Friday, June 22, 2012

Self Care

So we had a huge 'argument' yesterday in class. The subject was self care. Chaplains, in general, are notoriously bad at it. While we all realize that we are expendable, our commands seem not to get it. On the civilian side, our congregations also often do not understand. I have had disagreements with board members about what I am supposed to do if I have long-standing plans and a funeral comes up. The class discussion was vociferous, with very strong opinions and a flying cell phone. We are a stressed group.

I suppose that those of us who are in the so-called helping professions are not great at asking for care when we need it.  We may well also be bad at realizing that we need it.  We read that Moshe (Moses) lived to be 120, did all that he did, and never lost his personal strength.  Perhaps we have internalized Moshe's life in a way that we are unable to maintain.

In any event, the instructor asked us what we do for self care. Most of us do not do enough. I will give all of you my list:

1. I like to cook.
2. I ride my bicycle.
3. I enjoy my own cup of coffee every day.
4. I NEVER take my lunch at my desk.
5. Jennifer and I have a long-standing policy of not answering the phone during meals.
6. (Deleted due to intimate content)
7. I take time for limudei Kodesh (religious learning).
8. I write in this blog.
9. I take my appointments on foot when the weather permits.
10. I zealously protect my day off, although getting all of the errands done hardly allows that day to be relaxing.
11. I play ping pong and exchange a little bit of trash talk with my son.

Here is the issue though. Items 2, 3, 4, and 5 are daily, and do not require much effort. They are easily made part of the schedule.

All of the other things are activities, not policies, and not attitudes. Until self care becomes attitudinal, clergy will likely suffer both physically and professionally.

Folks, this may be a 'do as I say and not as I do' statement, but make sure to take care of yourself. It is important.

Have a good day.



  1. It's funny that you should bring this topic up. I was just having a similar conversation with my husband recently. We often have people over to the house for family BBQ parties and I tend to do all of the cooking and looking after people to make sure that they are having a good time. But at the end of the party, unless someone actually brings me a plate of food or says something I've totally forgotten to eat. My trainer and his family (neighbours of our and included as part of our family) are often at these parties and he or his wife will often bring me a plate and say we've all eaten and everyone is fine please eat something now.

    I guess I should take a lesson from you on self care too. As a woman we tend to put everyone else first before our needs and if we remember then we will look after ourselves.

    1. Ellen KrugerBloomJune 26, 2012 at 11:12 PM

      Funny you should say this Debbie, my first thought after reading this blogpost was "welcome to motherhood, the ultimate martyr". I/we tend to put everybody's needs first on a regular basis.