What is self-care? Self-care is doing something to nourish your body, mind and spirit. Taking time out for you in this way is an intentional and worthy use of time. Each of us has a responsibility to keep ourselves healthy. Doing something for you today that would provide more energy to do what needs to be done tomorrow is important work. In order to be of service to others, you must also love yourself enough to take care of your own body, mind and spirit. It is not an option. Self-care does not need to be an activity, either; it could be saying “no” to an activity that would push you beyond what you can bear. It could be as simple as taking a bubble bath to soak your muscles. Maybe you decide to sit down and read. Perhaps you even take a nap. Maybe for you, it would be going for a run, dancing to a great song, or cooking something aromatic and lovely. Sitting by any body of water or by a fire are favorites for me.
I have many clients who wrestle with the idea of self-care because they think it is purely selfish; they think should always put others first. However, much like service, self-care is a Biblical principle. The rhythm demonstrated in creation in Genesis 1 & 2 calls us to pause – to rest. After God created everything He rested and deemed the day of rest holy. I would say that is a strong affirmation that we need to take this time. We are also created as humans – which means we are not God and we are not equipped for continuous activity. Finite people cannot keep going and going like the Energizer Bunny. (Who, by the way, eventually has to change his battery pack too!) If you look closely at Jesus’ life, you can see this idea of self-care as a discipline. The needs and demands of the crowds were unending. In the midst of healings and teachings, pouring himself out to serve others, Jesus calls the apostles to recharge: “The apostles gathered together with Jesus; and they reported to Him all that they had done and taught. And He said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a while.” For there were many people coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.” (Mark 6:31-32). He continues this trend throughout the gospels. It takes self-control and discipline to slow down and rest in our ever-quickening society. In turn, it offers us the ability to be as present as possible to those around us, and freedom from the burden to meet everyone’s needs.
If we continue to pour out into the lives of others without being refueled ourselves, it opens us up to burnout, anxiety, a lack of joy, and ultimately renders us ineffective in helping others. As Marva Dawn puts it in her book, Keeping the Sabbath Wholly, “Truly, the wholeness of being the people of God is desperately needed in our lopsided and fragmented age and ardently desired by those who profess that faith in God makes a difference in one’s lifestyle.” How are you feeding into your “whole health”, body, mind, and spirit?