by Vivian M. Akel LCSW
As we begin our new series of articles for the Going Deeper column, we have chosen the theme of “Caring” as it relates to Pastoral Care throughout our Eparchies, and more specifically, our parishes and our homes.
Caring for and about each other is the most beautiful way we can bear witness to Christ in our daily lives. Often, we care for each other in ways that are so spontaneous and natural that we don’t realize the positive impact we have on the other person. The opposite is also true when we are too tired, too hurt or too insensitive to really care for others.
Likewise, we can also fail to recognize the need to care for ourselves as well, physically, emotionally and spiritually. The first and most important aspect of caring for ourselves is recognizing and accepting our humanness and thus our need for personal nurturance and renewal.
Failing to care for ourselves can result in signs of stress and strain. These can include anxiety, irritability, sadness, loneliness and loss of interest in friends and family, changes in eating and sleeping patterns and most important, a sense of distance from God.
Some of the ways we can reduce stress and care for ourselves are:
- Taking a 15 to 20 minute walk outdoors each day, changing our diet to include healthier choices and keeping up with medical care appointments.
- Set personal goals and boundaries and be realistic about what we can and cannot do. Do not be afraid to ask for help.
- Plan regularly scheduled visits with friends and stay connected to family members and friends who offer social support.
Our Spiritual life also requires nurturance and renewal and the following can help to keep us in a state of grace.
- First and foremost, remember God’s grace keeps us alive and happy. Have a daily meeting with God and review the graces He has given. Spend 10-20 minutes each day in prayerful solitude to remain focused on God’s grace.
- Do an Examination of Conscience each day as we may be surprised to learn how much we are living out God’s word.
- Participate in the Mystery of Penance (Confession) and feed your soul often with the Eucharist. Stand open and honest before God when you pray.
- Meet with a Spiritual Director to help keep your relationship with God close, particularly during difficult times.
- Do spiritual reading, especially from the Church fathers, men and women saints and contemporary books and articles on the spiritual life.
The care we bestow upon others is precious and valued, for as Matthew 9:37 tells us, “the harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.” We must care also for ourselves as we too are in need, as laborers for Christ.
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