Self Care isn’t Selfish

We’ve all heard that before, right? Over the past couple of years, the focus on self-care has increased in that more people are aware of it, and yet, we see so many cases of people that are stretched too thin, overcommitting and trying to fit just one more task into the daily schedule. Our society seems to tell us that, if we are not busy, then there is probably something that needs to be done. A coach of mine once said “ If you’re not training, sleeping, or doing your homework… you’ve probably forgotten something!” And while that provided me with a great lesson in time management, I was still lacking a portion of my time in which I could truly rest and recharge for what was ahead. Some friends of mine made the effort of completing their coursework before the weekend, so that they were able to take Sundays as complete rest days. And they were committed to that time.

See, the idea of taking care of yourself is not necessarily new. In fact, we are called to take care of ourselves! “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought with a price. Therefore, honor God with your bodies.” 1 Corinthians 6:19-20. I remember reading that part of Corinthians several times, but it never truly connected with me until I was at one of the most challenging times of my life. And, you can probably guess, I wasn’t taking care of my health at all. Sleeping too little, constantly overcaffeinated, eating poorly, and the list could go on for a while. And at the same time, I was struggling in my responsibilities to serve others, frustrated with my inability to meet their needs!

So how can we take care of ourselves? While the thought of getting everything done in 6 days may be daunting right now, it is definitely something that can be worked toward. What I’d like to outline below are things you can do, everyday, to make sure that you’re taking steps toward self-care.

  1. Start your mornings off right. If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably familiar with the morning rush you get when you’re already 15 minutes late for your day. Give yourself some time to wake up in the morning by setting your alarm a little bit earlier. My home is pretty silent early in the day, and I appreciate those brief moments before I have to get going with the rest of my day. Some friends over at Woven Together Ministries have an excellent post about ways in which we can give thanks, including tips for a slower, yet productive, morning.
  2. Make sure you’re drinking enough water. I personally challenge myself to drink at least a glass of water before I make my coffee. If you ever get a chance to meet me, you’ll know that’s a pretty big deal! Get a water bottle you enjoy, and keep it close to you while you go about your day. You’d be surprised at how much better we feel when we’re properly hydrated.
  3. Play. Yes, you read that right. Go play outside. Don’t worry, you don’t need a park, or a swing set, just go outside and interact with God’s creation. There’s a whole world of things to be discovered, and you can do that, even if it’s for 10 minutes to start. From a health perspective, getting your daily dose of sunlight and fresh air is extremely beneficial. In fact, some of the nutrients and minerals we need are facilitated by the levels of Vitamin D in our system. Meaning, if you’re consuming tons of calcium rich foods, but not getting enough sunlight (or vitamin D supplements when sunlight is limited), you’re not actually absorbing your calcium properly! Take it from a 20-something that still plays outside most days, it is so much fun.
  4. Go for the rainbow. No, this isn’t a candy commercial. I’m talking about your food! Real food. Something that I have benefited from is establishing a baseline of what foods I will eat. Meaning, even if I’m tired, or in a rush, or XYZ excuse has come up, I try to make it a point to at least eat a balanced meal. The goal here, is to try and eat as many whole, colourful and varied foods as possible. Ask yourself, how was this processed before it reached me? Does it have words that I can’t even pronounce? Do I really want something called “inverted sugar” in my system?! (Looking at you, movie theater candy.)
  5. Make time for yourself. Schedule some time in your week to do something you truly enjoy. Maybe it’s trying a new recipe, hiking a new trail, or watching a new movie with an old friend. Whatever it may be, treat it as an appointment in your schedule so you know you will be there.
  6. Rest. You’ve earned it. You need it! Optimize your chances for rest by removing all distractions. My phone is setup to automatically go on Do Not Disturb from 9:30 to 5:30 the next morning. If you’re able to, I’d encourage you to try it! Those interruptions, be they social media notifications, or news updates, can wait til the next day. Rest in knowing that you are loved and cared for, and that anything that may be causing you to worry, God has already seen. (Matthew 6:34, Philippians 4:6-7)

While this is not an all inclusive list, it can definitely get you started toward exploring the idea of self-care. Like I said before, taking care of yourself should not be something you should be afraid of, or embarrassed about! After all, how can we serve others if we are personally running on empty? More importantly, how are we honoring God’s gift of life if we are constantly putting ourselves at risk for burnout? I’d encourage you to try some things from the list, for just a week, and see how you feel!

Guest blogger: Linda Branch (iHope intern)