The term “self-care” gets thrown around quite a bit these days. Depending on the context in which you have heard it you may have positive or negative connotations about self-care. Missionaries (and anyone in a helping profession for that matter) naturally give of themselves. Your time, your energy, your heart, your home and sometimes your finances are spent for the good of others. Unfortunately if you aren’t careful, you wake up one morning finding you have nothing left to give. This is where self-care comes in. Actually no, self-care needs to enter the picture long before you have nothing left to give.
Let’s start with defining what self-care IS NOT…
Self-care is not a running away from or avoidance of the problems of life and ministry. Self-care is not selfish. Self-care is not a one-time event. Self-care is not self-indulgence. Self-care is not a sign of weakness.
Self-care is a spiritual discipline. Discipline which can, with the right focus, lead us directly to the heart of God where we find exactly what we need. Self-care involves taking responsibility for my own physical, spiritual, and emotional health by engaging in planned, positive, and purposeful behaviors.
Regular activities like exercise, healthy nutrition, sleep (you don’t have to tell me twice!), and completing doctor’s appointments are all basic to our health and yet so easy to neglect. Same goes for regular Bible study, prayer, and accountability with others. We have to make a deliberate choice to include these in our daily schedules, even if it’s only 10 or 20 minutes. Notice I said “include”, not “instead of” our daily schedule…vacation is separate.
Sometimes this might mean a massage or pedicure or a game of golf or whatever “treat yo self” activity you enjoy. We all need to have fun and even schedule time for fun. It’s a good thing! But positive behaviors also include things that may not actually feel so positive like evaluating our finances, planning for retirement, making that phone call, scheduling that dreaded meeting, being vulnerable with friends if we’re struggling…or maybe finishing that blog post. Positive behaviors don’t always feel good, but they are ultimately good for us and move us toward our goals.
Realize that whatever you have planned for your self-care has a purpose. I have a hard time sitting still, even if I’m sitting on the couch it’s nearly impossible for me to stop thinking, planning, and working. In the last few years I’ve learned that there is great purpose in occasionally sitting quietly and doing nothing. It allows my body to rest, allows my mind to slow down, and allows my heart to soften. Rest, play, think, work…it all serves a purpose.
Here are some of my favorite forms of self-care, what are yours?
-Listening to music
-Reading a good novel
-Gardening (my current favorite activity!)
-Exercise (of all kinds, but especially yoga, walking, and cardio)
-Meal planning (Yes, this is self-care if you ask me)
-Meditating on God’s goodness, blessings, and forgiveness
“But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed” – Luke 5:16 (NIV)
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me- watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly”. Matthew 11:26-30 (The Message)