These days, self-care is a huge buzz word. It’s seen, in general, as an important part of overall health and well-being. However, some people view self-care as selfish, indulgent and superficial, citing we should be more concerned about others and the world around us. While siding with one extreme or the other seems to be a social media past time, there is something important we can learn from the concept of self-care.
Also known by less-loaded terms like maintaining healthy boundaries and not overcommitting, self-care is a vital element in avoiding burnout.
Even if you haven’t experienced physical, mental or emotional burnout before, it’s probable you’ve met someone who has. Best described as exhaustion, burnout is a result of chronic stress in one’s life. And while practicing self-care doesn’t remove the stress, it does remind us to focus on reducing it and caring for ourselves so we’ll be refilled and refuelled.
What does Christian self-care look like?
Viewing life through the lens of a Christian worldview, it’s easy to get caught up in the servant mindset and forget about the importance of being good stewards of our health as well. Since our bodies and minds are gifts from God, it’s important to care for them just as we would care for one another.
Of course, self-care needs to be kept in balance with caring for and serving others so with this in mind here are some Scripture references to consider when thinking about self-care.
You realize, don’t you, that you are the temple of God, and God himself is present in you? No one will get by with vandalizing God’s temple, you can be sure of that. God’s temple is sacred—and you, remember, are the temple.1 Corinthians 3:16-17
While the analogy of our bodies being a temple is often used in speeches against getting tattoos or smoking isn’t it also appropriate to appreciate the charge of caring for our temples by taking care of ourselves?
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”Matthew 11:28-30
Spending time with Jesus, communicating with Him through prayer and reading the Bible sounds like a wonderful act of self-care.
No one abuses his own body, does he? No, he feeds and pampers it. That’s how Christ treats us, the church, since we are part of his body.Ephesians 5:29
When we’re in a healthy state of mind, caring for ourselves and our bodies is natural. We love treating ourselves and living our best life. And there’s nothing wrong with that—it’s how God made us!—as long as it’s in balance to our calling and our purpose.
Jesus’ example of self-care
When searching the Scriptures for biblical examples of self-care look no further than Jesus’ own example found in the gospels.
If it has been a while, let this be a prompt to read through Mark and look for examples of times when Jesus separated himself from the crowds of needy people, and even his close friends and family, in order to recharge, rest and spend time alone praying. While this could be interpreted as selfish (there are so many more people who need help!), taking time away to recharge and refuel is an important piece in serving others. If you’re empty, you have nothing to give and you can’t help anyone.
On top of taking time to rest, sleep and be alone, Jesus also encouraged others to do so (see Mark 2:27 and Luke 10:38-42 for two examples). If making time to rest and relax wasn’t important it wouldn’t be mentioned in the Bible.
Suggestions for practicing self-care
Just like most other disciplines in life, self-care is a simple concept that isn’t always easy to remember or maintain. In order to make it a part of your daily life, creating habits or working it into your morning routine may be what it takes.
Spend time with Jesus every day
The importance of regular prayer and Bible reading can’t be understated. Having a daily practice keeps you in touch with your Saviour and also allows Him to stay in touch with you, giving insight into His perspective. Don’t take this relationship for granted.
Get enough sleep
With so much on our plates every day, getting enough sleep is something we know we should prioritize but often neglect. When we get enough sleep we’re better all around—our mood improves, we better-handle our emotions and we’re more creative.
Take breaks when you need them
While there’s immense pressure to show up for everything in life, we all have breaking points. When you feel like you need a time out, find a way to take it and invest in recharging your batteries so you don’t burn out later.
Exercise and eat healthy
When we get busy one of the first things to go is healthy food and exercise. But just as prayer and Bible reading acts as spiritual nourishment to our spirit, physical exercise and healthy eating habits nourish our bodies. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle leaves us energized rather than drained.
We’re nothing if not busy and overworked so if taking time to care for your body, mind and spirit sounds a bit overwhelming then let this be a signal that it is time for some self-care. With so many competing demands in our personal and professional lives, we need to become advocates for our own personal health because if we have nothing of ourselves to give to others then we won’t be able to fulfil our life’s purpose. Whether it’s serving God and others through our job or in our volunteer efforts, we first need to make sure our well has water so we can serve it to others in love and friendship.