Why do we as Christians have such a challenging time with the topic of self-care? This seems to be especially true when we have experienced addiction or betrayal from a spouse or loved one. Somehow, in our minds, the idea of “self-care” becomes synonymous with being “self-ish.”
Maybe, deep down, we feel that in order to be a true Christian:
Our own needs shouldn’t matter.
We need to put the needs of all others before our own.
We should give everything possible to others all the time, not to ourselves.
All we have, we owe to Jesus; we don’t deserve to need anything.
But don’t we deserve to care for ourselves because of our relationship with Jesus? Isn’t this exactly why our needs should matter? Think about this: Christ died for you—not just your spouse, not just your children, not just your friends, not just people you’ve never met—but for you! Healthy self-care honors this fact, and helps us remain in a healthy place.
God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ.Ephesians 1:5 (NLT)
Whether we are dealing with addiction ourselves, have experienced betrayal from another, or are healthy now and trying to remain in a healthy place, proper self-care is an essential piece of our healing process.
Think of self-care as a road map that works to keep you on a healthy course, and keeps you from swerving into the ditch of self-destructive behaviors.
Your road map is very individual; it probably won’t look like your spouse’s or your friend’s. Some people are extroverts who feel energized by doing things with lots of other people, while others are introverts whose tanks are filled by spending time with just a few close friends. Some people love running marathons, while others prefer quiet walks on the beach. Some people are logical, methodical doers, while others are creative, messy dreamers. And, of course, there are infinite combinations of personalities, all created by God for such a time as this!
No matter what unique combination of God-given personality traits make up the wonderful people we are, we need to remember that we are body, mind, and spirit. In order to stay in a healthy balance we need to care for:
Eat healthy food, exercise regularly, avoid unhealthy behaviors, get enough sleep, and get regular medical checkups.
Nurture our brain! Read, create, learn, grow. Just as our body needs exercise to remain strong, so our brain needs daily challenges that are balanced to incorporate both the logical and the creative parts of our brain.
Reading our Bible, devotionals, prayer and worship should be our daily bread. However, we can also nurture our spirit by recognizing God’s hand in all that is around us, and in the relationships He blesses us with: the beauty of nature, the peace we see in the face of our sleeping baby, the joy in uplifting conversation and fellowship with family and friends—all of these feed our spirit. Taking time to destress from the demands of our daily lives and nurturing our spirit is just as important as physical and mental exercise.
When I help my clients create their road map, I sometimes use a simple chart that helps define our need for self-care, and then create a SMART goal (Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely) for each area.
My personal Self-Care Road Map looks something like this:
Rationale: Exercise is important. I feel better when I exercise regularly, even though I don’t really like it. I can find joy in the fact that my body is strong enough to be able to exercise.
SMART Goal: I will go to the gym at least 4 days (Monday through Friday) per week and participate in a trainer-led group workout to the best of my ability. I will reassess my progress after two months.
Rationale: Doing creative activities helps me relax, but I tend to neglect the creative side of me.
SMART Goal: I will schedule one hour per week (on Sunday afternoon) to do a creative activity that I enjoy, such as painting, sewing, writing, or a new craft.
Rationale: Nurturing my spiritual side is important. I can only stay in balance when I commit to staying in relationship daily with Jesus.
SMART Goal: I will continue my daily devotionals, and I will work to stay mindful of and connected with the prompting of the Holy Spirit throughout my day. I will journal about those connections at the end of the day.
Self-care is very easy to neglect. In the busyness of life, in the desire to do more and be more for those around us, we get caught up in this cycle of feeling driven to be “human doings” rather than “human beings.” Neglecting to take care of ourselves opens the door for relapse or allowing triggering events to take us off-road into treacherous territory.
Take the time to create your own, unique, individual road map that includes ways you purposely plan to nurture your body, mind, and spirit. Then commit to following through on caring for the amazing person God created when He created you!
Shari is a Pastoral Sex Addiction Professional (PSAP) and has been part of the Pure Desire Clinical Team since 2011. She also is a Special Education Teacher at David Douglas High School. She has experience in performing arts and ministry. Shari is a contributing author to Unraveled: Managing Love, Sex, and Relationships.