Self-care is a buzzword that can bring up all kinds of reactions. As a person who likes to care deeply for others, but to live like I personally have no needs, my initial reaction to the term was an eye roll and scoff. “Self-care is for the weak,” I thought.
As it turns out, those who do not practice self-care actually become weak, and I eventually found myself to be among them. A series of challenging situations and a lack of knowledge about what I needed left me physically and emotionally depleted. Normal everyday mishaps became catastrophic, my children’s basic needs became overwhelming demands, and social situations that would normally energize my extroverted self left me longing for my quiet bed.
Isaiah 40 reminds us that we are limited. Like grasses and flowers, we will wither and fall because we, too, are finite (Isaiah 40:8). Therefore, taking care of ourselves is an acknowledgement that we are not God. We have needs that must be met. When we pack our lives to the brim and continuously run on steam, we are acting as if we are limitless. Why is it so hard to say no, slow down, and know what we need?
Here are 3 questions to ask yourself if self-care is a challenge.
Is this sustainable?
We all go through seasons of hardship and chaos, but have we settled for that being the norm? Are we in the habit of telling ourselves lies like, If I just manage my time better then I won’t feel so stressed. If I land this really great job, maybe then I’ll feel worthwhile. I have to say “yes” to this task for this person because I can’t handle them being upset with me otherwise. Sometimes we say yes to things hoping they will fill us up and make us whole, when in reality they are stripping us of the time and energy needed to take care of ourselves in a sustainable way.
What am I scared of finding out?
Other times our inability to slow down or say “no” is because we are scared of the silence. What will happen if I am left alone with my thoughts, my yearnings, my disappointment, my pain? Will anyone be there for me, or will I face it alone? We are afraid we have needs that God cannot meet, which will leave us feeling empty and abandoned. It can be scary to open your heart and mind to these thoughts, so we keep charging forward to avoid them.
Do I know what I need?
Often we don’t take care of ourselves because we don’t know what we need. Taking care of yourself doesn’t just mean admitting you have needs, but actually taking the time to identify those needs. The majority of us are disconnected from our bodies, which are begging us to listen. What does it look like to carve out time to explore what is calming and life-giving, to uncover things that bring lasting joy? Getting to know yourself is a way to honor the Lord’s delight in you and to embrace your own unique identity.
Self-care is not about being a slave to the things that are keeping me afloat, but rather taking out some of the water in my tank so I am no longer drowning.I don’t have to be everything for everyone all the time, and it is out of that freedom that I can be ready and willing to do what the Lord has called me to do. When I am not bound by my own agenda, or seeking to heal my own gaping wounds with a bandaid, I leave room for God to speak to my heart and meet my needs. Then I am able to live in the fullness of who I was created to be, and I am ready to do the work He has set out for me.
What is your next step in self-care? Designate some time today to reflect on those three questions and make a list of things that you need to do to take care of yourself. Don’t be overwhelmed by the list, but rather look for small, practical ways to incorporate these things into your life.
Here are some examples of habits to consider incorporating into your daily, weekly, or monthly rhythms:
- Going to the doctor, dentist, chiropractor, therapist, specialist
- Moving your body through stretching, walking, running, biking, hiking, swimming, yoga, dancing
- Engaging in a hobby like gardening, cooking, handicrafts, playing a sport or instrument
- Challenging your mind through reading, journaling, podcasts, audiobooks, writing music or poetry, learning a new skill
- Balancing comfort foods and nutrient dense foods, and drinking water
- Connecting with others in a deep, intimate, and meaningful way
- Spending time learning about God, listening to Him, and looking for evidence of His goodness
- Establishing moments of rest and healthy sleep habits
Interested in professional or pastoral counseling? Visit discovergrace.com/cc/ to learn more about Grace’s Care and Counseling Center.