by Misty Lawrence, MA, LMFTA, LPCA
The phrase ‘self-care’ began gaining in popularity over the last few years, but the concept has been around for centuries. God created an entire day for this purpose, knowing that His creation needed regular rest; “There remains then a Sabbath-rest for the people of God” (Hebrews 4:9, New International Version). Jesus, the Son of the most-high God, even practiced regular self-care. Examples in scriptures such as Mark 1:35 and Luke 5:16 display Jesus’ regular need for solitude; “But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed”. Even during a significant storm Jesus took time to rest, though it was inconvenient, and others did not understand (Matthew 8:23-27). Not only did He display this well he also encouraged others, like Martha, to cease from their business and be still (Luke 10:38-42). Rest is good, and practicing it follows in the footsteps of our Savior. Essentially, we recognize that God is God and we are not. He can manage our challenges, allowing us to lay down our burdens and rest.
Self-care can be defined as intentional acts that serve one’s mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual wellbeing. Think of it as connecting with the God of the universe through activities that leave you feeling refreshed. It is essential to healthy relationships, balanced moods, and reduced anxiety. Life experience teaches us that we feel and perform best following quality sleep. When we eat well, we have more energy, avoid stomach aches, and have positive physical results. Self-care is no different. When practiced regularly we are caring for ourselves in a way that nothing else provides. As our culture continues to gain more responsibilities, work later hours, and get much less sleep, practicing self-care encourages us to find balance. Scripture calls believers to love others as we love ourselves, and to care for God’s creation. This is a challenge for many. Would you care for others in the same manner that you are currently caring for yourself? Have you honored God’s creation in the way you treat your mind, body, emotional, or spiritual states? Self-care is not a selfish act. When we are at our best we are then able to give our very best. We must find balance in doing the work that we are called to and resting in the care of the Lord.
Self-care is a personal journey to finding activities that make your heart leap with excitement. They might include: going on a walk, being in nature, taking a bath, spending time in the Word, art, woodworking, cooking, and or anything else that allows your mind to focus on a non-stressor. Consider hobbies that you have loved in the past or new things you have always wanted to try as a potential starting point. Self-care should not feel forced or include activities that you do not find enjoyable. While a husband may love his daily run, exercise might be considered a discipline to his wife. Sometimes new activities are added to serve us well and other times we must remove activities that drag us down. For example, choosing not to respond to emails during dinner may be saying ‘no’ to stress and ‘yes’ to increased quality time with loved ones.
When incorporating self-care, it should be planned and scheduled, just like all-important details of our lives. Imagine you had the opportunity to take a mini vacation every day, would you go? These precious times are the mini vacations from life’s daily pressure. A common misstep is the assumption that we will do it when we have time, but then time never seems to present itself. If you do not currently look forward to a stress reducing activity each week then self-care is likely lacking. Ideally it should be practiced daily with a longer period occurring once a week. An excellent goal would be to carve out four consecutive hours for your stress reducing activity on a regular basis. Remember to be proactive, not applying it as only triage in times of significant stress. So today, considering giving yourself the gifts of rest and joy, while giving others the best version of you.