Caring for Yourself #4: Discovering What Energises You
Valley Church exists to help people love God, love life and love people. As we walk with God, and find ways to have a positive impact on people around us, we don’t want that middle part to be forgotten - that He created you to LOVE LIFE!
For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
We are all truly unique. We were made as individuals by a Creator who knows us better than we know ourselves. We were made on purpose, for purpose, and the way we express that is different for all of us. He didn’t make us the same because we have connecting, complementing parts to play in a bigger story (1 Corinthians 12v4-27). We flourish the most, and bless other people more effectively, when we embrace who we are and choose to offer our strengths to build the whole body of Christ.
We honour God when we allow Him to use us for His purposes. Although we can be inspired and challenged by other people, we dishonour Him when we try to pigeon-hole ourselves into someone else’s likeness. Discovering what brings the best out of us can be a long journey. Often we have to try different things and be willing to say yes to many opportunities in the process of discovering God’s path for us.
This is one of the reasons why church is such an important part of discipleship. It gives us a huge amount of different ways to worship, to connect with others and to serve. We can discover what makes us tick and where we are most effective. Other people can help us to understand where we might be stuck and show us ways to be stretched, and they can also help us hone our natural skills into their full potential.
In the previous blog post, we explored the power of being fully present and engaged with activities that keep us grounded in reality. Some of the hallmarks of poor mental health are being stuck in the past, afraid of the future, and focused on wishing we had other people’s stories instead of our own. The tools we have given so far are important resources to help us to fully engage with the gift of life God has given us.
The following tools can help us to flourish in the present, to be fully engaged with the world around us and to make the most of the individual character God has given to each of us:
We often use our down time to watch or listen to what other people have produced for our entertainment, as it demands nothing from us. However it shouldn’t be the only way we relax, as we were not made to flourish through consumption but through creation. We are made in the image of the ultimate Creator and when we use this skill it is one of the many ways we connect to God and the best version of ourselves.
Creativity uses various senses and produces many much-needed feel-good chemicals in our brain. Using our hands to create something lowers the stress and anxiety levels in our bodies and puts our minds into a more contemplative state. It can give us mental space to process thoughts without pressure or distraction.
One of the simplest ways of doing this is colouring, which was once seen as a children’s activity to learn pencil control, but is now recognised by psychologists as a really helpful activity for mindfulness. It can open the doorway to reconnecting with the calming benefits of creativity and lead to developing more creative skills.
Creativity can be expressed in many ways and every single person has the capacity to create and explore in many different ways. Activities can include painting, textiles, woodwork, decorating, 3D printing, graphic design, junk modelling, collaging, calligraphy, creative writing, cooking, baking, DIY, drawing, photography, gardening - the list is endless. No matter what the end result of our creativity is, the process is extremely important in helping us have a life that is lived to the fullest.
In order to have a great flow of energy, we need to find ways to both create it and recover it. Energy is created when we exert something in order to produce it, and it is replenished when we give ourselves a break to recover it.
This applies to our bodies, minds and emotions. If we don’t place ourselves in situations where we are stretched, we do not grow. Each muscle and organ in our bodies, including our brains, are made strong through constant use. To develop greater strength in one area, we must experience some initial discomfort there. The more we do that, the greater capacity we have to do it. From running, to writing, to developing a daily habit, to engaging in compassion, when we push past our previous limitations in these areas, we find new energy to go even further in them. Our enjoyment in them also increases as we see the results of our decisions.
And we also need to find how to rest well between exertions. If we repeat the same action over and over, we can cause a build up of negative stress in that area that leads to damage. Physically, we need recovery between activity, and variety in the muscles we use. Mentally and emotionally, focusing on the same things over and over can cause negativity to build as we buckle under the pressure. In the second post of this series, we explored healthy rest.
A balanced life is a combination of stretch and recovery in all these areas, and will be unique to each person depending on their responsibilities, temperament and relationships. The book recommended below is an excellent resource for discovering what that can look like in your life.
The greater we understand ourselves, the more we can flourish in our strengths and identify our weaknesses. When we understand more about what makes us tick, we can plug into the person God has created us to be.
There are several tools available online to help us in this. The most important reason is so that we connect with God, the source of our purpose, joy and strength. If we identify the ways in which we best tune ourselves into His Spirit, we will find what we need in order to thrive. Some call this discovery ‘Sacred Pathways’ and look at various ways to connect with God, including worship, service, solitude, nature, study, etc. While all of these are essential ingredients for our spiritual development, we all have some that revitalise us more than others and it’s important that we include these in our weekly schedule.
Another way to learn our natural rhythms and how to live life at a great pace for us is to find out more about our personality. Doing a test like Myers-Briggs or finding our type on the enneagram can help us to get a better understanding of where our motivation comes from. For example, knowing whether we are naturally extroverted or introverted means that we can work out how to keep our relationships as positive as possible by finding the best ways to recharge ourselves between interactions.
When we understand more about what fuels us and what drains us, we build a lifestyle that has healthy rhythms and become the best versions of ourselves.
For more help, we recommend:
Reading: On Form by Jim Loehr & Tony Schwartz; I Said This... You Heard That by Kathleen Edelman
Discovering: your preferred sacred pathways and personality type using Myers-Briggs and the enneagram test; the Finding Rest plan on YouVersion;
Declaring: Psalm 139v1-2; 1 Corinthians 12v7; Ephesians 4v16
These verses remind us that even though we may confuse ourselves with our motives and actions, we are seen, known and understood by our Father God. He has made us to be a valuable part of His body and we are needed, no matter what our insecurities may tell us.