If you read the title of this article and said to yourself, “Yeah, right!” you are precisely the person I am writing this for. Maybe the thought of self-care conjures up images of Tom Haverford and Donna Meagle from NBC’s sitcom “Parks and Recreation” indulging themselves with reckless abandon to anything their heart’s desire. Let me assure you that is not what I am proposing. However, many of us equate self-care with selfishness, self-centeredness, or self-indulgence, and convince ourselves that time for me takes away something I should be giving or doing for someone else.
In This Article
- Taking Care of Ourselves
- What Happens When We Don’t Take Care of Ourselves
- Jesus Practiced Self Care
- What is Self Care?
- Practical Ways to Engage in Self Care
Taking Care Of Ourselves
Let’s pause right here for a moment. I’m guessing you’ve been taught that “It’s more blessed to give than to receive,” Acts 20:35. And this, of course, is true. Our Western Christian culture sometimes leaves Christians feeling as though they cannot receive, they are only to give. In reality, if all of us only gave, who would we give to? Are we not also expected to receive and allow others to be the blessing we hope to be also?
Looking at this differently, if you don’t take care of yourself, who should? We tell others “take good care of yourself!” But what do we mean by that? I think it may mean, treat yourself well and don’t let others harm you or take advantage of you. We expect that for others, but what about ourselves?
Yes, what about me? Do I expect someone else to brush my teeth? To get me dressed in the morning? To give me a shower? Absolutely not! Do we think it is selfish to engage in these activities for ourselves? We probably see it as doing good to the world around us to be clean, clothed, and have fresh breath. Likely, we show up more like our best self when we do these basic things, at least on the outside. But are we caring for our inside, our mental and emotional health as well? If we are not caring for our inside, the parts we cannot see, then maybe we are as guilty as the Pharisee’s of only washing the outside of the cup.
What Happens When We Don’t Take Care Of Ourselves
When we do not care for ourselves, we may be inadvertently opening the door to resentment, anger, or envy. Perhaps we get angry when a co-worker leaves for vacation with unfinished work that now “I have to do.” Maybe we engage in a silent pity-party when our spouse has a night out with friends. If these statements resonate with you, you may be neglecting yourself and secretly hoping others in your life will give you a break. My friend, it is not others responsibility know what you need- it is yours! You can care for yourself and communicate that to those who need to know that you are taking a break.
Jesus Practiced Self Care
Jesus modeled self-care as recorded in the Gospels and encouraged His disciples to care for themselves as well. Luke 5:16 records that He “often withdrew into the wilderness and prayed.” The verses preceding record Jesus healing and teaching great multitudes. I imagine this was heavy and tiresome work and He needed some restoration. After Jesus and His disciples fed more than 5000 people (Matthew 14) Scripture records in verse 22: “Immediately Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side, while He sent the multitudes away. 23 And when He had sent [them] away He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray.” What a great, and caring King!
Friend, I ask you, if Jesus engaged in self-care, ought we not do the same?
I believe Jesus knew the value in caring for Himself, that doing so did not take anything away from those He came to serve, rather it restored and enabled Him to continue to do the good work He set out to do.
This was not a one-time event for our God. Scripture records many instances of Christ getting away throughout His ministry.
What Is Self Care?
Maybe you’re asking, “What is self-care?” That’s a great question! To answer that let’s look at caring for ourself in four dimensions: Spiritual. Physical. Mental. Emotional.
Spiritual Self Care
Our spirit needs care. Connection to our Creator is ultimately what sustains us. Regular time in worship, prayer, reflection, and connection with our God is essential for our wellbeing. If we are only nourishing our spiritual self during a church service on the weekend, we could be starving ourself throughout the week.
When Jesus was tempted by Satan, Matthew 4:4 records Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” If your spirit is hungry – feed it! Remember, this is zero-calorie nourishment!
Physical Self Care
While we do not live on bread alone, physical self-care includes taking care of the body. A healthy diet and regular exercise help meet this need that all humans have. Additionally, adequate sleep and rest support one’s ability to function and help to maintain mood.
Are you caring for your physical needs or is this an area that could use some improvement? 1 Corinthians 6: 19-20 challenges us with a question, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” Do we glorify God when we are exhausted and not able to perform well for those we are responsible to?
Mental Self Care
How is your thought life, your relationship with yourself? Romans 12:2 challenges us to renew our mind that we may discern God’s good and acceptable will. 2 Corinthians 10:4-6 instructs us to take our thoughts captive and reminds us that God can bring down strongholds that exalt themselves against Him.
Thoughts that condemn, judge, criticize, or shame are not in line with God’s thoughts toward His children. Sometimes we allow these rogue thoughts to go unchecked or maybe we agree with them, entertain them, and follow them down the rabbit hole to a place of anxiety, stress, worry, fear, or even hopelessness.
Let me assure you that this is not God’s will for you. His word tells us that God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and of sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7). While we are called to be an encouragement to one another, we are also commanded to have a right view of ourselves and to see ourselves how God sees us.
If your thoughts toward yourself do not align with who God says you are, then it’s time to care for yourself by challenging the lies and begin believing God’s truth about you.
Emotional Self Care
How are you, really? “Oh, I’m fine. I don’t let anything bother me. I just let it roll off my back or let it go.”
What are you letting roll off your back? Maybe it was a snide comment from a family member, or a criticism from a boss. While it may seem effective in the moment to “let it go”, a pattern of dismissing the hurt and anger from the slights of others may leave you feeling not considered and like you don’t matter.
Certainly, extending grace to the missteps of others is Godliness. But when we tell ourselves “it doesn’t matter, just move on” without acknowledging for yourself that you were in fact treated harshly or unfairly, and are hurt, we communicate to ourselves that we don’t matter, and don’t deserve care. But you do matter, and you do deserve care. All of us do.
Practical Ways To Engage In Self Care
Okay, so maybe you have noticed that in some areas you are doing well, and other areas may need some attention. Awareness is a great first step. Here are some suggestions for caring for yourself in the four areas noted above.
Ways To Practice Spiritual Self Care
- Intentional time for regular prayer and worship.
- Fellowship with other believers.
- Studying Scripture with others and independently.
Ways To Practice Physical Self Care:
- A good night’s sleep and regular periods of rest and down time.
- Regular exercise and moving your body.
- Healthy diet that is not too permissive or restrictive.
Ways To Practice Mental Self Care:
- Journaling- getting our inner thoughts out of our head onto paper helps to quiet our mind by making the thoughts more tangible and concrete.
- Write out condemning thoughts and then write out what you think God would say. Practice believing His truth!
- Quiet time and peaceful imagery-imagine yourself in a safe, peaceful place like a beach, park, or forest and allow yourself a mini vacation in that place.
Ways To Practice Emotional Self Care:
- Give yourself permission to have some fun! You get to define what fun is.
- Meet up or chat with a good friend.
- Consider yourself and what you want and need. For example, speak up when your spouse asks where you want to go for dinner.
- Remind yourself that you DO matter!
If you need help with self-care any area in life, our caring therapists at MyCounselor would be happy to come alongside you to cheer you on and help you find the balance and restoration you seek for your life.
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