Ephesians 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
What Is Self-Care?
There are endless definitions of “self-care”. It is a hot topic nowadays and it seems like everyone is writing about it. The struggle I have with a lot of the books out there today is that they are lacking balance of what I can do for myself and what God does for me. Even though some books are marketed as being “Christian”, I’ve found that God is an afterthought or qualifier for how we need to do things. Now, I am not dumping on self-help and motivational literature. There is some really helpful stuff out there for everyone! But my focus here is to remind you first how important self-care is and also that you don’t need to figure it all out on your own! God’s already working in your heart and caring for you.
If you’re anything like me, you might feel guilty even thinking about carving out some time for yourself. But self-care is imperative because taking care of others is dependent on your own mental, physical, and spiritual health. It doesn’t have to be some big time consuming project. It can be even just a short walk by yourself or a half hour alone at your favorite coffee shop. I’d encourage you to write out a list of anything you might like to do on your own to help you reset.
There is no one all-encompassing definition of self-care since it is not one size fits all. Here is my personal definition:
Things I do intentionally to improve and maintain my mental, physical, and spiritual health.
Simple enough, right? Ha! Let’s break this down a bit, shall we?
Types of Self-Care
Mental and physical health and self-care go hand in hand. It’s been said time and time again that if you eat healthy food and exercise, you are sure to FEEL better! Okay, easier said than done, right? And what if I still don’t feel better after exercising and eating more vegetables?
1 Corinthians 6:19-20 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
First, it helps to remember that our bodies are a gift from God. He formed us each individually and uniquely, which I sometimes take for granted and don’t necessarily stop to think about. Think about how proud and excited you are about anything that you have made by hand! The thought, preparation, and execution are something you can be proud of. That’s how God sees us, except magnified times a million! So, we should then be encouraged to view our bodies as a gift that needs to be treasured and taken care of like a new toy or carefully crafted item.
I’d encourage you to not let the terms “exercise” or “physical activity” intimidate you! These do not have to be formal classes, specific activities, or any set amount of time. Moving your body includes even just walking to the mailbox, walking down to the basement to do laundry, or chasing after your kids. Everyday activities count! So give yourself credit where it’s due.
If you’re looking to be successful with anything more than day-to-day movements, you need to find something that works for YOU. For instance, I would rather eat bugs than exercise in a gym with other people for various reasons. So, I needed to find ways to exercise in my home whenever it is convenient for me. Take the time to brainstorm some ways you might enjoy being more physically active throughout your week and try some! You may find that you like certain activities better than others, but you will find something you like!
Pro tip: get outside and enjoy fresh air and God’s creation. It makes a world of difference!
1 Peter 5:7 Cast all your anxieties on Him because He cares for you.
Mental health is even more difficult to maintain than physical, in my opinion. Thoughts are much harder and more confusing to decipher. Yet, mental self-care is so very important. During this pandemic especially, a lot of people are struggling with their mental health, myself included. The lack of understanding, lack of control, and not knowing what our future holds is crippling. So, how do we deal practically with this uncertainty? Sometimes, eating your favorite food or watching a guilty pleasure movie is enough to ease your mind temporarily, but trivial things are often not long term solutions.
We are so blessed to have a God who loves us so much that He invites us to come to Him with any and all struggles. Sometimes even just saying out loud, “God, I’m giving this to you!” takes a huge load off of your shoulders and solidifies that promise that God has made to us. You are never alone! I also believe that God places people in our lives to help us when we fall short.
I share this next bit of info in hopes that someone who is struggling can take the next step as I did. I’ve personally found professional counseling to be incredibly helpful and imperative in maintaining my mental health. I have been going to therapy, primarily for anxiety, for 3 years now. It was not an easy step to take. In fact, I have struggled with anxiety my entire life and had never faced or dealt with it until I was 32 years old. It’s never too late to address your struggles! Your mental health is important, YOU are important! It is not shameful to seek help; in fact, I’d argue that it is very brave.
To realize your struggles and recognize that you may not be able to remedy them on your own is very difficult and should be applauded. I pray that everyone is encouraged to be more open about mental health issues and to properly seek and receive assistance when needed. If you or someone you know is struggling with depression, anxiety, or other mental health difficulties, please reach out to our pastors or a professional counselor.
The Forgotten Self-Care: Spiritual
Finally, and most importantly, let’s talk about self-care from a spiritual perspective. There is no “worldly” one-size-fits-all definition for self-care because we all have different needs. There is , however a universal self-care “game plan” and that is God’s Word. The Bible is truly the only resource that is a constant reliable truth and comfort in our lives. And when we use it as a self-care tool, it does not disappoint! How do we do this?
Matthew 18:20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.
Take the opportunity to engage in worship whether it be in church or private with family and friends. Small groups are a great source of worship and fellowship! Worship doesn’t have to be structured like a church service. It can be a devotion, singing a song by your favorite Christian artist, or simply recognizing and thanking God for the blessings around you.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.
Get in the scriptures! Don’t be intimidated by the small print and sometimes difficult language. I was not one to just open my Bible and read until I engaged in a year-long Bible reading plan with my church. But I have found so much reward in reading scripture every day. Heck, I don’t even understand all of it. But it never fails that I always find one part from every reading that especially stands out to me on any given day. Even just reading a Children’s Bible with summarized chapters of the Bible is a great start!
Ephesians 6:18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.
Several times throughout the Bible, God encourages us to pray. It is yet another gift God gives us to show His love. No prayer is too insignificant. God wants to hear it all including all of our deepest worries and struggles.
- Pray for guidance. Lord, please guide me in taking time for myself to be a better ambassador for you.
- Pray about guilt. Lord, please remind me that taking time for myself is not selfish in a bad way and that doing so will help me better serve my family and you.
- Pray just because. Lord, thank you for everything and everyone you have blessed me with.
Now, I’m no expert, but this is what I have found to work when trying to be consistent with a self care regimen and I’d encourage you to try it as well! Start off by making a “wish list” of possible activities you’d like to engage in to improve and maintain your physical, mental, and spiritual health. If you’re more of a rule follower, you could even call it a “to do” list, but me, I need to feel like I’m doing something special! Then, pick just one of those things from each category to start out with and go from there.
Remember, self-care does not have to be an all or nothing deal. You can sprinkle it in here and there throughout your daily life. Don’t get discouraged if you stray from your “plan”. I do it often. But the key is referring back to your initial list. Lastly, remember that you are never alone. God is always guiding and protecting you along the way. I pray that you take the time for your self-care guilt free and successfully!