I didn’t exactly grow up in a culture where rest was a thing. There was always something to do, something to clean, yard work to be done. I come from a long line of hard workers, and there was always work to be found. Taking time to oneself wasn’t really a thing.
Typically we’re given the impression that self-care is selfish, and we should be putting others first all the time in every situation and putting ourselves last as a form of godliness, which is simply not true. We absolutely cannot pour out to others and serve others if we are neglecting our bodies and failing to refuel our spirits.
As a side note: I feel like there’s a fine line between this being healthy and it becoming a humanistic thing. There is such a thing as too much self-care, or selfishness. I’m not talking about self-indulgence; I’m talking about being a good steward of what we’ve been given, and that includes our bodies, our minds, our time, and our energy. In fact, self-awareness is key to preventing self-care from becoming just an excuse for excessive indulgence. We must be aware of ourselves enough to know our own limits and needs in order to build ourselves back up when we get run down.
This also isn’t an excuse to drain our budgets. Everybody needs to take into consideration her own financial constraints. The Bible says a wise woman builds her home, but with her own hands the foolish woman tears hers down (Proverbs 14:1). I believe this applies to self-care as much as anything else. I've witnessed women going on shopping sprees in the name of self-care, when really it seems they are escaping, or attempting to fill some other void that won't be satisfied by material things. We can tear down our home if we are going out for mani-pedis every week if our budget doesn’t really allow that, or if we’re spending exorbitant amounts of money on new clothing when our children need new shoes, or if we spend tons of time on our phones in the name of downtime instead of spending time engaging with our families. This isn’t a hall pass to be self-indulgent and humanistic as seeing ourselves as kind of an idol.
Self-care is really, at the core, taking care of ourselves so that we can in turn live the life we’ve been called to live and serve others with fervor. It’s not only okay to refuel and recharge; it’s essential to a life well lived.
There are a few ways I make sure I’m taking care of myself. For one, I carve time out of my day for good hygiene. Help me out, mamas: how many days have you gotten to that witching hour and had to ask yourself if you’d put on deodorant or brushed your teeth that day? Self-care oftentimes is training my kids to give me the space I need to get myself ready for the day. Nowadays, the kids get up at 7:45 (and not a minute earlier or they see the dark side of the mom), so I get up at 7, have my quiet time, and get ready for the day in peace and quiet.
Self-care means I set limits on myself—on what I’ll say yes to during the day—and being realistic about how much I can get done in 24 hours. Since being diagnosed with early-stage lupus, I’ve had to be even stricter with myself than I’d like. Even on good days, I’ve had to train myself not to overdo it on activities because I’ll pay for it the next day, and we mamas don’t get sick days. I’ve had to start paying closer attention to my body and be aware when I’m starting to feel drained and need to slow down.
Sometimes that can be just taking a five-minute “mommy time-out” and going into my room and praying in the Spirit or worshiping. Sometimes I think my body is tired, when really my spirit is getting weary. Praying in the Spirit is something I’ve found to be the quickest way to get built back up because it strengthens me from the inside out.
And worship is such a powerful tool as well. It gets our minds off our circumstances and back on the Source of life. A lot of our tiredness, weariness, discouragement, and negative thoughts are really a spiritual attack, and the best defense against our spiritual enemy is worship.
A few other things I do, which probably seem like no-brainers but often get overlooked when I get busy, are:
- taking vitamins (get into a good vitamin/supplement regimen; they make a huge difference)
- dry brushing before showers (this has a lot of health benefits!)
- making sure I’m staying hydrated. I drink water first thing in the morning, before and between meals, and before bedtime. Oftentimes, my symptoms—headaches, joint pain, fatigue—are a result of being dehydrated. My goal is a gallon of water a day, and when I do this, I feel so much better!
- epsom salt baths with essential oils (I’ve found these to be extremely effective for treating joint pain, anxiety, and even insomnia)
- calling a friend on the phone
- giving myself a mani/pedi (the fumes in salons are bothersome for me, so I rarely have them done professionally)
- doing yoga or going for a walk
- making some hot tea
- treating myself to an early bedtime
- taking time once a week to get away and write or do something creative.
Whatever you do, whatever your budget or time constraints, taking that time to refuel is so important! What are some things that you do for self-care?