NO STRESS ZONE.
There is a lot of talk about self-care these days. It comes in all kinds of different forms: “me time,” “treating myself,” “boundaries,” and a multi-billion dollar “self-improvement” industry. Often the mantra of “self-care” just feels self-ish, a tagline to the individualistic self-centeredness of our day.
But as a mental health counselor I know how essential it is for me to care for myself well to be able to care for my clients. If I do not take “self-care” seriously, I will not only burnout, I also will be in danger of doing great harm to my clients. So, I began a quest to discover what the Bible has to say about this modern day term: “self-care.
I turned to Scripture and soon found that I did not know where to look. As I talked to my professors, studied, and meditated I came to realize that though the idea of “self-care” doesn’t show up explicitly there is certainly a strong theme of care and rest in the Bible; it just doesn’t look anything like I thought it would.
Created to Rest in God
I started at the beginning, where God rested on the seventh day. God made the day holy, ordaining a rhythm of work and rest for all creation (Genesis 2:2). Why would the Creator and Sustainer of life rest, unless God was teaching God’s image bearers (Genesis 1:26) an important lesson?
It is as simple as this, we are created to find rest in God.
When I understood this, I realized that “biblical self-care” isn’t self-care at all, it is surrender to divine care.
This divine rest is not optional, just like breathing is not optional. Sure we can ignore it, just like we are free to ignore God, or hold our breath until we’re blue. But the only true rest we will ever find for our souls is in God.
God wove rest into creation itself, embedded it in the ten commandments, taught it to the Israelites in the wilderness (Exodus 16:22-31), and let the nation of Israel feel the consequences of not seeking rest in God (Leviticus 26:34). The Psalms are brimming with how the Lord cares for and strengthens people (Psalm 1, 3, 6, etc.). The prophets paint vivid pictures of the Lord’s restoration (Isaiah 40, 58, Hosea 14). Jesus himself sought rest in the presence of his Father (Luke 5:16). And Jesus invited his followers to do the same (Mark 6:31).
How to Rest in God
God shows us through the story of Scripture what this surrender to divine care really means. It is a Sabbath rest, an outward sign and practice of an inner reality.
I was shocked to find that the Sabbath rest is less like repose or sleep and more like renewal to flourishing life. Jesus alludes to this when addressing the Samaritan woman: “The water that I will give them will become in them a spring which will provide them with life-giving water and give them eternal life” (John 4:14b). Like the Samaritan woman, we must choose to accept Jesus’s invitation to drink from the living waters, to actively engage in surrendering to God.
This rest involves:
Why We Rest in God
The rest that God gives to us is inherently relational, it is not something we do by ourselves and for ourselves. Jesus says, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me” (John 15:4 ESV). We rest in relationship with the life-giver. We abide so that we may bear fruit in this ancient rhythm of work and rest, growth, and harvest.
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28-29 ESV).
Editorial by Maulana Wahiduddin Khan
On a visit to the USA I happened to meet an Asian immigrant, let’s call him SA. I found that he was a man with a difference. At all times he was in a happy mood. His colleagues also affirm that he is quite different from other people.
In the course of a conversation, I asked him how he was such a stress-free person, while others were living in stress. He smiled and said: “God Almighty made me and threw the mould away.”
It was then my good fortune to be invited by SA to stay with him for a few days. Accepting this offer allowed me to discover the secret of his different personality. My stay with him helped me discover the formula for his happy, stress-free life.
When I was with him at his home, one of his relatives came to him in an angry mood. He said, “Mr. So-and-So is trying to distort your image. He is engaged in negative propaganda against you.” The visitor continued in this way, but SA listened to him dispassionately. Finally the man said in annoyance, “I am telling you something as serious as this, and you are not responding.” SA said in an unruffled way: “Yeh unka problem hai, mera problem to nahin.” -- It is his problem, and not mine!
The next day we had planned a sight-seeing trip to a number of places, but for some reason at the eleventh hour, I said, “I’m not in a mood to go out. Let’s stay at home.” SA replied very calmly: “Chalo, yeh bhi theek hai” -- No problem, this is also okay.
During my stay with SA, I discovered these two formulas for his happiness. I think these are applicable to every man and woman. Everyone can adopt these formulas, achieve a stress-free life and live in happiness.
The first principle, “It is his problem, not mine” can described as the art of problem management. In life there are always problems, and the best formula is to try to manage them rather than try to eliminate them. You have to learn the art of problem management, and then you can have a life where there is no stress or tension.
The second principle, “No problem, this is also okay”, can be described as: If you don’t get the first good, be content with the second good. It is a fact that in every situation there is always something that can be called the “second good”. All that is required is to accept the second good and forget the first good.
According to psychological studies, every problem begins in the mind, and it is also in the mind where problems can be solved. So it is like changing your intellectual gear. If you are able to do that, then you have found the super-formula for de-stressing.
You are more precious than everything else. So always try to save yourself. If in any situation, you have lost something, even then you have something, and that is yourself. So forget what is lost and take that which still exists for you. This is the best formula for attaining a happy life.
