For some time now, there has been this debate within Christian circles. It’s a back and forth between two sides with drastically different views. On the one side you have those who look at “self care” as selfish. Anything less than running yourself to death . . . for your husband, your kids, your church, even at times your career . . . is self serving and the opposite of Christ-like, sacrificial living. On the other end, you have those that think that they need all the “self care” ever to survive, and high maintenance doesn’t even begin to describe that need. Thus the debate.
I’d like to make the case that this is not an “either-or” situation. The truth is they’re both right, and they’re both wrong. We are not called to run ourselves completely to death. Jesus was an actually a perfect example to us regarding that. He took time away. He took breaks.
If we look at the very end of chapter four of the gospel of Mark, we find the story of Jesus sleeping in the storm. The bible tells us, “And a great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that it was already filling. But He (Jesus) was in the stern, asleep on a pillow . . .” (verses 37-38). Of course, we have the example of Jesus being at peace no matter what the situation. I think that’s so important to note, and I definitely don’t want to take away from that. But I think it’s also important to take notice of the fact that Jesus was resting. He wasn’t constantly going, doing, teaching, moving, planning and performing . . .
That’s just one example of Jesus resting. When Jesus ministered, He gave it everything. He wasn’t lazy, and we’re not called to be lazy. But I also think it’s no accident that the gospels include instances of Jesus not constantly going . . . of Jesus resting and enjoying the company of his closest friends and family . . . of caring for His own physical needs alongside the spiritual needs of others.
Self care isn’t selfish. But it does need balance. I’m not talking about spa days galore or girls’ trips/nights every week (everything in moderation, right?) but truly caring for yourself so that you can be the healthiest version of yourself mentally, physically, spiritually, and emotionally.
So what does that look like? I can’t answer that for you because I think every person is going to have a different definition based on their own needs and personality, but I did come up with ten basic ways that I care for myself. Some may seem pretty obvious and simple, but when I do these things, they make not only my life, but the lives of those around me, infinitely better.
- Time alone with God . . . I desperately need this to keep myself in a mental and spiritual place that is healthy. I need to be in the word and praying first and foremost before anything else. I think this aspect of caring myself is far above any of the others, and it is what helps everything else fall into place.
- Exercise . . . I need to move my body for both my physical and emotional health. On the flip side, I have to remember that exercise is a privilege and not a punishment, and the point is overall health. It’s not about abusing myself to get to a certain point.
- Saying “No” sometimes . . . keeping priorities in line . . . (relationship with) God, marriage, kids, and then everything else. When these get out of whack everything else tends to fall apart. This means that I’ve had to learn to say “no” to certain things, even when I don’t want to . . . jumping up at every opportunity to volunteer at the kids’ schools . . . too many social events and extracurriculars that only serve to drain my energy. . . even certain events and roles at church . . . because saying “yes” without counting the cost can cause my priorities to get all discombobulated. I’ve learned to take a moment and ask myself what I’m going to give up if I say “yes”. Because I can only say “yes” to so many things. Every “yes” is a “no” to something else, and every “no” is a “yes” to something else. I think within the church is one that is the hardest for most people. I know it is for me. We often unconsciously equate doing all the things at church with having a relationship with God. Make no mistake, I am in no way saying we should ever say “no” to church as a whole. We are called to be involved with and serve in a community of believers. We need to regularly be attending church and serving in our church families. But if activities, of any kind, are taking the place of your relationships, first with God, and then with your spouse and children . . . if you’re running yourself into the ground in the name of serving and everything else suffers . . . you’re causing yourself, your marriage, and your family harm. And because I believe that our first area of ministry is to our families, I also believe that keeping these things in their proper place is immensely important to our health and therefore, self care.
- Staying off of social media as much as possible . . . reading and writing more. I find enjoyment in both reading and writing. They are relaxing to me. Social media just gets me all stirred up. I’m a much more peaceful person when I don’t look at Facebook.
- Getting enough sleep and eating healthy most of the time. Drinking more water and less caffeine.
- Cooking . . . not just to put a meal on the table but cooking to create. I’ve often thought I wasn’t super creative, but the truth is cooking is my creative outlet. I may not be crafty or artistic, but I LOVE to spend a rainy Saturday cooking the day away in my kitchen.
- Taking time . . . that can mean quiet time for just me and my introverted self. That can mean making sure my husband and I regularly spend time alone without any distractions. That can mean taking family trips/vacations. All of them fill and fuel me.
- Getting my hair done once every 8-10 weeks. Vanity. I know.
- Doing grocery pick up every few weeks even if it costs a few extra dollars.
- Making sure I see my doctor(s) for all my routine care and tests . . . which this list is growing longer with each passing year . . . but as the saying goes, “an ounce of prevention . . .”.
At the end of the day, I think we can probably all agree that it’s not so much “self care” that’s the issue, but what that care entails. The reality remains that if we’re run down, exhausted, and never taking time to rest and refuel, we’re not going to have much to give to those we love the most.
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