Self-care is a bit of a buzz phrase these days.
There is no one specific way to “self-care,” no right or wrong, do this not that. It is the deliberate and self-initiated ways one cares for oneself.
While simple in theory, many of us, if not most, find it hard to put into practice. As a culture we wear the term busy as a badge of honor. Busy has even become an accepted answer in casual greetings.
Person 1: How are you?
Person 2: Busy.
And even thought we know our bodies need rest, we so often work under the assumption that a full schedule equals a productive life. Worse, that our perceived productivity somehow gives weight to our worth.
If this is not something you struggle with, I’d say you are in the minority. Also, congratulations!
Boundaries and saying no to doing more have always been a struggle for me. I lean towards people pleasing–disappointing you or anyone seems one of my worst case scenarios. I expect my work to be excellent, no actually, I’d rather perfection.
This kind of thinking perpetuates the lie that I should be able to push a little more, a little further, a little harder. That rest will come tomorrow, but tomorrow never comes…willingly. And, as a result, I have experienced (many times) the forced stop of extreme sickness to an overworked and under cared for body.
And, whether through my own thinking or the unspoken sentiments of others, possibly both, self-care has always felt rather selfish. Shouldn’t I be using my time, all of it, to be thinking about and caring for others? For the “least of these?”
The “golden rule” is found in Mark 12:31: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (NIV)
I think we place too much emphasis on mastering the first part of that verse, thinking the “yourself” part as a mere afterthought. But the as provides clear insight as the adverb of the sentence: as we love ourselves we are to love our neighbors.
as: to the same degree, amount, or extent; similarly, equally
What if we are only able to love others as well as we love ourselves? Would our internal dialogue towards ourselves be fitting for our verbal communication with others? Are we modeling healthy practices and habits? Are we practicing what we preach?
An integral part of loving ourselves is not only knowing our worth, but acting upon that knowledge. And, if caring for ourselves is an reflection of love, well, that doesn’t seem selfish at all…but necessary.
I am writing this from a season that has been full of rest and travel and learning and writing. Before this season I was fighting to find balance and purpose and perspective. In that season I realized I needed to change some things solely for my own good. (And, wouldn’t you know it, what I did initially for myself had reaching rippling effects of health to the other areas and people in my life as well.)
Some of the intentional changes I found most helpful:
- Doing Barre and/or going to gym every day, except Sundays
- Reading more
- Using vacation/personal days (I had more than 6 weeks of unused time when I left)
- Setting boundaries and saying no (work-life balance)
- Memorizing passages of scripture
Jesus regularly removed himself from others to pray and connect with the Father. He would often remove himself from crowds in order to be with the 12 disciples. He regularly enjoyed meals with individuals and groups. He never rushed or worried, he even slept during storms. He was at peace. Jesus intentionally sought activities, including solitude and rest, in order to stay connected to his Father and rooted in his purpose on earth.
You might not think that you have the time to care for yourself, but I would argue that in caring for yourself, even if only for a few minutes a day, you will be better able to care for those around you and perform the tasks set before you.
We are complex, and need to do all we can to stay healthy physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
We are told not to think too highly of ourselves, but we are told to love ourselves. It’s not about indulgence or depravity, it’s about care and love in order to be healthy enough to live the mission, purpose and life we have been given. We need to find ways to reset, recharge and refocus.
How do you practice self-care?
How can you start practicing self-care?