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 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/offenders 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 make broken relationships more acutely obvious and 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).
- The expectations around gift giving and receiving (from "him"??? to "him"!!!)
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 (such as this one) 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 need be)
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
A few years ago when I was studying PSA group facilitating with veteran partner 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. It might even be appropriate to make space for a grief retreat in this season.
- Seek out support and validation: Infidelity may not seem to fit with the Christmas theme (or does it…?) but know that if you need safe people to talk to, God will make them available. 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 (all things in balance) 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: Talk to women who have overcome on this journey. If you don't have those connections, watch some of the video resources on this site, especially the Overcoming video.
For many of us, music also nourishes us and helps us enter a place of rest and emotional regulation. Below is one of my favorites for countering stressful seasons.