Question for you lovely readers: what does it mean when you’re reading a hilarious blog post by the inimitable Jen Hatmaker, laughing so hard that you’re crying, and you suddenly begin sobbing instead?

I’m talking about ugly, shoulders-shaking, snot-dripping sobbing, and your six-year-old daughter comes in and pats you on the back, saying, it’s ok, mama, it’s ok?

I’ll tell you what it means: it means you’re tired.  You’re exhausted.  You have probably been running on autopilot for so long that when you finally stopped and experienced some sort of strong emotion, you just lost it.

That was me last week. Ever been there?  I’m sure I will be there again someday.  So what do you do when you hit a wall?

Take care of yourself

It’s so easy to find ourselves putting everyone else’s needs in front of our own.  I do it all the time.  Self-care – what’s that?

But it is not selfish to take care of yourself.  We’ve all heard it before: if mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy, right?

I used to think about that expression in a negative light.  That unhappy mama is so selfish that she’s making everybody else unhappy, too.  But that’s not what it means at all.

When I am drained, or exhausted, or running around like a chicken with its head cut off, then I can’t give my family and friends the kind of love and care that they deserve.  But caring for myself means that I can then care for the people I love, too.

This is not just about physical needs.

Still, some people relegate the idea of self-care to the physical realm only.  Eat, sleep, bathe – check, check, check.  But we all have other needs that are just as important for our sanity.

The need to be in community, the need to be creative, the need for mental stimulation and emotional fulfillment – these are not just luxuries for those of us without responsibilities and loads of free time (those people don’t exist).

If you have those needs and they’re not being met, it’s okay. We’ve all been there. But don’t stay there.  Figure out what you can do to start meeting some of those needs.

Do something just for you

Me?  I sing in a professional choir.  I’ve been a choir geek all of my life.  I love it like crazy.  (I won my freshman choir officer election when I famously quipped, “Choir is my life!”)  So, when I had the opportunity to join this choir, and the timing was right, I went for it.  For me, it is true soul food.

I know that timing is everything.  I couldn’t have done this three or four years ago.  Sometimes, our physical needs really are all we can handle (and perhaps, just barely).  That’s okay, too – I’ve been there.  It’s just a season, I promise.

The important thing to realize is that when that season ends, you can move on.  You can look deeper, and begin to address some of those unmet needs that you’ve had to put on the back burner.  You can care for ALL of yourself again – not just your physical needs.

Where to begin?

Sometimes it’s hard to recognize when the time is right for a change.  We get stuck in ruts, and they get worn down deep into our daily life, becoming part of our identity.  Don’t let that happen to you.

Talk to someone – your spouse, your best friend, your mom.  Tell them what you love or what you miss or what you’re longing to try.  Ask them to help you think it through – could it happen?  Could you make time?  Could you find the resources?  What help would you need?

Then make a plan, and go for it.  It will probably be hard sometimes.  It won’t always run smoothly.  And that’s okay, too.  Life happens.  But you can do something just for you.

Because – here’s the really cool part – it won’t actually be just for you. It will overflow into the rest of your life, helping you to love people better and serve people stronger.

Good self-care means your cup will be filled up, and then you’ll have plenty leftover to pour out for everyone you love.

What is it that you love or you miss or you’re longing to try?  And what do you need to do to make it happen?