Dear Christian, It’s Okay to Practice Self-Care

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Guest Post Collaboration by Mary Harp, Gina Poirier, and Brittany Ann.

 Dear Christian, It's Okay to Practice Self-CarePin

“I’m struggling with not enough time for me right now.”

I got this message from one of my readers recently when I asked moms what they were wrestling with. I shook my head in understanding…because it’s a sentiment I’ve heard again and again.

She went on: “I feel like a brat saying that, but in the hustle and bustle of motherhood I sometimes feel like I’ve lost myself.”

It’s an issue I think so many of us relate to. We know we should probably be taking better care of ourselves—“filling up our tanks,” so to speak—so that we have more to give.

But then we feel guilty…

Should Christians practice self-care? What does Christian self-care look like?

 

There is a lot of secular self-help information out there about stress relief, finding yourself and meeting your full potential.

Self-care is a buzzword and sensationalized trend in today’s culture. It’s common to see photos on social media of facials, yoga poses, new outfits, and fancy coffees with the hashtag #selfcare or #selflove.

Sadly, these phrases often have a “me” mentality attached to them.

The sentiment, “I’m gonna take care of myself first, before anyone else” comes through loud and clear.

For example: the Instagram hashtag #loveyourself has been used over 27 million times, while the hashtag #loveothers has less than half a million uses. That’s a pretty massive difference.

 

Since society has taken this concept too far, some Christians go to the opposite extreme. Sometimes, we are so afraid of being “selfish” that we neglect ourselves in the process. We think that self-care = narcissism.

And as a result, we can really struggle to answer practical questions like:

  • Is it okay for me to be on my phone when I’m with my kids?
  • Do I have to get up early to read my Bible?
  • Whose needs come first: Mine, my husband’s, or my kids’?
  • Do I really need to suck it up and go to church when I’m feeling so exhausted I can barely move?
  • Can I say “no” when someone asks for my help? (Really, not just in theory?)
  • Can I spend money on something frivolous or indulgent and not feel guilty?

 

What Christian Self-Care is NOT

 

There are a few practices that people turn to when they desperately need a break, which are important to recognize because they are, in fact, sinful and selfish:

  • Escape: running from or avoiding stressors in your life rather than confronting them. Getting away isn’t bad in itself, but if your only objective is to escape, rather than purposefully recharge yourself, then you’re only going to want more escape.
  • Self-medicating: finding healing from sources that will never fill you up. This is taking escape to the next level, trying to find joy in whatever your weakness is—your phone, shopping, food, or other substances.
  • Addiction: what happens when you get short highs from escaping and self-medicating. You keep coming back for more…and more…and more…and you keep coming out empty.

 

We’re all susceptible to these things, as Galatians 5:12–20 describes:

The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

 

Personally, when I’m not mindful, I drift into selfish ambition, jealousy and idolatry. I escape the pressures of motherhood with work. I become addicted to my own “busyness” and perfectionism, trying to prove to myself that I can do it all (whatever that means). But that’s me. What’s your weakness?

 

3 Ways the Bible Encourages Christian Self-Care

 

Indeed, the Bible demonstrates the need for self-care on more than one occasion. Let’s see what we can learn from the Scriptures about how to implement Christian self-care in a healthy way.

 

1. Jesus Commands Self-Care

 

Did you know that the Bible actually instructs you to love yourself? Yep, it’s true.

Mark 12:30-31 says, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

My entire life, I’ve read those verses and never noticed the two little words in verse 31. Did you catch them? As yourself. Love your neighbor as yourself.

That means you are supposed to love yourself, too!

It doesn’t say love your neighbor and belittle or neglect yourself. Sometimes we mistakenly believe that self-degradation is synonymous with “showing humility.” Jesus wants you to love and value yourself as His beloved child and creation.

Ask yourself: Would I want my dearest friend or family member to treat themselves the way I’m treating myself?

 

2. God Wired us for Christian Self-Care

 

Ephesians 5:29 states: “For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church…”

God built the mechanism of self-care into us. We have an innate desire to “nourish and cherish” ourselves!

God made us this way because He knows that when we are at our best, we are also equipped to serve in the Kingdom.

You can’t serve others very well when you are lying in bed sick or exhausted. You can’t study and pray effectively when your brain power is shot due to lack of sleep and nourishment.

