You have to take care of yourself, isn’t that obvious? Eat to sustain your body, sleep to retain energy, dress a wound to maintain health. Emotional spiritual needs are similar. Stress and trauma cause emotional wounds. Prolonged stress will hollow you out. Even Jesus addressed self-care, calling out, “Everyone who thirsts, come to me…”
So it would seem obvious that self-care is a natural part of the balance of life. But as a counselor, I will tell you that people neglect self-care. Routinely. Sometimes the neglect is to the point of fatigue, but other times the neglect is to the point of self-destruction. Here are three questions about self-care that will help you balance a healthy and giving life.
Why do people neglect self-care?
You might think that they neglect self-care because they don’t want to be ‘self-ish’. But ironically – one of the main reasons people don’t self-care is because of selfishness and pride. They say ‘yes’ to too many things because selfishly they can’t stand to disappoint someone. They take on more and more tasks because they won’t trust anyone. They won’t ask for help because they can’t bear to seem weak. These reasons have to do with their own ‘vision’ of themselves – a vision they won’t let go of.
The results turn out badly for others. When you take on too much, you become irritable, unavailable or resentful. You become so fatigued that you can’t give effectively. You are so determined to do it yourself that you exclude the cooperation of others.
What starts out looking like self-sacrifice – ends up sacrificing others. Don’t let your pride keep you from maintaining your body, mind and heart. Take the time to maintain yourself so that you can give yourself.
Why self-care? There are two reasons here:
First, take care of yourself because you are a child of God. God thinks of you this way, why don’t you? God put you on earth to love. Include yourself in that equation. Be a conduit of grace, let it flow – even into you. Receive it, as if there is a lot more where that came from.
Secondly, take care of yourself in order to have overflow to give others. When you receive pre-flight safety instructions on an airplane, they tell you to put the oxygen on yourself first – so that you won’t pass out trying to get the band around your child’s head. If you care for others, it is imperative to care for yourself in order to do that. And this is a good model for others as well.
How to self-care? I’ll put in two categories; time and healthy choices.
Time: You must admit you are limited and that you have needs. These needs take time to be addressed. You need 8 hours of sleep. You need a regular and healthy diet. You need time off line to recuperate and replenish spiritually. To pretend otherwise is not heroic – but pride and foolishness.
Healthy Choices: What are the things that you need? Some are simple and normal, sleep and diet. You need what everyone else needs. And some of your healthy choices are unique to you. Do you need time alone or time with trusted friends, time to read or time to talk, journal or process out loud? Is there a place or activity that helps you remember God’s love for you? It would be a good idea to write out your specific list of healthy choices. This will help you put these into a regular routine. If you get into trouble – then pull out your list to help you think a little more clearly.
Self-care is self-evident, except when it isn’t. Fatigue, crisis, persistent people, false-guilt and yes, even pride can blind us to our need to self-care. We are not the source of grace and light to this world. We are merely conduits. Doing the work of keeping ourselves clean and clear inside is not optional, it is the proper response to God’s Fatherhood.
Your call is to receive blessing – in order to be a blessing.
Roger Edwards joined The Barnabas Center in 1991. He works with both with individuals and couples, helping people confess their need and embrace their available choices to lead healthier lives. Roger also teaches and leads discussion groups and retreats applying the Gospel to everyday life. He is a licensed professional counselor (LPC), holds a master’s degree in biblical counseling from Grace Theological Seminary in Indiana and earned a bachelor’s degree in engineering from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. He is married to Jean and they have seven children and nine grandchildren.