Do you consider self-care to be selfish? Many of us make that mistake in our thinking. Self-care is one of the best things you can do to preserve your mental health and well-being. It’s an important and practical way to steward the body and mind that God gave you.
Is Self-Care Selfish?
Sometimes Christians think self-care is selfish because they don’t have the correct understanding of Scripture. Many passages tell us to give sacrificially as we love others. These scriptures are foundational to the teachings of the Christian faith. But if we leave self-care out of the picture of Christian living, we are not doing all that God tells us to do.
When someone asked Jesus what the most important commandment was, this is what he had to say:
And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. – Matthew 22:37-39
We can take note of the three priorities that are in these verses: God, other people, and only then ourselves. To truly love others, you need to give from an overflow of loving God. That means practicing self-care so that you have the energy to care for others. Self-care is a key to honoring God’s plan for your life, so you are giving out of an overflow.
5 Methods of Self-Care
Most of us live in a very busy, fast-paced world. It’s so easy to allow self-care to move to the back burner of our priorities. You may be the kind of person who typically meets everyone else’s needs before you meet your own. But if this is your normal pattern, you can feel depleted and perhaps even begin to feel resentful. It’s much better to place self-care on your daily priority list so you don’t reach the point of feeling burnt out and frustrated.
Here are five practical methods to help you practice regular self-care.
Practice Lord’s Day Rest
Lord’s Day rest is a gift God gives to us each week. But many of us fail to enjoy this gift on a regular basis. You may be tempted to treat Sunday as a day to catch up on all the other things that you didn’t get finished throughout the week. But if you begin to use Sunday as God originally intended it to be. You will see a marked change in your overall health for your mind, body, soul, and spirit.
Begin a new Lord’s Day rest practice by setting aside two hours every Sunday to lie down or sit in a comfortable position. During those two hours, you can choose to take a nap, do a Bible study, engage in prayer, read a book, make a craft, or a combination of any of those activities. Choose activities that replenish you and help you feel more connected with God.
Each week as you set aside a portion of your Sunday dedicated to God, he will give you the peace that passes all understanding throughout the week. Add a little more time to your Lord’s Day rest every week until it eventually becomes an entire day for you. Regular Lord’s Day rest is one of the most practical ways you can engage in self-care and develop your relationship with God.
One of the best ways to practice self-care is to say “no.” People commonly bring stress on themselves by putting too much on their plates, which causes them to feel overwhelmed. Yet just using the word “no” can be one of the most effective ways to practice self-care.
Start with this exercise. Get seven sheets of lined paper, one for each day of the week. Make a column on the left side in which you write every hour that you are awake. Use one line for each hour. Then on the right, fill in all that you absolutely must get done in those hours.
Many people find this to be an eye-opening exercise when they have too much on their plates. They look at their lists and realize they are doing more work than one person can do, which is a recipe for burnout.
You can look over your to-do list and delegate as many things to other people as possible. To do this, you may need to hire someone to help you. You might need to press pause on something that you love doing for a season. You may also need to leave groups or committees for a while or go on a social media fast.
A “no” answer does not have to last forever, but you can use it to start practicing self-care more intentionally. A Christian counselor can help you decide which priorities need to stay on your list and which ones need to go.
A reward can be highly motivating. Small rewards such as a favorite novel or bubble bath can motivate you to keep pressing forward even on a busy day. If you regularly reward yourself in small ways, you’ll be practicing good self-care.
Write down a list of small items and simple activities that give you enjoyment. Don’t exclusively reward yourself with food because that can get you stuck in an unhealthy cycle. Little rewards can be inexpensive yet enjoyable to give you a tiny burst of pleasure to anticipate with joy.
Occasionally it’s good to reward yourself with bigger items or activities. Ideas include booking a massage, taking a weekend away, or going on a shopping spree. Quarterly or annual rewards like this can help you set goals for practicing self-care.
Learn Something New
Those of us who face burnout often feel stuck in the same old loops. But when you choose to learn something new, you’ll feel freshly inspired, and you will boost your capacity to learn new things. This can also be part of your reward system.
Think of something you enjoyed when you were a child or a young adult, that you have not recently participated in. That might be playing music, working with your hands, gardening, making art, or practicing a foreign language. It may be fun to pick up that activity as a hobby again now that you’re an adult, and it may even be more enjoyable now.
A simple area in which you can learn something new is cooking. You have many choices now for meal delivery systems, which allow you to try new recipes with convenience. Or you can research new recipes online and purchase the ingredients from your grocery store. Try one new recipe per week to break out of your rut and care for yourself in a nourishing way.
You probably already know that quality connections with others are one of the best ways to boost your mental wellness. Many of us desire deeper connections with other people. But our long to-do lists and busy schedules sometimes get in the way of those connections with family and friends. Yet since quality time with people we love has such excellent benefits, it’s worth prioritizing as a form of self-care.
You need to look at your schedule to determine the time that is best for you to socialize with others. It might make the most sense for you to meet others at in-person lunches or dinners. It might be more convenient for you to connect with others through phone calls, FaceTime, or Zoom calls. Social media should be secondary to all these other methods, so you’ll get the maximum benefits of connection.
Isolation can take a heavy toll on your sense of mental wellness. But consistently connecting with others can help you beat burnout and feel happier and more content. Meeting with others is not selfish; it may be the very best method you use for self-care.
When These Methods Aren’t Enough
If you put these self-care methods into practice for several months but still don’t experience a significant downturn in your stress level, you may need to consult with a Christian counselor to learn what is at the root of your stress, frustration, and exhaustion.
When you meet with a counselor, you can gain insights into your problems that are hard to discover on your own. Your counselor will offer practical tips based on biblical principles to bring restoration to your mind, body, soul, and spirit.
“Gua Sha”, Courtesy of Viva Luna Studios, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Bath Necessities”, Courtesy of Maddi Bazzocco, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Reading”, Courtesy of Toa Heftiba, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Enjoy the Little Things”, Courtesy of Brigitte Tohm, Unsplash.com, CC0 License