Rev. Susan Eaton
How to Rehydrate Body, Mind, and Soul
Updated: Sep 6, 2021
It was 4:29 a.m. on Wednesday when it struck me. One moment I was sound asleep and the next I was wrenched over in excruciating pain, breathing frantically, barely aware of what was going on.
Poor Stewart, not having a clue what was happening, fumbled for the lamp. “What’s wrong? What is it?” Our dog, Mabel, also greatly disturbed by the drama, was immediately on the bed hovering over me growling as if she could intimidate the pain away. After what felt like an eternity of panicked breathing and groaning I was finally able to speak. “Cramp! Leg cramp! My calf!”
If you’ve ever had the pleasure of a charley horse you understand how I was suddenly and rudely debilitated by one of the worst pains your calf muscle can ever experience. Eventually, the pain subsided enough so I could get up for some water, but I was still hampered by a limp, and my sore calf reminded me of the incident for the rest of the day.
While this early-morning wake-up call seemed sudden, more than likely my calf was the innocent victim of several days of my body not getting the amount of water it needed. I could blame the incessant heat—it’s been hotter than Hades down here in South Mississippi— or a busy schedule, but those things didn’t cause the dehydration. The plain and simple truth is this: I didn’t drink enough water.
The environment I’m in (the heat of Hell itself—Jesus, help us) has necessitated that I be more diligent with my water intake. And so I’ve walked around with a water bottle every day this week, but I remember coming home on several days with almost as much water in it as when I left. You see, I knew I needed to drink more water, and I had every intention of doing it, but for whatever reason, I was distracted from actually drinking it.
I mention this because we’re collectively in very dehydrating circumstances right now. Our environment — the ongoing stress of COVID, the depressing and troubling news out of Afghanistan, the suffering in Haiti, racial strife, political disagreements, etc.— are all very dehydrating and depleting to our bodies, minds, and souls. Everywhere we look there is more pain, more bad news. And that doesn’t even take into consideration whatever personal stress and strain you are under in addition to all of these global issues.
It’s all so overwhelming. And depending on what type of vocation you have, you may be more extended and depleted than others. So, what are we to do when we find ourselves in these taxing and dehydrating types of environments? The back-to-basics lesson my charley horse has reminded me of is this:
Take care of yourself and give yourself what you need, especially in the most stressful and depleting circumstances.
Please don’t underestimate the importance of regular self-care. When we don’t tend to ourselves, our inner environment deteriorates. Eventually, we will experience some sort of outburst that affects not only ourselves but those around us. These outbursts may seem sudden, but they are the inevitable result of not giving our internal environments the nourishment they need when our external environment is harsh.
Many of us know and agree that the practice of self-care and soul-care is good. Few of us, if any, would say, “Caring for yourself is bad. You shouldn’t do that.” However, many of us are walking around with a bottle full of water but barely taking a sip. We’re busy taking care of a million other things and rarely take time to stop and pay attention to what we need.
Why is this? Sometimes we don’t pay attention to ourselves because we think it’s selfish—that a better choice is to always care for others. Here’s where the message of flight attendants everywhere comes in handy: Put the oxygen mask on yourself before you help others.
There is absolutely nothing selfish about taking care of yourself. In fact, it’s what will enable you to be a more helpful and loving presence to those in your sphere of influence and daily living.
So, today I give you permission to focus on yourself. The truth is, you always have this permission, but sometimes we just need to hear it from someone else. I’ve also included some questions to help guide you as you begin this journey of caring for yourself. Find some time to honestly assess where you are in each of these areas. Be honest with what you really need, and listen to what your body, mind, and soul are telling you.
How does my body feel?
What does my body need today?
What do I need from the Lord?
How do I need to tend to my soul?
What truth or promise do I need to hold onto today?
What do I need from those closest to me, and how can I communicate that in love?
Is there someone I need to connect with?
What is occupying my thoughts?
How is the quality of my focus and presence?
Which of these thoughts needs to be let go and which needs to be acted on?
Is there something I need to mourn?
What can I delight in and be thankful for today?
Having compassion for yourself, considering what you need, and then allowing yourself to receive those life-giving needs are essential for remaining healthy in body, mind, and soul. During this practice, you may discover some deep needs that require some professional guidance. In that case, finding a counselor, spiritual director, or speaking with a pastor is a wise choice. Your self-care is something only you can do, but it doesn’t mean you have to do it alone.
One last word of encouragement:
Turning to self and soul care during stressful times is beneficial, but establishing them as everyday habits and practices will strengthen and equip you to better handle the big stress when it comes.
Don’t wait for a time of crisis. Strengthen yourself daily. Plant yourself by the life-giving streams, and you will stay well-watered even in the most dehydrating circumstances.
“But blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” Jeremiah 17:7-8.
“The Lord will guide you continually, giving you water when you are dry and restoring your strength. You will be like a well-watered garden, like an ever-flowing spring.”
What is one thing you can do today to “plant yourself by the water”?