"I just don't think I can do it," I thought to myself. Keys in hand, coat on and one foot out the door, I was stuck. Stuck between wanting to see people for a few hours and wanting to save myself. Energy depleted I shut the door, took off my coat and went to my room.
I pulled off my skinny jeans and replaced them with loose, ugly but comfortable sweat pants. I opened my computer and typed in N E T F L I X... and spent the hours that I would have spent with friends by myself in front of a movie.
"To protect your peace...
It's okay to cancel a commitment.
It's okay to not take a call.
It's okay to change your mind.
It's okay to take a day off.
It's okay to be alone.
It's okay to let go.
It's okay to say no."
I have a friend named Olivia and she's been a beacon of light in my life since I met her. She's introduced me to new friends, gone on runs with me, laughed with me, encouraged me, cried with me and inspired me more times than I can list. Something that Olivia does that used to annoy me but that I now admire is that if she's feeling drained and like she needs time alone she will cancel plans. Olivia, from what I've observed, prioritizes taking care of herself.
I always thought I was pretty good at the whole self care thing. I pay my bills on time, go to church, eat healthy, work out 5 days a week and get at least 7 hours of sleep most nights. As far as I was concerned that was the extent to which I needed to take care of myself. My emotional and mental health was tended to when I remembered but was not a priority.
As someone who is very outgoing and enjoys being around people I always thought that I was an extrovert. So when I was feeling exhausted and drained I would spend MORE time with people and I didn't understand why I would be short with them and wouldn't enjoy myself.
I was surprised a year or so ago to find out that I'm actually an introvert and the way that I recharge is not by surrounding myself with people but rather by being alone. Self exploration is exciting for me because I feel like I'm learning things that are changing the way that I care for myself and organize my life.
The more that I know about myself and what I need to feel like my mind is clear the better I can do my job and love the people in my life and the better I can love myself. Those things have been vital for me in this season. A season where I'm preparing to start grad school, finishing my first year at a new job and trying to be fully present in my personal life; it's a lot to try and juggle when you're 100% healthy and nearly impossible when you're feeling overwhelmed.
In regards to seclusion and taking time for ourselves, even Jesus took time to pray and be alone. Mark 1:35 says "Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed." If Jesus needs time alone, to recharge and prepare his heart for the tasks ahead, than I think it's fair to assume that we do too.
I saw a poster at a university the other day and it was all about self care and mental health. It explored the idea of creating a life and routine that you don't need a break from, one that is sustainable and leaves a real impact. The last few months I've been trying to do just that. I've been waking up 30 minutes before I have to start getting ready for work and since I work school hours, this new routine requires me to get out of bed at 5:15 every morning. I wake up and I spend 15 minutes doing devotionals from the YouVersion Bible app, I spend 5 minutes in worship and I spend 10 minutes in prayer. Those 30 minutes have drastically impacted my life.
Everyday, I have a list of things that I pray about and that list includes any projects that I'm handling at work or things in my schedule that I'm feeling anxious about. I start each day by handing all of my concerns, things that are stressing me out and my fears to Christ. The bible says in Philippians 4:6-7 "Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus."
The biggest step for me, when it comes to protecting my peace, has been learning how to pray about everything. I pray about projects at work, my family, Patrick, my friends, my schedule, my church, my blog...I pray about everything. I can't explain the peace that God has brought into my life now that I'm choosing him first, every single day.
I encourage you to create a life, a routine, that you don't need to take a break from. One that prioritizes emotional, physical and spiritual health, one that doesn't make you feel like a night with friends is an impossible feat. One that doesn't' have you counting down the minutes until vacation or the weekend because you just need a break from it all. Cancelling plans gave me peace for an evening but my morning time with Christ has given me a peace that's sustainable, peace eternal.
P.S. I'd love to pray for you! If there is anything that you need prayer for, big or small, feel free to comment below or send me a message with the details and I'll be sure to pray about it! =)