Which present would you rather receive? Option A: The beautifully packaged, well thought out, carefully selected exactly for you or Option B: The hastily wrapped in a paper bag regifted white elephant oh shoot I forgot to get a present present? Which gift would you rather give? Option A: The present you spent time creating, or thoughtfully selecting, presented in a manner that is pleasing both to you and the recipient or Option B: The last card in your card drawer with a half hearted IOU promise for a lunch treat at an undisclosed later date?
I think we all know that in both cases, Option A is the preferred choice. There is something about giving and receiving gifts that fills both the gift-giver and the gift-receiver with joy. In Julia Marie Hogan’s new book It’s OK to Start With You, Julia explores how the care of self is actually a form of gift giving:
When we aren’t our best selves, it shows. Think about it: When you’re exhausted and overwhelmed, you simply can’t be the friend, family member, significant other, coworker, or boss you want to be. Even worse, neglecting our well-being makes it nearly impossible to live life as authentic Christians, because we aren’t caring for ourselves the way God calls us to. After all, Jesus tells us to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mt 22:39, emphasis added). page 11-12
Julia introduces her reader to authentic self care, which is actually quite challenging and requires a dedicated level of discipline. But don’t let that hold you up. Julia is gentle with her instruction. This book is full of examples of what to look for in your life that would indicate you are in need of a little TLC. As a licensed clinical professional counselor and psychotherapist, Julia has helped many people identify and adjust their habits in order to lead more authentic lives. She is also very honest with her reader about how she is not perfect and has had to take the time to step back and reassess her choices regarding self-care.
What is so great in this book is that she breaks things down into 5 main categories of self care:
- Taking care of your body
- Prioritizing mental health
- Managing emotions
- Nurturing relationships
- Making time for prayer
This book is mean to be worked with, and you can bounce around if you wish. In the middle, after establishing what self care is and what self-care isn’t (I’ll give you a hint, self-care isn’t eating 5 snickers bars while binge watching Netflix. Nor is it depriving yourself of adequate sleep because you are helping a friend a work who always needs last minute help), Julia offers a self assessment quiz. By simply answering “Agree” or “Disagree” to a series of questions, you are able to see what areas of your life you have self-care figured out, and what areas you need to pay more attention to.
Julia then walks through each area with its own chapter, making it easy to jump to what you need, since you’re sure to be excited to dive right in! Within each chapter are some questions to answer to help guide you in thinking about self-care and making a plan for the way forward. The book concludes with space and guidance for building your own self-care plan as well as some sample plans from hypothetical case studies to serve as inspiration.
It’s OK to Start with You is a multi-function book. Each chapter concludes with some reflection or discussion questions making it perfect for a group study. It also is written with both men and women in mind, so anyone can use it. A student just starting college would benefit from this book just as much as a business executive or stay at home mom.
We all, regardless of gender, situation, or location, are made in the image of God. We are called to love one another as we love ourselves, and we cannot love others as God wishes us to if we aren’t taking care of the selves we have been given. God gave us the gift of life, so that we could share it with others. We need to care for that gift, not for selfish purposes, but for selfless purposes. A common saying is that you can’t give what you don’t have. If you aren’t caring for yourself, you would be able to give of your self in your relationships, home, work, or any area of your life.
I really liked this imagery that Julia used to describe self-care.
It can also be helpful to think of yourself as an instrument for God’s purposes, like a paintbrush. When you are unkind to yourself, all you have to offer him is a worn, tired, sparse paintbrush. But when you care for yourself, you are a shiny, sleek, full paint brush that can be used to create great works of art. (p 40)
If you enjoyed this review, check back next week! From Sept. 10-14 there is going to be a blog tour that I’m involved in to promote this book, and the important topic of self-care. Be sure to see my post on Sept. 14, looking at the spiritual dimension of self-care.
To learn more about Julia, be sure to visit her website: https://www.juliamariehogan.com/
• Julia’s Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/juliahoganlpc/
• Julia’s Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/juliahoganlcpc/
• Book Listing: https://www.osvcatholicbookstore.com/product/it-s-ok-to-start-with-you
• Blog tour post on Julia’s website: juliamariehogan.com/blog/blog-tour (the post will be live on Sept. 10)
• Check out Julia’s contest details!: We’ll also be hosting a chance to win a copy of the book, It’s Ok to Start with You! To enter, visit Julia’s Instagram blog tour post and comment with the new self-care practice you will try. Contest ends Friday, September 14th, 2018 and the winner will be chosen at random on Monday, September 17th, 2018.