There is no shortage of instructions on the interweb.
In any given month it is quite likely you will be instructed on multiple topics. The list could include:
Ten things not to say to your single friends
Five things Christians should stop saying
Ten things for a healthy marriage.
Five reasons your teen is rebelling.
Those never ending lists just serve to overwhelm me. Say this. Don’t say this. Do that. NEVER do this.
I can barely follow directions. Kraft Mac and Cheese has one step too many for me.
There are SO many instructions and they all run together and before I know it I have applied one of the items to the wrong problem. After reading all those articles I learned that my teen was rebelling because I was too controlling. Somehow I got mixed up and became certain one of the keys to a happier marriage was to be more controlling.
As you can see, there is a HUGE margin of error here.
* * *
Today, I shall add fuel to the fire…
My list of things you “should” do to care for yourself.
One caveat, I don’t actually care if you reject my entire list. These are just some things that have been helpful to us in eight years overseas.
Guess what? Just because they helped us, doesn’t mean they will necessarily work for all of you.
Therefore, today I present to you:
Four things you could do. (Four possible not mandatory ways to care for yourselves and your families while working/living/serving and growing “overseas” .)
- Time Away/Rest
- EMDR and Counseling
Time Away/Rest – I don’t have to tell you this, you have heard it a kajillion times. “Even Jesus took time away”. So do that. Be like Jesus.
We all do what we do because we believe it to be important, even necessary, work. There is a tendency in all of us to cast ourselves in a role that is irreplaceable, as in “without me this cannot happen” – so I cannot rest. Well, here is the thing: If that is true, you have got larger problems than just needing a rest.
Take time off. Leave work and “mission” for a time and regroup. I am not suggesting you be a lazy lard. I am suggesting that within a system of accountability you take time away every so often because that is good for you and your family.
Community – This is easier for some than it is for others. There is a great benefit to living in community with other believers. In this day and age there is a way to have an on-line community and an in-real-life community. If you can have both, you have the best of both worlds. There should be a few people in your life that you can share your deepest fears and joys with on a semi-regular basis. There should be people that you allow to speak into those things.
EMDR and Counseling – Right now you are wondering where the heck the train left the track, you did not see it coming. Stick with me, please. EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing and it is a type of trauma treatment. Any of us that spend significant amount of time living cross culturally are almost guaranteed some trauma. I could give you sixteen examples but I will simply share this testimonial: After the 2010 earthquake in Haiti we discovered that PTSD was not just something soldiers in combat have. EMDR seemed like hocus pocus to us at first, but we can tell you it absolutely helped us with the trauma of the earthquake and other previous trauma we had not dealt with at that time. It was an effective way of dealing with small and very large traumatic happenings.
If trauma is not your issue, perhaps basic therapy/counseling would be a way to process some of the stressors of living cross-culturally. Going to talk to a professional to get some advice, feedback, or help is not a sign of weakness. It is a sign of being a real, living, feeling, human being. Marriages fall apart under stress and living abroad is stressful. I am no math expert, but after some rudimentary calculations I can see that perhaps counseling would be helpful for those doing marriage outside of their home culture.
Prayer- This is a big one…Maybe even the biggest one. There are two parts to this suggestion.
First, have a team of people in place that you know you can count on when you call or write them with a prayer request or urgent need. Whether they are your parents and siblings, your home church, or a circle of friends, you will find that you need a group that will carry you when things are very difficult.
During one of our years in Haiti we had a personally devastating set-back that made it hard for us to get out of bed for a couple of weeks let alone accomplish our daily tasks. There were those “back home” that carried us in prayer until we were back on our feet and able to face life again. On another occasion we were in a parking lot in Port au Prince when I sensed danger. I could not identify what it was, but I knew I needed to go back to the car with our kids. That afternoon when I returned home I had an email from my Dad that said, “Where were you at noon? I had a strong sense you were in danger and I prayed for you guys until it passed.” You will likely have times when these intercessory prayers will absolutely matter.
Second, make prayer a part of your breathing. As you go about your day, be seeking God in each interaction and task. Try to make family and spouse prayer times a high priority. Try to pray with your community and carry one another’s burdens. None of us were meant to do this work alone, call on your Heavenly Papa and ask for His help.
As soon as I finished this list I remembered that there is a fifth thing. I guess I failed at internet bossing, cannot even count it out correctly.
5. Excercise Regular exercise will help you feel better about everything that is hard about your life. You could give that a try too.
That is my list of
What else would you add?
What ways have you found helpful when taking care of yourself?