Timely articles on mental health issues and spirituality
It seems like everyone is talking about self-care these days, and with good reason. Self-care is a very important part of our daily lives. It is so important, in fact, that as a mental health counselor I am actually ethically bound to participate in self-care so that I can provide the best possible care to my clients. People list their self-care rituals as anything from binging on Netflix to bubble baths to mani-pedi’s.
Much of what is described as self-care today is more about self-indulgence than self-care. Self-indulgence is not a completely negative thing and can be a very positive thing when placed within certain boundaries. There is a place for self-indulgence within our self-care, but self-indulgence only gets us so far. Self-care goes much deeper than simple indulgence; it is about taking care of your needs whether they be physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual. This may seem simple, but in our fast-paced and complex world it can be very difficult to meet or even acknowledge or even understand the needs that you have.
Self-care may involve telling yourself no when you want to have chocolate cake for breakfast or skip it altogether, and instead nourishing your body with something that has protein and vitamins in it because you have a long day ahead of you and you need to be prepared for it. It may look like taking a lunch break sitting outside instead of cramming a sandwich in your mouth as you move on to the next task. Self-care could also involve checking in with yourself during the day for just a few minutes to take stock of how you are feeling in that moment and meeting any needs that arise. It can also be about turning off the TV or the phone and getting the sleep that you need or taking the time to spend on the phone or TV so that you can wind down at the end of the day. This will look different for everyone and even be different in different moments for everyone, so there is no right or wrong way to do it.
With so much information flooding us about self-care these days it is important to look at what God says about it. How can we care for ourselves in a way that is pleasing to God? In Romans 12:1-2 Paul says, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” By caring for ourselves and striving to be the best version of who God created us to be whether in mind, body, or spirit, we are presenting a worthy sacrifice to God as a form of worship. This verse seems to say that we should not only care for our bodies, but also our minds and spirits in order to present ourselves to God in a worthy manner. It seems that caring for ourselves the way that God would have us to involves nourishing all parts of us in both mundane and completely transformative ways. This could look like: eating regular meals that are (mostly) healthy for us, moving our bodies, spending time in community with friends or family, spending time in prayer, reading the Bible, and even taking some time for self-indulgence. This is a very simple list that is merely a springboard for all the possibilities that your self-care can look like as a Christian. All of these things can be both mundane and transformative.
For those of us who have difficulty carving out time for self-care I urge you to start small. Start with a short check-in with yourself for just a few moments where you acknowledge your feelings, or do a body scan where you turn your attention to each part of your body individually and notice if there is any pain or tension. If you are continuing to struggle or notice that you are not able to handle the stress on your own, you may need to seek help from a professional like a doctor, chiropractor, massage therapist, or mental health counselor. Whatever it looks like for you, I hope that you treat yourself well and seek out help where you need it so that you can present yourself as a beautiful living sacrifice to the Lord each day. I wish you peace and love in your self-care journey.
Laura Dempsey is a licensed social worker and therapist with nearly 20 years of experience counseling children and families.