their issue, not hers. Self-care is teaching this woman that she can make a decision that she feels comfortable with and no longer feel guilty.

On a separate topic, I see so many women who have no sense of self. If I ask their favorite color, they don’t know. If I ask them what they would do for themselves if they had a free day, they haven’t got a clue. I have worked with 65-year old clients who never speak their beliefs. They are afraid of their own voice. Self-care means you stop trying to fool people with perfection; you open up your vulnerable and flawed self to safe people. You trust your place in this world rather than hiding, pleasing, and clawing for a place.

Why does it matter so much? What’s at stake?  

As I researched for my book, I learned that 95% of all office visits to doctors are for stress-related ailments (McClellan and Hamilton, So Stressed). We live in a hectic world and if we don’t slow down and attend to our own health and happiness, we are going to live sick and shortened lives. Marcus Buckingham found that over the last 40 years, women in general, are less happy.  He studied what the happiest women do: They didn’t try to juggle everything. Instead they spent time doing what they loved. I don’t mean vacationing and shopping. They did things that were on their list of strengths (e.g. writing, reading, gardening, or whatever they were skilled at).

Recently, a friend of mine smirked at the idea of self-care, because it’s “self-centered.” Is self-care selfish? What do we do with the guilt that seems to accompany any kindness we show ourselves?

That makes me sad. Just because your friend believes self-care is selfish, doesn’t mean it is true. Jesus told us to love others as we love ourselves. He assumed we would love and care for ourselves. I am not promoting selfishness and self-centeredness. But, if we are healthy, rested, happy, and living a balanced life, we will bring our very best selves to our family and friends rather than our burned out, exhausted, stressed, frenzied and bloated leftovers.

Okay, let’s get practical. Give us some examples of self-care. 

In Renewed, I cover 14 topics, including solitude, connecting, gratitude and generosity. I talk about the importance of play, setting healthy boundaries, sharing your secrets, appreciating beauty, and being present. I also address emotional issues like grief, trauma, and identifying your identity. It could be as simple as a 15-minute walk or turning on an upbeat song that changes your brain waves.

Does self-care have to be expensive or time-consuming in order to count? In other words, can a half-hour sitting in the sun really make that much of a difference? 

Absolutely! Sitting in the sun for 30 minutes means you know you need a break. You need quiet. You need nature. Self-care does not have to be expensive at all. One time I was really stressed out and my counselor told me to go out and buy myself a latte. There’s something really powerful about doing a simple act of self-care that shouts, “I am valuable.”

What about the woman who doesn’t have time for self-care? She knows it’s important, but can’t find even fifteen minutes to do something for herself. What would you say to her?

There are seasons in our lives. Moms with young children might not have much time for self-care. But I would say it’s critical. Even if she doesn’t have it, find a way to get it. For instance, moms can join a MOPS group. Twice a month they can get out of the house, hang around other women, laugh, cry, make something, and get a break from their children. Even if it seems small, it’s a start.

Is self-care a regular part of your routine? Why or why not? 

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