Self-care is important for you, as well as all of your loved ones, friends, co-workers, etc. I have had a few people tell me that taking time for themselves is too difficult, or they do not have enough time, or that it is simply selfish when there is so much to do for the family or other needs. If you tend to have these thoughts, this article is for you.
According to Raphailia Michael, MA, self-care is “any activity that we do deliberately in order to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health”. In other words, self-care is an action we take for the purpose of making ourselves feel better, be better, and live better (the word ‘better’ here means to have a positive and/or excellent quality).
Is Self-Care Biblical?
As a Christian, one of the first things we ought to do is turn to scripture. What does scripture have to say about self-care? Firstly, it is important to remember that when we turn to the Bible for insight on self-care, we are not going to find the exact words ‘self-care’. However, as we dig into the Word, we discover many passages in which we are encouraged, even directed, to take care of ourselves. Let’s take a look at a few of my favorite scripture passages about belonging to God and taking care of ourselves.
1 Corinthians 3:16-17 – “Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for the temple of God, which you are, is holy.”
1 Corinthians 6:19-20 – “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been purchased at a price. Therefore glorify God in your body.”
1 Corinthians 9:24-27 – Do you not know that the runners in the stadium all run in the race, but only one wins the prize? Run so as to win. Every athlete exercises discipline in every way. They do it to win a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one. Thus I do not run aimlessly; I do not fight as if I were shadowboxing. No, I drive my body and train it, for fear that, after having preached to others, I myself should be disqualified.”
Romans 12:1 – “I urge you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship.”
Ephesians 5:29 – “For no one hates his own flesh but rather nourishes and cherishes it, even as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.”
Mark 6:31 – “He said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.”
After reading these scripture passages, taking time to ponder their meaning, we summarize them for ourselves. For example, my summary is: “I am to take care of my body, mind, and spirit because I am a member of the body of Christ. In doing so, I recall that I am wonderfully made, formed as a temple of God. I am not to hate myself, but rather, am called to take care of myself (body, mind, and spirit). Therefore, I am to train my body and take good care of it, offering it to God as a living sacrifice. Jesus has given me permission and direction to find time for myself.”
Now that we have confirmed that self-care is important for us, most especially directed by God, what does it entail?
Self-care is relatively the same for each of us. Yet, there are some differences to our needs, dependent upon our age, gender, profession, relationship status, medical needs, etc. Please keep this in mind when you are finalizing your self-care regimen, and work with your medical professionals as needed.
Without further ado, I am providing a list of the general self-care needs for each one of us. Although we tend to know what self-care consists of, it is always good to have a reminder, as well as some input to ideas we may not have considered.
- Eat/maintain a healthy diet, and drink plenty of water. Click here to get to a daily water intake calculator.
- Do not over-consume alcohol, legal medications, or foods; do not use illicit drugs. Should you discover that there is an area of over-use in any areas which have led or may lead to an addiction, please reach out to your medical professional for guidance; or search out support in AA, NA, OA, SA, as well as organizations such as Smart Recovery.
- Do daily stretching; and move your body by walking or doing another form of exercise (in general, the recommendation is a minimum of 150 minutes per week), appropriate for your health and fitness level. Please discuss with your doctor.
- Get the proper amount of sleep. For a healthy adult, 7 to 8 hours of sleep every night is the goal.
- Maintain a schedule for medical and dental care, to include routine checkups, yearly screenings, monitoring medications, etc. Remember to ask for blood work to be drawn, most especially for your endocrine system (and ask for your T4 and T3 to be drawn, rather than just your TSH).
- Spend quality time with your loved ones / friends.
- Do at least one activity every day which you enjoy (i.e. cook, tend to a garden/plant, spend time doing a hobby, listen to music, take a walk, do a puzzle, read a book, call a friend, relax, etc.). Even doing so for ‘only’ 10 minutes is beneficial.
- Say ‘no’ more often to those people, events, and activities which zap your energy and sanity (although, this does not include neglecting parental duties to children under the age of 18 years or those who are adults with special needs), steal your inner peace, and use you. Yes, we can still be Christ-like when we say ‘no’.
- Schedule time to pamper yourself at least once every month or two (i.e. have a spa day (can be done inexpensively at home), take a class, have a friends’ day, take a drive, go on a mini-adventure, get your hair cut, just be present to yourself, etc.).
- Remember to laugh every day!
You are not alone!
During my lifetime, I have not been consistent about maintaining proper self-care. I have gone through phases when I did almost nothing of the things listed above. There may be days when we drop the proverbial ball. The important thing is to pick it back up as soon as we realize it, and get back on track.
If you have fallen into a cycle of not taking care of yourself, you are not alone. Life events happen, we tend to have ‘things’ get in the way, and ‘stuff’ happens. I encourage you to push through all of the ‘junk’ and ‘gunk’ of the ‘stuff’ in your life; and simply begin your self-care by taking one or two small steps each day. You are important. You do matter.
Take the first step, and then the second step….
Here are a few steps meant to motivate and encourage you to get moving forward.
Step 1: Brain-storm and write down your self-care needs, as this will provide a full picture of what you must do for yourself. Some of these things you may already do; while some of them will require attention.
Step 2: Make phone calls to your medical care team in order to schedule a complete medical check-up (which should include a complete physical, a review of your current medications, and labs).
Step 3: Set goals for those areas in which you want to accomplish something.
Step 4: Schedule time in your calendar for specific areas such as prayer, exercise/walking, personal down time, meals, etc. For some of us, the more we struggle with remembering to do something, the more important it is to schedule it into our daily calendar.
Step 5: Take daily steps toward your goals. Get creative, and make it work for your personality and needs. Following are a few examples. If you are struggling with exercising 150 minutes per week, consider doing the activity for 10 minutes a day, adding an additional 5 or 10 minutes each day in the second week; put on your favorite music and dance in the living room for 15 minutes; walk in place during commercials; make a game out of it with your child. If you are struggling with getting more vegetables in your daily diet, you may want to add one serving of spinach to one meal every day (i.e. to eggs, salad, sandwich, protein shake, etc.); meal plan and prep each week; ask friends for their favorite healthy recipes. If you want to have more prayer time as a goal, you may want to begin by setting a timer for 5 minutes a day for the first week, then 10 minutes a day for the second week, and so forth; find a prayer group to join; listen to Christian music.
Step 6: After a week or two, review and re-evaluate. What do you need to add or tweak? Be brutally honest with yourself. After a few weeks of doing this dedicated self-care, are there areas in which you may need outside assistance?
If you are beginning this self-care journey, or are beginning again, know you are not alone. Brenda Wheeler Ministries is one source for you to reach out to for some additional motivation.
May God shine His light, love, mercy, grace, and peace upon you!