I don’t think anyone would deny that these past few months have been challenging. Life has been anything but normal, and it can get overwhelming at times. It would be easy to beat yourself up by keeping a running list of all the things you think you should be doing or attitudes you should be conveying but aren’t. But wow, some days it’s a challenge just to get out of bed and get dressed. That’s why, here at Bridging the Gap, we think it’s time to cut yourself a little slack and set aside some time to take care of YOURSELF. Our writing team has put together a list of self-care ideas that might help you get started.

Change the mood in your home with some calming music. Some days, especially days when the kids are fighting, or you’ve been in the house for way too long, it’s hard to take things down a notch. At times like that, I like to find some peaceful instrumental music I enjoy and let it fill the room. A couple of my favorites are Dan Musselmen or Mezzo Piano; both share beautiful piano solos. Turn it on during dinner, devotions, or anytime you need a little peace. —Nancy Holte

Give yourself permission to read fiction. Last week I hit a wall. I was tired of cooking, washing dishes, Zoom meetings, and quarantine to-do lists. So, I gave myself grace, released myself from any expectation that could be postponed, and read fiction. Not a self-help book or another post with “expert information.” I totally lost myself in someone else’s story. My favorite genre is spy fiction, and I had just received the last book of a trilogy by Joel Rosenberg. I spent the next two days immersed in mystery and the intrigue of whodunit. Now that the “bad guy” was revealed and the “good guy” came to the rescue just in time, I can move forward with renewed resolve to conquer my own world again. —Becky Meyerson, A Flourishing Life

Get outside. Some days are just hard. On those days—and when it’s nice out—I try to go outside for a walk. The fresh air and exercise can help me feel better. Some days there are other things to do outside, and working outdoors is nice. I do like walking, though, especially to a lake, or somewhere I can see nature; but even just walking around my neighborhood is great. I have walked around a nearby cemetery a few times too. That was nice because it was quieter than other options. It also helps me think of history and remember that I’m not the only one facing hard times. Others have before. The interesting headstones can be a good distraction too. Wherever I can go when I walk outside is good. —Rachel Roen

Put on some worship music. One of my favorite methods to help on the hard days is turning on some music. Normally, I choose older worship or older Christian music. Sometimes it’s a newer song that encourages me. However, when I listen to older music, I can connect to the past and remember a different time. While my past has had both good and bad times, older music helps me to remember that circumstances don’t last forever; they didn’t in the past and won’t now, either. Music can help with my mood, and focusing on God can also help, so worship music can be the best thing some days. —Rachel Roen

Move your body. There’s nothing like working up a sweat to reduce stress and increase your capacity to handle life—both physically and mentally. Exercise releases endorphins, and endorphins help you feel sane. You won’t regret carving out even small chunks of time to move! Try one or all of the following: YouTube has a plethora of workouts for all levels—for free. Many iconic services like Beachbody and Les Mills offer on-demand classes as well. Play some music and dance, or start to throw in some jumping jacks or squats at random intervals throughout the day. Finally, my favorite option for this time of year is a walk outside with soothing music! Bada bing, bada boom! Three self-care steps in one! You’ll feel a lot more like you again. —Erica Horyza

Spend time with Jesus. While all forms of self-care can help us feel restored to a certain degree, I know if I’m not nourishing my spirit by connecting with God in prayer and reading his Word, the rest can do only so much. Sometimes I need a little extra time with Jesus to empty the contents of my heart. I may need healing, forgiveness, the strength to forgive, wisdom, or simply peace. Sometimes I don’t even know the weight I’ve been carrying around until I have an honest conversation with him. I find that prayer walks and journaling are the best ways for me to process my thoughts and emotions before God. Having my maker release me from the burdens I carry is my most effective strategy for self-care. In Isaiah 22:11 (NCV), God speaks about man-made pools of refreshing, which resonates with me when I think about self-care. “You made a pool between the two walls to save water from the old pool, but you did not trust the God who made these things; you did not respect the One who planned them long ago.” As your maker, the one who planned you long ago, God has a plan for your ultimate self-care. He knows just what you need. Let’s trust the God who made us to refresh and restore us as well. —Erica Horyza

Learn to give yourself grace. Over these past few months, I found myself struggling with a lack of motivation to do much of anything, especially when we were all in lockdown! I saw people on Facebook accomplishing all of these projects and tasks that have been on the back burner. And I am in my home not getting much of anything done and just trying to survive having all the kids home, crisis-schooling, and still working. I found that I was coming down on myself often, and it got to a point where God got a hold of me and allowed me to see that I wasn’t giving myself grace. I felt as if I were lazy for not doing all of these other projects like so many others that I had seen from friends and family online. But I was working through and coping with this crisis differently, and I didn’t even realize it. I felt the stress of everyone around me when I would venture out to the store, and I was taking it on as my own. During these past three months, I have learned that I need to give myself grace and that if I don’t get my “list” done, it is ok. That life will keep going and that it is important to allow oneself to rest and take moments just to breathe and work through the thoughts that are rolling around in my head. God has given us so much grace, more than any of us could ever comprehend. And because we are made in his image, we should give grace not only to others but to ourselves as well. —Carrie Curran, The Joyful Imagination

Get outside and nurture a garden. If you have a yard—big or small—you can do what I’ve been doing to face the recent challenges: dig in the dirt. Our yard really needed some attention. Shrubs needed pruning. Check. Perennials needed dividing. Several people from my church stopped by at different times to dig and take some home. What a blessing it was to see their faces—even if we did have to stay apart. I also decided to grow some vegetables. Because my yard is relatively small, I’ve planted some of the veggies where the perennials used to reside. Others are scattered about in small patches. Finally, there are my zinnias. I’ve planted a large bed of these bright flowers in my front yard every spring for years. Whenever I can, I give away zinnias to friends, neighbors, passersby, especially the kids who go by on the sidewalk. Nurturing the plants is a peaceful time in my day. Seeing them grow encourages me. Spending time outside in God’s creation is never wasted. And now I can look forward to sharing food and flowers. It’s a blessing all around. —Renee Garrick