A happy life can often only be achieved in unhappy conditions. Life is the art of management. You cannot change the world, but you can manage yourself in order to find a happy place for yourself in the world. This is the only workable formula for happiness in this world.
It is one thing to have a bucket list at any age. It is something else entirely to have a bucket list that sends you to college for the first time at 92 -- or that sends you on your maiden flight at the controls of a single-engine airplane at 97.
These are the bucket list accomplishments of Cecile Tegler (92) and Mildred "Milly" Reeves (97). And neither of them is done yet.
"I never even thought about having a bucket list," said Reeves, a resident at Mount View Assisted Living in Lockport, N.Y., who became familiar with the insides of airplanes in her 20s, when she was a small-parts inspector for Bell Aircraft during World War II.
After the war ended, she stayed home and had seven daughters -- so the notion of ever flying a plane solo grew increasingly distant.
Assisted Living residents Sandra Leaming, left, Marge Reinard and Cecile Tegler took a class on computer applications.
Nor had Tegler, her friend and fellow resident at Mount View, ever created a real bucket list. What she did have, however, was an urge to go to college since her folks -- who had to support their own parents -- didn't have the money to pay for college when she was in her late teens.
Both of Tegler's daughters graduated from college, but she never imagined that she could go to college, too.
Within the past year -- because of unusual outreach efforts by staff at the assisted living community where they both live -- Tegler attended a community college, where she finally learned how to use and operate a computer. And Reeves took the controls of an airplane and flew it, on her own, for about 15 minutes.
Whether or not these are actual bucket list items, they are accomplishments that have spurred both women to set even more goals.
It stands to reason that bucket lists -- specific life goals to accomplish before dying -- are more popular as Americans live longer and find they have more time on their hands.
Such goals don't have to be about flying airplanes or entering college in your 90s. Sometimes, bucket lists that focus on helping others can be the most effective.
That, at least, was the plot line of the 2007 film "The Bucket List," starring Jack Nicholson as an eccentric billionaire who finds himself sharing a hospital room with a car mechanic played by Morgan Freeman. Both men suffer terminal illnesses but opt to complete their lifetime bucket lists together -- only to discover their new friendship tops the list.
"The best bucket lists aren't usually about skydiving or climbing the Great Wall of China," said Marc Agronin, a geriatric psychiatrist who is vice president for behavioral health and clinical research at Miami Jewish Health Systems in Miami. "Our bucket lists need to be in line with our core values."
He suggests that people simply look around and see the riches they have and the potential for adventure right in their own communities.
Reeves, whose grandson eagerly came along with her on her maiden flight to capture the moment on video, totally gets that. She said that she took as much -- if not more -- pleasure in her grandson coming along for the ride as she took in the moment when the captain of the plane handed her the controls. Reeves takes the greatest pride in her seven daughters, 12 grandchildren and 14 great grandchildren.
Meanwhile, Tegler, who attended computer class three times weekly at Niagara County Community College in Niagara Falls, N.Y., learned how to use Microsoft Word and Excel software. She was among the first at Mount View to enroll at the college and has since inspired others to do the same. Among those now considering a return to college is her friend Reeves.
"I've helped many people in my life," said Tegler, who expressed no fear or hesitation about attending college with a bunch of 20-somethings. Many students in the class helped her learn how to use the computer.
When Tegler was younger, she said, she often volunteered at veterans' homes because her husband, father and brothers all served in the Army.
Quietly helping Reeves, Tegler and 266 other residents of two assisted living homes in upstate New York accomplish their bucket list goals is David Tosetto, who owns both Mount View and Cobb's Hill Manor in Rochester, N.Y. "Young people dream and old people remember," said Tosetto. "The goal of the bucket list is to give them something to dream about."
The way Tosetto figures it, happy residents make for longer-term residents and happier employees. So, he doesn't charge them one penny extra for the bucket list outings. Besides the flying school and college opportunities, he's also putting together a scuba diving class at a local pool and a kayaking adventure later this summer.
"The ultimate goal of this is to get them more involved in society and in the belief that they can still do things," said Tosetto. He puts the programs into motion by posting large "Bucket List" signs around the two assisted living facilities that announce the opportunities and encourage residents to sign up.
Tosetto won't sponsor some activities, such as skydiving. "I just don't know how they can land safely," he explained. "Of course, if they choose to do it on their own, that's up to them."
In the end, said Agronin, author of the book "How We Age: A Doctor's Journey Into the Heart of Growing Old," your legacy isn't about how many planes you've jumped out of or how many countries you've visited.
"When the trip of a lifetime ends, you still have the rest of your life to live," he said. Your real legacy is about the people you touch along the way. "The relationships you create and what you teach your children is how you build your legacy," he said.
At 97, Reeves is still building hers.
Asked to name the lifetime accomplishment of which she's most proud, it's not the plane flight at all. "I'm still a Girl Scout," she boasted, noting that she earned the Gold Award, scouting's highest honor. "I still pay my dues."
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