There was a time when I skipped meals and sleep all in the name of being a “good Christian” or “good mom.” I didn’t think taking care of myself was very important in light of all the things that needed to be done. If I didn’t do them, who would?

Before long, I realized I am human and need downtime, food, and sleep just like everyone else. Can you relate?

 

Ask yourself: Are you constantly putting others’ needs before your own and ignoring your needs? God wants you to be a good steward of your body, just like everything else in your possession!

 

3. Jesus Exhibited Christian Self-Care

 

A picture is also painted of Jesus’ self-care routine in the Gospels. There are two key ways he took care of himself and strengthened his spirit regularly.

First, Jesus prioritized alone time with the Father. There are MANY examples of Jesus taking this time to recharge. This is a vital part of anyone’s self-care plan – crucial to both spiritual and mental health! Jesus knew His limitations and remembered his priorities.

I love this quote from Kevin DeYoung in his book Crazy Busy:

“Jesus did not do it all. Jesus didn’t meet every need. He left people waiting in line to be healed. He left one town to preach to another. He hid away to pray. He got tired. He never interacted with the vast majority of people on the planet. He spent thirty years in training and only three years in ministry. He did not try to do it all. And yet, he did everything God asked him to do.”

Jesus didn’t sacrifice his alone time to help every single person that crossed his path. He knew that in order for him to be effective, he also had human needs that must be met.

When we spend time alone, there is space for introspection. We are able to go deep in personal prayer and study. As a result, we emerge from our alone time as better Christians.

Young mothers often struggle to get this crucial time. Ask a friend or your husband to watch the kids so you can get away by yourself regularly. Or, use naptime for this purpose instead of mindlessly scrolling through social media.

 

The second component of Jesus’ self-care regimen is the way he surrounded himself with friends. Jesus made a point to choose close friends who would do life with Him, encourage Him, and learn from His wisdom.

He practiced Proverbs 27:17: “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” After alone time with God, Christian fellowship is a major component to our well-being.

Jesus didn’t try to do everything on His own. He leaned in to time with the Father and time with friends.

 

How to Implement a Self-Care Plan as a Christian

 

In creating a self-care plan, it’s vital to remember Philippians 2:4: “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” But also realize that as you put this plan into practice, you will have more energy to spend on others because your own cup is full!

While it may not be practical for you to set aside hours out of your day to focus on only yourself (nor should you), there are a lot of small steps you can start taking as you have the time.

Remember, you can’t keep pouring out all your energy and resources without taking the time to refill them!

 

For you, this may mean:

  • Getting enough sleep every night. If this feels like a chore, remember the rewards. You’ll be more productive (not to mention happier) the next day!
  • Eating a good balance of protein, complex carbs, fiber, and healthy fats at each meal. Fad diets aren’t sustainable long-term, so focus on eating real food in a balanced way. Related: “Does God Care About What I Eat?
  • Moving your body in some way on a daily basis, even if it’s just walking a few blocks or taking the stairs.
  • Making alone time non-negotiable each day. Block out a period of uninterrupted time to recharge. Do your favorite things, no guilt allowed. Remember, this time is crucial for your mental health.
  • Getting regular checkups with your doctor, even if you think you “can’t afford it.” Don’t allow health issues to fester and get worse. Investing in your health is investing in your energy, your future, your family, and your service to God!
  • Spending time in daily prayer and Bible study. This post will show you How to Grow Spiritually When You Don’t Feel Close to God.
  • Making time to fellowship with Christian friends who encourage you.

 

Do you struggle with caring for yourself the way God wants you to? Which of these self-care tips do you find the toughest to implement?

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  1. Hi I just discovered your blog and love it. I’m a mentor for our church’s MOPS group. Would we be allowed to use Mary Harp’s article on self care in our newsletter? It get s sent to our moms and childcare volunteers. Thank you for considering our request. Debby

    1. Hi Debby! I am happy for you to share the article in your newsletter, as long as it’s not being republished online. I hope your ladies are encouraged by it. Please provide credit with my name and a conspicuous link back to the original article. I hope you have a blessed day!

      1. Hi Mary,

        I absolutely love this article as well! Do you mind if I publish it in my start up magazine? I will definitely provide credit to you and a link back to the original article as you requested with Debby.

        Looking forward to hearing from you!

      2. Thank you for your kind words, Natalie! As long as it’s republished in print, that is fine. Unfortunately it can’t be republished online for search engine purposes. Glad you enjoyed it!

