“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?