Five Gift Ideas for Self-Care, Peace, and Empowerment

I scheduled this to debut on Thanksgiving Day because there are thousands of people who are out there working so, so hard to be a good host today. They’ve put in the time, energy, and emotional investment to clean that house, set up those tables, and cook up that food so you feel welcomed. If you don’t say “thank you,” then shame on you!

As clergy, I get asked about ways to do healthy self-care, find peace, or remember that we are loved (that often comes in the form of reminding people that none of us are our worst mistake). I often find myself needing to take my own advice.

Okay, if you were the host this year, you especially deserve the gift of a break. Get cozy with some of these ideas.

1. Daily gratitude journaling is good for you. Studies show that daily gratitude journaling can make you a holistically healthier person, and who wouldn’t want that? Taking a moment to name the blessings in your life can right-set your mindset around the frustrating and the traumatizing. There are absolutely too many journals these days, but that can help because that means there’s one just for you. The right cover, the right pages, the right vibe. Get started today and remember, if you miss a day, you can go back to it any time. This journal has prompts and stickers, you can’t beat that!

2. Pick up a collection of blessings, prayers, and poetry written for very specific occasions. At some point, one of these very specific occasions may come your way and these wonderful writings may be just the personalized balm you need. In the pandemic, I had three such books that helped me do the heavy lifting more than once. Ash & Starlight: Prayers for the Chaos and Grace of Daily Life by Rev. Arianne Braithwaite Lehn came to me through a church friend and it’s wonderful. I also leaned heavily on Ordinary Blessings: Prayers, Poems, and Meditations for Everyday Life by Rev. Meta Herrick Carlson, a local clergy person in my area, and the amazing To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings by Irish poet, priest, and philosopher John O’Donohue. I received this collection as an ordination gift from a fellow clergyperson and mentor and over the years I’ve come to appreciate it more and more, thankfully.

3. Pick a daily devotional and stick with it. There are so many to choose from, and I do encourage you to do your research before you dive in to any given devo. The theological spectrum is wide and a lot of what’s out there may not actually be your cup of tea (reading between the theological lines on concepts like who is saved, what are traditional gender roles, and other more conservative theological concepts can leave progressive theologians frustrated instead of relaxed). Find a devo that speaks to you. I had a life-changing experience on a survey tour of El Salvador while in seminary and since then I’ve taken up the challenge to read Through the Year with Oscar Romero: Daily Meditations on a daily basis at least twice. Need something more short-term? The magnificent Kate Bowler is growing in popularity, and she worked with Jessica Richie on Good Enough: 40ish Devotionals for a Life of Imperfection, plus Kate released a free Advent devotional, too.

4. There is a self-care book out there for your niche. Likely more! Whether you’re a parent doing your best or a teacher giving it your all or a young person venturing into what adulthood means or an empty nester trying to figure out what’s next or someone in grief over the loss of a loved one, trust me – there is at least one niche self-care book out there for you. Go exploring. And, if you don’t find what you need, maybe you’re the one who needs to write it (yes, I’m serious). For me as clergy, I’m doing what I can to avoid burnout and I got a lot out of reading Faithful and Fractured: Responding to the Clergy Health Crisis by Rae Jean Proeschold-Bell and Jason Byasse. See this and other titles on my clergy burnout resources page.

5. Brené Brown anything. Seriously. They are all great. Most of her titles are under $10 on Kindle, and at the time of this writing Rising Strong: How the Ability to Reset Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead is a whopping $2.99 right now. I haven’t read her latest, Atlas of the Heart: Mapping Meaningful Connection and the Language of Human Experience yet but reviews are great. If you don’t know who I’m talking about, try these TED Talk videos that really launched her into the national consciousness: “The Power of Vulnerability” and “Listening to Shame.” I hope you’re not the first person in your friend circle to read Brené Brown! Whether you are or not, she makes for a good book club pick, so perhaps see if you have friends who want to read one together or ask your clergy about starting up a short-term small group at church. You’ve got this!

Self-care has become so cliché that there’s a backlash surrounding it. But you know what? Don’t listen to them. It’s good to take care of yourself. To take a break, to take inventory, to wonder, and to wander. All of that is your prerogative and if you want to do some soul searching no one gets to take that away from you.

The only caveat I’ll add is this: you don’t have to do this alone. God loves you and is always with you. People love you and will be there for you. Therapy can be for anyone. 988 exists for a reason. You’ve got this, and one of the most-challenging things in life is to ask for help. Whatever is going on, may you get the help you need. It may start with “self help,” but don’t let it stop there. It’s not weak to need help; it’s strong to admit it.

Thanks for reading and I hope some of these ideas are helpful to you. Blessings to you!

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