In a world of constant notifications, longer than average work weeks, and a constant need to feel connected, it’s no wonder our answer to how we’re doing is most typically “Busy.” “Hustle” is the theme of our culture, trying to make it from the bottom to the top, making a name for ourselves, trying to work towards a dream life.
With all the busyness we create in our lives, we often put taking care of ourselves last, even if it doesn’t seem like it. Is self-care really important? And if it is, how do we even begin to balance what we have to do with what we want to do and add self-care into that mix?
One of the most important lessons for growing our faith that Jesus teaches is also one of the most overlooked—rest. One story in particular shows how much Jesus values rest. Following the death of John the Baptist, Jesus makes sure that he and the disciples go away to rest and recover. Still, the crowds follow, so Jesus makes time for them, healing them and feeding them, both physically and spiritually. But then, he not only sends his disciples out on the boat to get away and rest, he goes up to the mountain alone to rest and pray. Jesus valued rest—and not just sleep. He values mental, spiritual, emotional, and physical rest—time spent away from the world and alone with his Father. He prioritizes rest because he knows that it’s essential to his relationship with his Father and his relationships with others. For us, that’s what self-care really comes down to—making margin in our lives to grow our relationship with God and to be able to strengthen our relationships with others.
So, how do we fight and start to win the battle for self-care?
Don’t waste your free time.
Sometimes, it’s easy to spend rest time watching TV, sleeping, or just not doing much of anything, and while those things aren’t necessarily bad, they aren’t always the best use of our free time. While rest is just that—rest—it still needs to have a purpose in order to truly refresh us and help us care for ourselves. Self-care means using rest time to do things like pray, read the Bible, read books that will help us learn and grow, journal, create, exercise, reflect. Our rest time should allow us to let go of emotions, rest our minds, heal and help our bodies, and most importantly, invest in our relationship with Christ.
Don’t mistake putting others first for letting yourself go.
Self-care is most neglected by people who convince themselves that putting others first means not taking care of themselves at all. It doesn’t. In fact, by neglecting self-care and rest, we only make it harder to invest into the lives of others. It’s a fast track to burnout, leading to resent and exhaustion. Jesus shows this balance—he takes time to teach the crowds, heal them, even feed them. But then, he ensures that he has time to get away and spend time in prayer and rest. Rest is important for us to recharge and refresh, to point us back towards Christ, and to give us time to grow and strengthen in order to continue to show compassion towards others.
Don’t confuse self-care with self-indulgence.
The other tendency we have when it comes to self-care is to self-indulge. While self-care is about resting our minds, souls, and bodies, who and what we focus on during that time matters. This doesn’t mean to never spend a free evening alone catching up on your favorite Netflix series. But if all of your time resting is spent in self-indulgence, it can’t really lead to a deeper relationship with Christ or a deeper understanding of yourself.
One of the best ways that you can make sure you are taking care of yourself is to disconnect and unplug. Staying constantly connected is distracting and exhausting, and it definitely takes away from true self-care and rest. In order to grow spiritually, we have to be willing to put the world on silent and focus on God. Aside from study after study proving that social media and smartphones are making us lonely and unhappy, they also make it so easy to be distracted from our faith and to lose sight of our purpose and priorities. Even Jesus knew he had to “unplug” from the crowds and even his disciples to refresh himself and focus on communicating with his Father.
There are so many ways to turn your free time into self-care and rest—praying, reading, writing, running, yoga, painting, drawing, playing music. Self-care is about finding ways to continue to learn about who we are and who our Creator is. No matter what we do, self-care should ultimately work to point us back to our faith and root us in our identities in Christ.