This fall I decided to go back to college to get a certificate in Thanatology. I thought one class a semester would not be that difficult. It turns out that it actually is that difficult. I have really enjoyed the classes though. This semester I have started Introduction to Grief Therapy. In this class we have started the course off by talking about the need for self care in order to take care of others. When it comes to grief therapy, we have to make sure we know and understand and work through our own grief so that we do not bring it into our work with others.
I believe the need for self care extends beyond just grief therapy, however. Self care is important in our faith life as well. When we are too tired, too run down, or too burned out, we often become too busy to make time for God. As Catholics, self care is an important part of our relationship with God. When things seem too out of control and nothing seems to be working, it usually means we need to step back and reset. Think about when your laptop, phone, and iPad are not working the way they should. You call for tech support and the first thing that they ask you is, “Did you try turning it off and restarting it?” So many times that is what our device needs. A simple restart. The same is true for us. Sometimes we just need to unplug and restart. Shut down and spend time with the One who created us.
We are so conditioned to think that taking time for ourselves is selfish. We live in a world that tells us that we need to be constantly going and doing. As we start this season of Lent, we look at Christ as our model. He went into the desert for 40 days. He unplugged. He shut down. He hit the restart button. American writer, Jack Kornfield, wrote “If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete.”
Self care is not something that comes naturally to me. This past Christmas break, I turned off the notifications on my work email for the first time in my 18 years of teaching. I checked my email every few days so that it did not pile up when I returned from break, but I took a step back from the every moment connectivity to my email. What I learned at the end of the break was that everything kept going without me being glued to my email. I was not less of a teacher because I took a break when I was given one. And I came back from break feeling more refreshed than I had in a long time. That made me a better teacher.
This February break I am away with my girlfriends on a girls getaway. Once again, I turned off my email notifications. I need to step back, spend time with those that God has blessed me with, spend more time with Him, and come back refreshed and filled so that I can share His light with the school.
As we think about our Lenten fasting, prayers and almsgiving, think about fasting from the thoughts that tell us we must be doing and being at all times instead of just resting in God’s love. Start small. Five minutes a day just doing something for you that will lead you closer to our Lord and then build from there. Fast from the busyness of life that pulls us away from what is really important. And remember that an empty plate can not feed anyone.
I pray that this Lenten journey will lead us all closer to Christ by remembering that Jesus reminded Martha that Mary had chosen the better part; sitting at the feet of the Lord rather than busying herself around the house. Self care is Godly care. It is taking care of the beautiful gift of ourselves that God gave us.
Anchor columnist Amanda Tarantelli has been a campus minister at Bishop Stang High School in North Dartmouth since 2005. She is married, a die-hard sports fan, and resides in Cranston, R.I. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.