The first time I heard the term “self-care” what came to mind was the hundreds of thousands of articles and YouTube videos of twenty-somethings as they vlogged their way through yoga, bubble bath, and green smoothie routines. I wondered if this could truly be all of what self-care encompassed.
Now as a twenty-something millennial myself, while I am indeed guilty of enjoying all of those things, I also realize that yoga and smoothies in and of themselves are not going to solve problems. These things are comforting and soothing, but they are incapable of healing and restoring the soul. The true meaning of self-care has been lost in this superficial understanding that we have been fed, and now is the time to discover what it really is.
Ultimately, self-care is about valuing and honoring who you are by taking care of yourself. We do this by resting, incorporating play, and participating in activities that give us energy while also protecting personal boundaries.
What is Self-care?
The term “self-care” has been around for a long time. Introduced in the 1960’s-1970’s, self-care was used as a medical term to encourage patients to take care of themselves predominantly by exercising healthy habits. Stripped down to its basic definition, self-care is the intentional practice of taking care of yourself in your entirety. This includes four crucial areas of health:
These four areas are all interconnected and are essential in what makes us function as human beings.
Why Self-care is Biblical
Self-care can be a difficult concept to accept. As believers in Jesus it can be hard to grasp the idea of focusing on yourself because of the biblical principles we are taught. Self-care can seem like a self-centered or self-serving enterprise in light of the values of selflessness, generosity, and sacrificial love that we uphold. But let me assure you that giving attention to yourself is neither self-centered nor selfish. Jesus not only encourages self-care but commands it.
In Mark 12, Jesus is asked: “What is the greatest commandment?” He replies that we are to love God with all that we are and that “you shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:28-31).
Jesus reveals the threefold command to 1) love God 2) love people and 3) love ourselves. We are only capable of genuinely loving others well when we love and take care of ourselves. When we love ourselves, we invite God into our lives and receive His love into our hearts.
A wise and dear friend once told me that “Self-care makes room for God’s care.”
I laughed at this originally, but what he said is true. Our culture glorifies busyness and stress. We believe the false narrative that the more sacrificial we can make ourselves appear to be, the more loving and generous of a person we are, the more our value increases. But that simply is not true. By loving ourselves we are able to be more generous and sacrificial when the time comes. Self-care opens our hearts to receive God’s love first, bringing ultimate healing, satisfaction, and wholeness. This enables us to then to pour that love into others. “We love because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19).
How to Practice Self-care
Understanding the importance of self-care does not make it easier to practice. How can we make room for rest and play in our lives?
Depending on your personality and preferences, practicing self-care will look differently for each person, but the basics remain the same. Those basics are:
• Getting 7-8 hours of sleep
• Incorporating exercise into your schedule
• Learning how and when to say “No”
• Including fruits and vegetables into your diet
• Spending time outside
• Calling a loved one or get together with a friend
This is how I personally incorporate that list into my daily routine:
• Making time for quiet reflection
• Refraining from checking emails on days off
• Enjoying hobbies like baking or reading
• Taking walks with my family
Rest assured, I don’t keep these practices perfectly and that’s okay. It is not about perfection. It is about honoring yourself by intentionally doing things that add value to your life.
Self-care is more than a trendy phrase or an excuse to be indulgent. Self-care is the practice of maintaining one’s health and wellbeing. Self-care is a biblical mandate as we receive more of God’s love in the process of learning to love ourselves. This kind of love generates kindness, generosity and compassion that is in high demand in the world. Practicing self-care invites God to heal, strengthen, and relieve us in the areas we need most.
Dana Timothy Peterson, PsyD Dr. Dana Peterson is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist. A former active-duty Navy Clinical Psychologist, he is currently the Chief of a Well-Being Services organization for the Department of Defense, overseeing all mental health treatment,...
Carolyn Hunsicker, LCPC Carolyn Hunsicker is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (LCPC) and a National Board Certified Counselor (NCC) in both Maryland and South Carolina. She has completed Gottman couples counseling Level III. Prior to opening True View...
Cheryl Durgin Cheryl Durgin is a volunteer with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), as well as a trained facilitator of their family education program, and a licensed volunteer with the International Fellowship of Chaplains, ministering in areas of...