Minister’s Message for March, 2024

At our February Elders Lunch, it came up that there has been a rise in mental health struggles and feelings of loneliness coming out of the pandemic (those things existed before 2020, of course, and then the pandemic made everything worse). And of courses, in congregational life we are often carrying a certain amount of grief for loved ones gone.

I was asked how I take care of myself. I think the question was 50% “we want to make sure you are taking care of yourself as you provide care to other people” and 50% “you are someone who thinks about self-care a lot, tell us your insights!” Ministers are prone to burn-out and compassion fatigue, so we get lots of training and support about taking care of ourselves.

I realized in chatting about it that my self-care plan is multi-pronged. I never want to have all my eggs in one basket, so to speak, because any one part of the plan can go awry: I don’t want skipping a lunch date to turn into a personal crisis. So here are some of the parts and routines of my regular self-care.

Social time with friends and family. I have a monthly lunch date with my closest friend. My dad and siblings are local to me, and we text and get together regularly. There are some social gatherings available to me in my neighborhood; I haven’t had time (or felt the need yet) to widen my social circle, but I am glad to know this possibility exists.

Time with colleagues. I currently have two monthly zoom gatherings with different collegial groups for shared learning and discussion. There are two in-person UU ministerial gatherings a year in the Pacific Southwest area, and attending those is a high priority for me. There are more opportunities for support and connection through the UU Ministers Association (UUMA) should I need something more.

Spiritual direction. I am not currently working with a spiritual director, but I have done so in the past (during and after sabbatical, most recently) when I’ve wanted guidance on working through spiritual questions. I’ve also worked with a therapist when I’ve wanted guidance on working through emotional issues. It is good to remember that professionals exist to help us when we’re ready to do certain kinds of personal development.

I don’t skip meals. I don’t always have time and energy to make every meal healthy and delicious, but I do not, for any reason, skip a meal. I also keep an assortment of snacks on hand to keep my energy up through the afternoon. I always have a meal replacement bar—different from a snack bar!—in my purse if needed.

Regular exercise. I have been taking 4-5 Pilates classes a week for a year now and am very grateful for this combination of strength training and stretching. I also try to include a couple of walks each week.

I sleep well. I preached “Lessons from My Depression” this past October and described in some detail the time and attention (and medication) it took for me to get a good night’s sleep. But the happy result of all that work is that I now regularly sleep well, seven or more hours a night. There are few things more disruptive to our health and well-being than sleeping poorly.

I have an engrossing hobby. I’m a Padres fan. The exhilarating highs! The debilitating lows! The camaraderie with other fans! It is good to let the cares of the world fall away for a few hours at a time as I root for my team.

Monthly massage. It is lovely to have a regular massage appointment on my calendar. (Tip: You can save money by getting massage at a student clinic of Healing Hands Massage School. They have an Escondido location.)

I go on vacation! One of the hard parts of the pandemic is that vacation was largely impossible. Even if you could find a way to travel safely (by camping, for example), the heaviness of the pandemic was still always there. It has been a relief to be able to relax again—I have four weeks of vacation and four weeks of study leave each year—and I am excited that my husband and I will be on vacation in South Korea for part of this month. The last time we took a trip outside the country was 2018, so it’s been a while. We have another big trip planned for August (to the Galapagos Islands and Machu Picchu) and are looking forward to that too.

So those are the nine baskets I put my self-care eggs in. I don’t use or need all of them all of the time, but taken together, these practices help keep me on an even keel.