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Sustainable Service

Caring for others is something that most people do every day, whether it is caring for your child, caring for an elderly relative, caring for a friend who is going through a difficult time, caring for a neighbor who may be injured and need a little help, or caring for others while in a volunteer or employment role. It can be very rewarding to help reduce someone's stress, find resources to meet a need, see someone smile when they don't have to carry the load by themselves, etc. However, if you are not careful, you can begin to neglect your needs as you work to help meet everyone else's. This is something I have learned the hard way.

I don't know about you, but I have found that there are times when there doesn't seem to be enough hours in the day, and there is a never-ending list of things to do. Couple that with seeing the things going on in the world that result in people with needs...real needs...big needs but basic needs...a need for safety, a need for food, a need for a place to call home, a need for employment, a need for community, a need for answers to questions, a need for tools to tackle the hard things in life, a need for skills, a need for good experiences unlike what has been experienced previously, etc. How does that affect people who have a passion for others and connecting them to resources, providing a sense of community, and letting them know that there are so many of us who care? It can lead to burnout and an impact on one's health if you are not intentional.

What do I mean by being intentional? It is important to be intentional about also caring for yourself. I am sure you have heard the saying that you can't pour from an empty cup. When you ensure that your cup is being replenished, you can keep pouring into others...that is sustainable service.

Continuing to replenish your cup can look differently from one person to another. Some basics ways to keep your cup replenished are the following:

  • Ensure that you are getting enough sleep. The importance of sleep is often overlooked. We live in a world where a certain status is often given to those who are incredibly busy and stretched too thin...the busier, the more important. Your body NEEDS sleep. It is important for healing, reducing the risk of disease, reducing stress, and improving mood, amongst other things.

  • Nourish your body. We cannot stay healthy and energized without the nutrients our body requires.

  • Be present with the people you love. Having true connection is imperative to our wellbeing.

  • Find and take time for a hobby. Taking time to participate in hobbies on a regular basis can bring a sense of accomplishment and enjoyment.

  • Ask for help. You don't have to do it all by yourself. Don't be afraid to express your needs and allow others to help reduce your load.

  • Take time for peace. This comes in different forms...maybe for you, it is taking a walk in nature, sitting by a fire, listening to the ocean, listening to peaceful music, or reading a good book. Explore and utilize the tools that allow you to have some moments of peace.

  • Exercise. Move your body. This has been shown to reduce stress and improve health. It does not have to be a rigorous workout. My body requires low impact movement, and that is still beneficial.

  • Be intentionally grateful. Look for the good. Write it down if it helps. Talk about it. You will retrain your brain if you typically see the negative.

  • Invest in your spiritual health and growth. We are multifaceted beings and cannot neglect our spiritual health and have a holistic sense of wellbeing.

  • Destress. Reduce as many stress-inducers as possible. Chronic stress is very unhealthy for us - mentally, emotionally, and physically.

  • Set boundaries. It is okay to say no, that it won't work for you, that you do not want to, that it doesn't align with your goals (even if it is something good), that you want to use that time for something else, that you need to take some down time, etc.

When you put these things into practice regularly, and you are intentionally filling your cup, then you can continue to pour into others. As I mentioned before, that is sustainable service.

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