Self Care and the Christian Life
2 On the sixth day God completed all the work that he had done, and on the seventh day God rested from all the work that he had done. 3 God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all the work of creation. - Genesis 2:2-3
23 When he sent them away, he went up onto a mountain by himself to pray. Evening came and he was alone. -Matthew 14:23
Self care is very much a buzz term these days, especially among younger to middle aged working populations. Most likely it has come out of the realization that people in our culture are busier than ever, not just with work (which many times means multiple jobs), but also with family, church, volunteering, etc. We are also a more sedentary society than we have been for most of human history and we are eating more highly processed and unhealthy foods than in previous generations. Many of us are very much in need of self care these days, however, we need to make sure we are intentional about our self care and don’t fall into one of two traps that surround it.
The first trap, especially in the Christian life, is the idea that self care isn’t important for us. Sometimes Christians (intentionally or unintentionally) acquire a martyr complex where they intentionally sacrifice themselves for the church, ministry, etc. While there have been people throughout history who have been literally martyred, it is not something that they sought, but rather something that happened to them because of their faith. The second trap is that people mistake over indulgence for self care. Things like gluttony, laziness, and over-consumption get treated by people as self care, when they are the opposite. Somewhere between martyrdom and over indulgence sits self care, which in more explicitly Christian language might be called stewardship of the self. It is the care for and right management of one of God’s greatest gifts to us, our very selves.
So what then does it look like to partake in self care, to be good stewards of our whole selves? We need to care for our mind, body, and spirit, both in communal and individual ways, so below I’ve listed ways we can care for ourselves in each of these ways. I encourage everyone to care for themselves as an act of stewardship, honoring the life that God has given you and allowing you to be your best self on this path of discipleship.
Care for Body:
Eat food that is good for you and that tastes good.
Get what for you is a good amount of sleep.
Move, exercise, stretch, and use your body in a way that is safe for you.
Learn, challenge yourself to learn something new or different.
Work on sharpening your memory as much as you can.
Don’t be afraid to seek help. Find a counselor or therapist, there is nothing wrong with seeking help with your mental health.
Pray and pray often.
Meditate and spend time in silence listening for God.
Study Scripture on your own and with others.
Participate in public worship.
Go to the places and do the things that connect you most with God.
Spend quality time alone.
Spend quality time with people whose company you enjoy.
Take a break and rest.
Learn how to say yes and how to say no.