last updated March 23, 2019
Everyone needs self-care because we’re human.
We have limited time, limited energy, limited physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual resources in and of ourselves. We weren’t created to be going full on, full tilt, every moment of every day and every night. We’re created in the image of God who created everything and said that it was good, who worked at creation and then rested, and so established a rhythm of work and rest for healthy human living.
While human beings are limited, we are also enormously gifted, made in the image of God, given the gift of creativity to work with our hands, think intricate thoughts, use language, spend our energies in doing good and serving others. “Self-care is never a selfish act,” writes Parker Palmer. “It is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer others.” Taking care of ourselves allows us to nurture and replenish our gifts so that we have something to offer others.
Everyone needs self-care because life is hard, and we need to be put back together again.
I’ve just finished reading Everything Happens for a Reason and Other Lies I’ve Loved by Kate Bowler, who was diagnosed with Stage IV colon cancer when she was just 35 years old, an assistant professor at Duke University, a published author, married, and with a young son. As she says at one point in her book: “Life is so beautiful. Life is so hard.”
You don’t have to be diagnosed with cancer to know that. The young adult living with anxiety and still trying to work and go to school knows that life is hard. So does the entrepreneur labouring long days and weekends, and living on the edge between making a living and losing everything. So does anyone who works for the church–who walks with hurting people, who bears with being misunderstood, who gives sacrificially even when no one else notices.
So we need to take care of ourselves–to find those moments of beauty even within the hard times, to bind up our wounds and allow healing, to rely on God to refresh and renew us. Not only so we’re able to keep on serving, as admirable as that might be. But because God longs for us to be whole, healthy people. “The Lord is my shepherd,” says the psalmist (Psalm 23:1), “I shall not want.” In other words, I shall be content, I shall be whole.
Everyone needs self-care because life can get too busy or not busy enough
“Where are you going on vacation?”
We had family visit earlier this summer, but besides that, we had been too busy to plan anything else, so I kept answering, “well first of all, I need to catch up with myself!”
Between working for the church and blogging and releasing a new book this fall and doing a lot of social media to support it, I’ve been too busy. So I need self-care to help me slow down–to clarify my priorities and let some things go, to disengage for a while and curl up with a good book. When life gets too busy, I need the spiritual practice of self-care that allows me to stop.
But that’s not for everyone.
I was challenged on this recently by someone who feels that time is weighing on her hands. Instead of being too busy, she needs something more to occupy her time. For her, self-care doesn’t mean sorting out her priorities and learning to say no. It doesn’t mean finding time to be alone, or disengaging from social media. She needs to sort out her priorities and identify the things she can say yes to. She needs to find ways to engage more with people. That’s a different kind of self-care, and just as necessary for a healthy rhythm of work and rest.
These are just three reasons why everyone needs self-care. How about you? Why do you need self-care?
Four Gifts: Seeking Self-Care for Heart, Soul, Mind, and Strength
Is Self-Care Part of Your Paid Employment, and Should It Be?
The Best Articles on Self-Care in the Church
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Looking forward to reading this.
Glad to hear it, Duane. I welcome your feedback any time.
I agree that we all need a work/rest cycle. How do you achieve that when your spouse is a workaholic?
That’s an excellent question, Mary. Perhaps one way of working at that would be to start a conversation about a healthy work/rest rhythm, and how you might move toward that as a couple/family. At the same time, I wonder if it might be possible simply to start practicing that personally, and modelling that.
I need better self care because I can easily use doing to get in the way of being… especially when under stress. For a long time I think doing… so not taking time to stop… felt safer than stopping and openly facing up to the impact of very real past hurt… and allowing God to touch it and bring his healing. I think doing for me was a wall that got in the way. Stopping for me recently has definitely been powerful and healing in some unexpected ways. The journey continues…
Thank you for sharing, Jennifer. For all our doing, sometimes what we really need is to stop, and I often think that in the same vein, for all our practice of self-care, sometimes what we really need is simply to rest in God’s care. Thank you for your testimony to that, and may God continue to guide your journey.
I’m excited to read this. I work as a hospice chaplain and struggle with self-care all the time. I preach it to our families and my co-workers but hardly take my own advice. I need to be better at this.
As a social worker friend of mine says, as people in the helping professions, we’re not always good at taking our own advice! But we all need self-care, and we can all learn and grow in it. Even as you encourage others to take care of themselves, I pray that you’ll take care of yourself, Heather–for you personally and to sustain your work as a hospice chaplain. I hope that Four Gifts might be a help to you.
This is very timely for me! As I send kids and a teacher-spouse back to school, I find myself wondering how my routine can include caring for myself as well as my family and my responsibilities as a church secretary, among other things. I’m intrigued by the idea of self-care looking like more, not less, and want to explore that as I make sure that I am saying yes to the “right” things.
In the midst of the busy-ness of life, we can sometimes lose ourselves, Cara, so I’m glad that you’re wanting to explore this. As you care for your family and other responsibilities, may you also care for yourself and make good decisions around priorities. May your yes be yes, and your no be no as God leads you.