Just in time for my 29th birthday, I woke up with a very stiff neck. So stiff that I was lucky I had an all-day video training and could sit there without moving my head, instead of attempting to kneel on the floor, playing games with kids, “swordfighting,” or picking up toys. I could just sit there, listening to a very interesting man talk about the changes in the new DSM5 (the Diagnostic Statistical Manual- a “bible” for social workers, counselors, and anyone in mental health). Things that will rock the mental health world as we know it- things like the deletion of the diagnosis of Asperger’s. But I digress (Check out www.dsm5.org if you happen to be interesting in learning about the changes).
Often, aches and pains are my body telling me something, if I stop and listen. And when you can’t move your neck, you kind of have no choice but to listen. I realized that my stiff neck was a physical manifestation of being emotionally (and even spiritually) out of balance. The older I get, the more I seem to need my time alone, my check-ins with God and myself. And due to 3 weeks of everything from hosting Easter for my huge family, driving down South to celebrate my cousin’s wedding on a gorgeous beach, enjoying a fantastic surprise party thrown by my dear husband, babysitting commitments, difficulties with clients, and lots of fun events, I had not had solo time in days! The pain in my neck (literally) served as a reminder of what I really needed.
Social workers talk a lot about self care. In a field where the emphasis is on serving those on the fringe of society, listening to others’ burdens, dealing with intense and difficult societal and personal issues day in and day out, taking care of oneself is a necessity. I am often trying to find the balance between serving and taking care of myself.
There was a time during college when I felt guilty every time I did anything for me. The world’s problems just felt so huge, and it seemed urgent for me to run ragged trying to make it all better. I look back at my journals from the time and feel exhausted just reading about my schedule and all of the things I was planning and doing. Luckily for my health, I have come a long way since then. I have realized that, though God has called me to work and serve to change things in a positive way, it is not all up to me! I am partnering with not only God, but many, many other people. I am just a small piece in a very large puzzle.
I’ve also found that the more it is about mutual relationships- about being with people and loving them- the healthier it is for all of us. Being in relationships is certainly more fulfilling and less draining than trying to save the world singlehandedly. I’ve also learned that it is okay, even necessary, to have some “me” time. So yesterday, I treated myself to a relaxing day that included sleeping in, a leisurely spring walk with my husband, journaling, and even a bubble bath with lots of aromatherapy!
And though my neck is still a little sore, I am feeling much more in balance 🙂