My nails were totally chipped and I didn’t care. It’s not that they are never chipped, it’s the fact that it didn’t really bother me. This may seem like a strange detail to state – minor in the context of everyday life. But, for me, it was a signal.
As an introvert, I value self-care highly. Much of my life requires me to turn on my pretend extrovert switch. I’m around many people, giving much energy, and overstimulating all my brain cells at once most of the time. For me, self-care is survival.
Perhaps you’re like me: I am ok being alone. I like it. Prefer it sometimes. If you are an extrovert, reading that maybe makes your eyes twitch a bit, but it’s true. At my house, a restaurant, on a beach, in a box, in my socks, I am perfectly content by myself. This is a plus in many ways. I think everyone should get to some sort of comfort level by their own self.
Self-care & alone time puts us back in our place of comfort and peace. It puts us in a space to exhale fully and unwind completely. Retreating to recharge is the side of things that tends to get the most attention, but this side of self-care can also be dangerous.
For me, the care process sometimes involves watching sitcoms (my brain doesn’t have to work for solutions to things, it can watch other people do that as hijinks ensue), sitting quietly in a room or in my car (yes, sometimes I will literally just sit in a quiet place and think or daydream), eating Chipotle (because deliciousness), or sitting with my boo thang, who is also an introvert, in a very warm silence.
These things are all well and good as long as they don’t slip across an important line: alone time can be self-care. Isolation is not. It is the opposite, in fact.
A small bit of focusing on yourself, for yourself, by yourself can be necessary from time to time, but it is only a small part of how to truly care for ourselves in mind, body and spirit. I’m too comfortable by myself. Left to my own devices, that’s where I will stay. This time I sunk further into the anxiety I have been dealing with, I was overwhelmed by life, and the little things that I typically care about – the ways that I like to take care of myself, were less important.
For those of us who are a little too ok being alone, pulling away from people only begets more pulling away from people. If you are in a place where you feel tired, not fed spiritually or relationally, frustrated or otherwise, pulling away from people & other believers only fuels that – not fixes it. Self care means setting up boundaries for other people/things in our lives, yes – but it also means setting up boundaries & safeguards from our own habits.
I recently went through/am going through a period where I slipped into isolation. Though I’m around people all the time, meaningful interaction on a deep, personal level was lacking for me.
If you are thinking, “yeah, but you are married. I mean, you usually don’t shut up about how much you like your husband so you weren’t actually alone you weirdo.” you are mostly correct. But there are many kinds of connections – and while he is every bit as awesome as I claim he is – I needed someone, a woman who was a wife, a career woman, a mom, a believer; someone who could pour into my life in a specific way that, as much as I love the hubs, he cannot do. Fellow wives, be vigilant about this. I know your guy is cool, too, but you need more. Single ladies, you need the same thing.
On the surface it looked like I was having plenty of self-care time – quiet spaces & copious episodes of Bobs Burgers – but this place was not a healthy one. I had to do what many of us introvert types vehemently dislike doing: I had to reach out to a whole ‘nother human.
In this instance – self-care looked like discomfort. It looked like being nervous. It looked like doing the opposite of what I felt like doing. Sometime it looks like pressing forward when you just want to sit back. Hebrews 10:25 says: “We must not quit meeting together, as some are doing. No, we need to keep on encouraging each other. This becomes more and more important as you see the Day getting closer.”
This side of self-care looks a little like sacrifice, and it is. It is a sacrifice of your pride. The pride that tells you that you are totally fine on your own and you can make it without allowing anyone in. The harder your mind fights you about it, the more your spirit likely needs it. You must not quit. You need to meet together. Sacrifice your comfort for well-being. Keep serving, keep connecting, keep reaching out. Find a local church – the church isn’t a building, after all, it is a collection of resources God has provided for you in the form of people. Not only are they a resource for you, but you are one for someone else as well. And then when you are done – go home, stare at the ceiling as you listen to nothing and slip back into your happy place.