My lungs were burning, longing to take a breath, but I couldn’t. I was taking part of in exercise in a room full of people and we were told to hold our breath, so hold it I would. I started seeing little dots!
At recent retreat spiritual director Cindy Serio of MOSAIC Ministry had us sit quietly and practice a deep breathing exercise she learned from Joyce Rupp. We began breathing at the rhythm that she dictated. Breathing in and holding, breathing out and holding. She led us into longer and deeper breaths with longer periods of time in between. At first the exercise was soothing, but as the pauses between breaths got longer and longer, I began to grow uncomfortable. As a runner, I have pretty good lung capacity, but I found it challenging to exhale and keep my lungs empty for as long as she required. As the pauses grew ever more exaggerated my oxygen-starved body grew very uncomfortable. Try as I might, I just needed air. I chalked it up to a recent round of the flu and pneumonia, so I cheated and inhaled just a little. Who would know? Then I had to do it again. I marveled at Cindy’s lung capacity and felt like a failure as we finished the activity. Afterwards, Cindy asked who needed to breathe in before she prompted us. Everyone in the room raised their hand. Cindy said, “Good. You each showed compassion to yourself. It is hard to offer compassion to others when you cannot offer it to yourself.”
Isn’t it interesting that I felt like a failure for needing air? Air! A basic bodily need and I denied it to myself simply to keep up with everyone else. Taking care of our bodies is one of the most basic of needs we have and yet all too often we shove it to the back burner. There is just too much going on in our lives. Maybe when things are less hectic… Consider Paul’s words to the church in Corinth.
Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body. (1Co 6:19-20 NRS)
We glorify God when we take care of ourselves! When I look it that way, taking time to care for my physical well-being isn’t an indulgence. It’s a gift to God. I can’t keep up with the pace God sets for me in ministry if I am sick and run down.
So what are some basic ways to care for our bodies? Below I have a brief list of options. Look it over and note down the ones you already do, the ones you would like to start, and the ones in which you have no interest. The goal here is not to make you feel guilty. Rather the goal here is to find where your interests are and focus your energy there:
- Get adequate sleep
- I will go to bed 30 minutes earlier than usual three nights this week
- I will schedule one sleep-in day once a week
- I will take a nap or lie down while my child naps
- I will remove distractions from the bedroom (TV, iPads, laptops, pets, etc.)
- Eat a balanced diet
- I will keep a healthy snack in my car, purse, desk, etc.
- I will read an article on nutrition and make one change in my diet
- I will drink less soda
- I will try a new food
- I will reduce caffeine intake
- Drink plenty of water
- I will grab a travel cup of water every time I head out the door to run errands
- I will try a caffeine free tea or mineral water (no sugar, no caffeine)
- I will walk one mile three times this week
- I will sign up for a class (yoga, pilates, walking or running group, Crossfit, etc.)
- I will do some stretching on weeknight evenings before I go to bed
- I will sign up to run/walk the local Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving morning and then train to do it between now and then
- I will do 25 sit ups every day
- Take time to relax
- I will soak in a hot bath for 20 minutes after the kids are in bed
- I will put my feet up and read a magazine
- I will sit outside and enjoy the sounds of nature when I need a break
- I will lie down and rest for 10 minutes
- Seek Medical Help as Needed
- I will get an annual flu shot
- I will see the dentist
- I will get an annual physical
- I will get a mammogram
- I will see a doctor as needed
These are just a few suggestions. I’m sure you can think of others that are the right fit for you. Looking over the list, the ones that you marked that you already do, give yourself a pat on the back for doing those. Look over the list of ones in which you have no interest. Perhaps consider those for another time, but if they aren’t a fit for you don’t beat yourself up about it. Now look at the list that are things you would like to do. Pick one and make an intentional plan for the week. Write it down and post where you will see it as a reminder. Maybe this week you will choose to walk a mile three days of the week. Perhaps next week you will choose to schedule a sleep in day. Whatever it is that appeals to you, make an intentional plan each week to do something that takes care of your physical well-being. Learn to take care of God’s holy temple by building it up with one brick at a time. You’ll be stronger for the journey ahead.
Check back next Wednesday for the next part of this wellness series, emotional self-care.
Holy God, what a gift it is that you live inside of each of us, filling us with your strength and peace. Help us find the time and energy to care for our bodies which are wonderfully made by you. Let our bodies be your temple, your holy dwelling place giving honor to you. Amen.
Young Woman Relaxing At Mountain View
Image courtesy of Feelart at FreeDigitalPhotos.net