  2. Mary, thank you so much for this. You summed up my issues with self care so well here: “Since society has taken this concept too far, some Christians go to the opposite extreme. Sometimes, we are so afraid of being “selfish” that we neglect ourselves in the process. We think that self-care = narcissism.”

    I will take what you’ve said to heart.

    God bless.

  3. Hello.Please pray for me.I have chronic ptsd from years of abuse and zero selfcare. I have been molested,raped,shot at stalked,a single parent with no child support,gang raped,sexually harraassed by just about every man I have ever come in contact with,andI do read my Bible.I got saved at twelve,and have been taught to just suck it up,life is hard,the world is wicked,and so forth.I have no family or friends to depend on.Every church I go towants service from me,and jesus keeps telling me to be a Martha ina mary world.I could care less about the alcoholic,the prisoner,the addict,the poor,thesick,the abusers,and I have a husband who is gone for three weeks cross country and only home for ten days a month.So the Christian world shoots me for being weak,the psychiatric world puts me next to the abusers.Their little support groups,aa,na,recovery the whole higher power thing isn’t for me.It is all run by secular people.Even my husband has been trained since birth that he is worth nothing and it is wrong to put yourself first.I am in the bed most of the time from exhaustion,nightmares,lack of any selfcare and for decades from being raped,molested,stalked,bullied,spit on,cussed out,shot at,having to be in the presence of an alcoholic or addict,and it is not a disease,it is a choice.I have been tramatised for decades and cant even watch the news or certain tv shows.My daughter has dumped me,and even my husband uses scripture to trigger me.I barely even go to church anymore because they want to make a servant out of someone who has nothing left to give.And you do not forgive unless the other person repents.Repentance means to turn away from and to restore to the person you wronged.Some people are reprobate,they have no conscience and if givenm the opportunity will do it to you again.I would like your book,but am on disabvility and cannot afford it.Self care and integrity is a dirty word in most churches today.There is even a family at my church who teaches children a Bible study but they lie and steal on a regular basis.The pastor doesn’t have enough gumption to correct them and basically needs them as servants.My first ministry is to the word of GOD,to learn it and read it for myself,then in the home,to my husband and to keep my own body and what I have been given stewardship over,then go learn the word at a local body and pay the tithe.It is ALL I can do.I am on guard 24 7 seven days a week.I am extremely anhgry at what unbelievers,not satan has stolen from me.

    1. Hi. I just wanted to let you know that I hear you and if I hear you…how much more does God. My heart is heavy to hear all that you have endured?. I can only imagine.
      Always remember that God has you in the palm of His hand & by the Holy Spirit, He has assigned people to pray for you & push you you through all this crap! You must have quite the call on your life & you Will do much destruction in the kingdom of darkness! Thank you for hanging on! Much love & respect to you my sister♥️

    2. Hi Valerie. I know you don’t know me but I would like to know you if that is alright. I was extremely grieved when I read your story. I don’t really know what to say but I want to help if I can. Please remember that Jesus loves you and I would love to show you his love in real life. You can email me or call me whichever you prefer. My phone number is 580-430-1929.

    3. Hello 🙂 I hate to hear this and i’m going to keep you in my prayers
      Satan likes to throw you problems but it is God who allowed it.
      If God allowed it then it is for your good. This may be a rough season but don’t give up yet I’ve heard God has a great future for you 🙂
      Sometimes have you really leaned in to hear what it was your family has told you or the pastor. It could be God’s word for you. Ask God personally for his wisdom at the end of the day the people around you don’t know what God’s plan is for your life but he could be using them but you have to realize it. You are at the right season at the right time keep honoring God and doing your best. Also I been watching church from home try watching a new church I watch a few they really help elevation church and Joel Osteen Prisilla shier. Yes when you donate God will bless you but you have free will. No one controls you you are running your own race stay strong.

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  6. Thanks for your heart in writing this for us!! I’m working through my own self care rituals, I’m working to get out of the habit of disregarding myself when the ppl around me disregard me, and to stand firm on considering me. The “as yourself” stood out to me because I want to get in the habit of considering myself like I consider others.

    A hard process, so have me lifted! I was not able to access the Daily Sellf Care Rituals link you shared (it kept linking me to an article about kids eating their vegetables). Any help there would be great!

    1. It looks like maybe this link is gone! I did a search on her site and everything. I’ll see if I can’t find it. So sorry!

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