Self-care. What many Christian women hear when I say this word is “self-indulgence” or just plain “selfishness.”
What I’d like you to hear in that word is “self-preservation.” Self-preservation is not about putting yourself above others. It’s about honoring yourself and/or keeping yourself going—sometimes for others. Often it’s not until we’ve gone “bump” at the bottom of the cliff that we realize how very close to the edge we’ve been living. As betrayed wives/wives of sex addicts/those with problematic sexual behavior the edge is where we spend most of our time—for the first few (plus) years of our healing journey.
Christmas is a blessed time. It’s also the most difficult time of the year for many of us. Some of the reasons for the latter include:
- Expectations placed on us (sometimes by ourselves) to “do” for our family (often with little understanding that we are not functioning at pre-D-Day levels)
- Emphasis placed on “family” that makes broken relationships more acutely painful
- More demands for socializing that can be emotionally and physically draining
- More sexualized “dress-up” clothing around that may trigger us (especially the case for those of us living on the "summer side" of the world)
I’m sure you could add to the list.
Ways to care for self
So how do we cope with all this? Should we join a monastery? Run off to a cave in Tibet? Or are there less extreme practices that might get us through the holidays?
In Beyond Betrayal I list a number of ways women can care for themselves. Many of these are fairly obvious:
- Take time out from others to hang out with God: pray, read the bible, listen to a soaking prayer (see below) or just mediate on His goodness
- Take time out to create: write, cook, make music or art/crafts; the latter can also be used as gifts
- Go outside and enjoy nature (bundle up well if needed)
At Christmas time we also need to avoid the "traps” that come with the season’s trappings. That may mean:
- Avoiding triggers: e.g. shopping at “off-peak hours,” finding safer places to shop (e.g. online)
- Saying “no” to some social engagements, especially those that involve less "safe" people
- Scaling back the festivities and the expectations
- Delegating: e.g. getting children involved in the preparations, pass-off duties to our husbands (stretching can be good for people) or other family members
Less obvious self-care
When I was studying PSA (partner of sex addict) group facilitation with A Door of Hope founder Donna Meredith-Dixon, the self-care topic came up regularly. Some of the ways we discussed to practice self-care… beyond the norm included:
- Grieve: This is a bitter/sweet season for most of us. Make space to grieve the losses that become particularly apparent at this time. Next week I'll be posting some journaling prompts from Gaelyn Emerson of Women Ever After that may help you to embrace "grieving to heal" this season
- Seek out support and validation: Betrayal may not seem to fit with the Christmas theme (or does it… hmmm?) but if you need safe people to talk to there are formal support programs (see more in the last bullet) or God may provide informal supports like friends, family etc. You may be blessed enough to find both this season. The fact that you’re reading this right now, says you’re already on to this aspect of self-care.
- Laugh: go out of your way to find the wonder and delight of the season. Most of this should be done via connection to people and God, but a little bit of media can help as well.
- Push back on the negative self-talk: e.g. from Patrick Fleming (small adaptation by me), at the end of any negative thought about yourself add "and I'm a magnificent person of eternal beauty and infinite value." God says its so... it must be so.
- Seek out hope: Need to know that women do make it through this horrible place to a better life? Consider joinging a support group facilitated by someone who has been there. I'm obviously partial the Whole Hearted program (where I work), but there's also Women Ever After (for divorced/divorcing women), Ashes 2 Beauty for 50+ women, and many others.