Do I Really Need to Take Care of Myself FIRST?

Long before the novel coronavirus, I was invited to speak at a church conference, so I flew from where I live in Abbotsford to Calgary, then from Calgary to Toronto. On each flight, I heard the same standard safety instruction: in the event of an emergency, if the oxygen masks come down, first put on your own mask before you try to help anyone else. In other words, put yourself first. Take care of yourself before you take care of others.

That’s basic self-care in an airplane emergency. After all, if I’m confused from a lack of oxygen, I won’t be able to think clearly enough to help those around me. If I’m struggling to take my next breath, then I can hardly be of use to anyone else. It makes good sense then, to help myself before helping others.

Many apply that same thinking to self-care in general. A sampling of articles available online includes:

  • Put Yourself First.
  • Why You Must Put Yourself First.
  • Why It Matters to Take Care of Yourself First.
  • Take Care of Yourself Before You Take Care of Others.
  • To Take Care of Others, Start by Taking Care of Yourself.

The titles are catchy, and the articles may well include helpful tips on self-care, which is so essential to life and ministry and especially during this on-going pandemic.

But the titles also make me uneasy. Is self-care really all about putting myself first? Do I really need to take care of myself before I take care of others? Does caring for others really start with caring for myself?

As part of this year’s Simpson Lectures put on by Acadia Divinity College, I’ll be leading a seminar on Self-Care While Caring for Others. Instead of self-care as “me first,” we’ll explore self-care as “me too,” a Christ-centred vision for self-care that embraces caring for ourselves, caring for others, and resting in God’s care. I invite you to join me on February 16, 11:00am (AST) for this one-hour seminar. For more information, check out the video below and the full schedule for the 2021 Simpson Lectures: Caring for People with Mental Health Challenges and Promoting Well-Being in Church Congregations.

2021 Simpson Lectures Overview from Acadia Divinity College on Vimeo.

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For more encouragement and resources on doing ministry better:

Author: April Yamasaki

I currently serve as resident author with a liturgical worship community, write online and in print publications, and often speak in churches and other settings. Publications include On the Way with Jesus, Four Gifts, Sacred Pauses, and other books on Christian living. Websites: AprilYamasaki.com and WhenYouWorkfortheChurch.com.

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