In a world consumed by accomplishment, the topic of self-care is rarely discussed. When, according to the American Psychological Association, “the nation is on the verge of a stress-induced public health crisis”, self-care is not a topic that can be afforded the luxury of mindless neglect.
We feel the need to over-perform as a means of proving ourselves worthy adversaries in the workplace, while feeling the pressure to be perfect in every other area when we’re off the clock. Naturally, the result is the ongoing neglect of needs, as we attempt to be everything, do everything, and excel at everything all at the same time.
There comes a time in every person’s life, when they are given choices between filling their schedules to the brim, beyond what they feel their capacity allows, or choosing to maintain a healthy balance between responsibility and rest in a fast-paced society filled with thousands of elements fighting for our time, attention, and commitment.
I have struggled with these same perspectives of priorities, and therefore, had none. It came to a breaking point one day where I simply couldn’t handle anything else.
This is what I have found to be true: we neglect self-care out of an attitude of self-sacrifice. We often feel the pressure to give beyond our capacity, and to lead this unrealistically perfect life where we are helpful to all those who ask and available for anyone who might have a need. Then we are made to feel selfish if we take responsibility of our physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual health.
So, the question now is how can we reverse this self-neglect?
Here are some helpful tips I found in my research on self-care.
Take Time to “Be.”
Until we recognize this need, we will neglect our own self-care at the expense of our own personal health and wellbeing.
Could it be that cycles of busyness are created simply as an attempt to distract us from the deeper stressors and anxieties we experience in life? We fill our time with endless tasks, responsibilities, meetings, and work, leaves little to no time for us to process anything that is going on in our lives, let alone allow us the time to refrain from all of our stressful responsibilities. Instead we need to practice being mindful throughout the day, taking breaks from stressful tasks when needed and taking time out of each day for something that helps us to focus on things we enjoy or excel at.
Thoughtfully Examine Priorities
It says in Colossians 3:23, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord,” implying that everything that we do should be done with the goal and purpose in mind of the glorification of God. With this in mind, how does a life reflect the glory of God when we don’t make time for God in our schedules, or in the same vein, live our lives in a monotonous, mindless manner, simply to get things checked off of our lists? At the root of the issue, disguised by frantic scheduling conflicts and blanket statements of “I am so busy,” is the belief that we are capable of doing and accomplishing everything on our own, the belief system that says that “the more I do, the more I am worth.” This system can be simplified into one word; idol.
In “We Become What We Worship”, G.K. Beale says, “The idol that we revere, we reflect, which leads ultimately to ruin. Desiring to reflect the idol of ourselves and making ourselves larger can only lead to becoming small, because of judgment. But heaping glory on the true God and worshipfully acknowledging his greatness leads to sharing in God’s greatness and glory by reflecting his glory, which is reflected back on him. Thus God is seen as the unique and weighty great One of the cosmos” (Beale, p. 140).
Is it too bold to suggest that as a whole, we have glorified and idolized busyness?
Busyness and the need to say “yes” to every opportunity, plea, and request, leads ultimately to burnout. By making the word “no” stronger in our vocabulary, we can refocus our attention on the things that really matter in our lives.
Decide to Be Intentional
The cure for burnout is quite possibly intentionality. Without being intentional, a person’s mind left to its own random thoughts “are more likely to be ruminative and negative” (Sood, p.68). Even within someone’s thought processes, they must choose to be intentional or they will suffer the consequences of stress and anxiety.
Dr. Sood’s suggestions resemble the principles that would be found throughout the Bible, such as kindness, gratitude, compassion, acceptance, forgiveness, and meditation. When we are intentional about our thoughts, our mindset can be correctly placed on our priorities.
Why is this alignment of priorities and responsibilities so important? Dr. Elias Moitinho, lead in the APA’s “Stress in America Survey” was led to believe that “particularly for counselors and ministers, if stress is not managed effectively it may lead to compassion fatigue or burnout” (Moitinho, 2013). Dr. Moitinho also suggested that “self-care is following the example of Jesus’ ministry model” (Moitinho, 2013). It can be seen throughout the Gospels that Jesus managed his busy life of ministry by practicing self-care and intentional rest. Examples of this can be found throughout the Gospel of Mark, when Jesus withdrew from the crowds to rest, or when he rested in the boat that his disciples were sailing.
Coming from a Christian perspective, we benefit spiritually from making God a priority in our lives. Jesus promises to bring rest and refreshment to the weary. 1 Peter 5:7 says, “cast your cares upon the Lord for he cares for you.” Psalm 23 promises, “God will refresh your soul and lead you to quiet waters.” Matthew 11:28-30 promises, “God will give you rest. His yoke is easy and his burden is light.” By making the practice of resting in God’s presence daily, which is also, oftentimes referred to as meditation upon the Word of God, it is promised that God will give a rest and refreshment that is impossible outside of his presence.
As we set God as our first priority in life, the maintenance of all of the remaining priorities will naturally flow out of the presence of God.
Here are some ideas to get you started in your new self-care routine!
- Spend some time alone, wherever the most relaxation can be experienced. For me, this would preferably be at the spa 😉
- Exercise to increase endorphins for a healthy release of emotions
- Take the time to be still, read, etc. anything that lets your mind and body rest
- Rework your routine to make sure the things that are most important to you fit in
- Make your spirit a priority by setting time aside daily to seek God and meditate upon his Word,
- Make your body a priority by getting the proper nutrition, sleep, and physical activity
- Learn to say “No!”when it is required. Only take on the tasks that you are called to
- Make your emotional health a priority by doing things you enjoy in the midst of responsibilities and routines
Brady Boyd, in “Addicted to Busy” said, “God has given us everything we need in order to live rhythmic, well-rested lives. To ignore those divine resources is to sign up for slavery, again and again and again. This is true because rest is freedom; the unrested live unfree” (Boyd, p. 90).
If we choose to abide in the balance of rest and responsibility, our lives will be fuller, more satisfied, and more impactful for the Kingdom of God.
The road to self-care is one that will require a fight of intentionality, but will also be worth that fight. We can rest in the breathtaking balance between rest and responsibility that allows for the margin that is required in order to do those things that we are passionate about. The things we are called to.
*You can check out my references and resources here!