Getting Started on a Healthy Self-Care Journey- Part 1 of 6

Getting Started on a Healthy Self-Care Journey- Part 1 of 6

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Body and Soul: Orthodox Christian Lent as a Self-Care Journey 

“Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds their life will lose it and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.” Matthew 10:38-39

What does healthy self-care mean? Why now… especially during the journey of Great and Holy Lent? Because participating in Lent by its very nature is body and soul self-care. It restores us to how we were meant to be as God’s beloved children.

Whether fasting on the run, at home with kids, or keeping up with a demanding job and volunteering, and going to more church services…if you are trying to remember to pray more and figure how to find time for everything, you are not alone! With every conscious step and every move, you journey with millions of faithful Orthodox Christians as the church has done for centuries.

The purpose of this series is to offer support with ways to do more self-examination, make plans, and commit to take next steps. It offers practical tools and ideas to look inward and face the difficult mental, emotional, and physical obstacles to spiritual change. May it offer guidance to align your will with His to “do the next right thing” as you struggle on the journey toward living renewed in Him for Him!

The five Sundays of Lenten preparation call us to repentance, humility, return from exile, love, and forgiveness. We set forth with “bright sadness” on the 40 days through the desert of our long, hard, spiritual journey.  In its wisdom, the church allows us time to prepare for the Passion, Crucifixion, and Resurrection of our Savior, Jesus Christ. We need to take that time to change so we can truly meet our Risen Lord in celebration of Holy PASCHA (our Passover) at the end of our journey.

We can make a “Good Faith Plan” to order our steps for the journey using the process of Great Lent to take up our cross and act in good faith. We examine our past steps and plan to reorder our steps in self-care so we can serve Him and others with love, not resentment. Most of us have experienced getting lost at some point when we chose New Year’s Resolutions in January and abandoned our plan by February to eat right, get enough rest, exercise and take vitamins, etc.! First Corinthians 6:19 questions us “…do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God and are not your own? That means that our “Good Faith Plan” of self-care is not our will, but His be done!

It is a time to rearrange our busy schedule, refocus on our relationship with God, and reevaluate our relationship with others to rekindle the flame of our faith in our heart.  It is a time to become conscious of what we need to strengthen ourselves on our journey. You may have failed again and again trying to take care of yourself in this world, but now is the time to use spiritual help in regular communion with God for the strength to succeed:

  • Attend Sunday Divine Liturgy and Lenten Services
  • Maintain a daily prayer rule (See the outline in Orthodox Study Bible)
  • Read and study scriptures
  • Partake of the Eucharist
  • Examine conscience and motivations  
  • Repent and confess sins

Yes, we are called to give selflessly and put ourselves last, just as Jesus commanded the disciples to give up much-needed rest to feed the thousands in Luke Chapter 9. But healthy self-care does not mean giving into selfishness. What does He want you personally to do with His gift of life? This is what we discover through engaging in the spiritual struggles and discipline of Lent. We need to answer His call to serve by using our God-given talents and caring for our human energy with discernment through prayer, avoiding harm to ourselves when it threatens our ability to serve rightly.

It is a temptation of the ego to believe that we can ignore spiritual signposts for healthy self-care when there are mental, emotional, or physical consequences that get us lost as humans. Humility helps us see the signposts and correct our path, accepting the cross of our humanity as part of serving. Even as we sacrifice our comfort for others, we are to remain aware of our own needs and seek to have those needs met by God and our own actions SO we can more completely fulfill our mission in Christ and take care of others.

We are part of His plan in both giving and receiving care during every stage of life. God gives us all strength in our journey as we fast, pray, and attend Divine Liturgy and Lenten Services. Let us receive healing of body and soul through Holy Unction, Confession, and Communion. Today, remembering our humanity and the journey ahead, we can turn in prayer to the Holy Mother of God, first among humans, as our model and comforter:

Prayer to the Birthgiver of God

O my gracious Queen, my hope, Birthgiver of God, who receive the poor and help the travelers; joy of those who sorrow, shelter for the oppressed: Behold my affliction and see my needs. Help me as you would one in despair; feed me as you would a stranger. You know all my troubles, absolve them according to your will, for I have no other help but you, no other ready shelter or comfort but you, O Mother of God, to help me and protect me unto ages of ages Amen. –Final Prayer in Morning Prayers from the Orthodox Prayer Book

Resources: 

Orthodox Study Bible  

The Lenten Triodion

The Orthodox Prayer Book 

Daily Bible Reading Guide for Orthodox Christians 

Great Lent: Journey to Pascha by Rev. Dr. Alexander Schmemmann 

Six part blog series:

  1. Getting Started on a Healthy Self-Care Journey
  2. Simple Tools for a Time of Stillness and Striving
  3. What We Are Up Against Now and What Are We Doing?
  4. A Deeper Look – Turning Inward
  5. Moving to Synergy
  6. Celebrating our New Life in Christ

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Anastasia Kruse

Anastasia is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor and a National Certified Counselor. She works with individual adults, couples and families to offer hope, healing and practical solutions in dealing with problems that may be creating depression, anxiety and spiritual crises in life transitions. Her specialty is working together to develop strong relationships between clients and their significant others. Divorce prevention or post-divorce recovery, low self-esteem, stress and anger management are frequent areas of treatment in her practice is at Sanders and Associates. Previously she worked with Leyden DuPage Counseling Service and Family Shelter Services. She treats victims of domestic violence and is trained in EMDR to deal with trauma and PTSD. Anastasia holds an M.A. in Professional Counseling from Argosy University, Illinois School of Professional Psychology, now the American School of Profession Psychology (ASPP) at Argosy University. Prior to her career as a professional counselor, Anastasia was a human resources executive, organizational development consultant and trainer. She has extensive coaching background in career counseling, employee relations, conflict resolution, and performance challenges for job and college related problems. Anastasia converted to Orthodoxy 12 years ago and integrates the foundations of faith into her work with clients and in providing premarital counseling seminars at her parish. She has led couples groups and family workshops at local parishes, presented at the International Orthodox Psychotherapy Conference, and was a guest speaker on “Come Receive the Light” radio program on the Orthodox Christian Network.