Self-Care Isn’t Selfish

Typically when I ask people what their self-care routine is, I get one of three response.

The first response is complete confusion; like I am speaking in a language they do not understand.

The second response is self-righteous indignation; like self-care is reserved for people who obviously care more about themselves than others.

The third response is the look of utter shame; like they have been busted for committing the most heinous crime on the face of the earth.

All of these responses are insightful to what is causing struggles in their life. The struggles often vary from relational distress, emotional distress, physically distress, to spiritual distress. Regardless of the struggle, it is yielding some sort of turmoil in their life.

Response // Confusion

The first response (confusion) often looks Dora the Explorer when she asks you a question, and then she waits for you to answer all the while staring and blinking. The person has vaguely heard of this concept on an old Oprah episode, but doesn’t really know what it means.

The dictionary defines Self-Care as the practice of taking action to preserve or improve one’s own health.  

Let’s break down that definition.

First thing to note is that self-care is a practice, meaning it is something you do regularly. Practice would also indicate that the more you do it, the better you will get at it, and the more natural it will feel.

Second thing to note is it is actionable, meaning it requires you to do something. Self-care is not mindless or passive. You have to choose to do something deliberately and then do it. Self-care is not the same as surviving.

The last thing to note is self-care is something that improves or preserves your health. After you complete the act of self-care, your mind, body, and soul will be better because of it.

Response // Self-Righteous Indignation

The second response is common of parents in the thick of child-rearing years. These parents often wear their martyrdom of self-sacrifice as a badge of honor, like it is going to win them parent of the year. News flash, there is no award for not taking care of yourself, unless you count resentment as an award. These people often feel like taking care of themselves is completely selfish and in order to be a good person they must continually put their needs last.

The analogy I commonly give to these people is the analogy the flight attendant gives on every flight I have ever taken. “In the event the oxygen masks fall from the ceiling, please make sure you secure yours first before you attempt to help anyone else secure theirs.”

Do you know why they say this? Because if you are dead, you are not able to help anyone else. The same applies to life. Unless you are healthy and taking care of yourself, you are not going to be able to properly help anyone else. If that still isn’t a good enough reason for you, then do it because your children are watching and they need to see you model good self-care.

Response // Shame

The third response of shame is often because a person is doing actionable steps to “take care of themselves”, but their actionable steps often resemble self-sabotage more than self-care. These actions are often preceded by the following words; “Screw it” and “I deserve this.” Many times people will view these actions as self-care because it makes them feel good at the time, but afterwards will be upset or disappointed they did it.

These actions are counterfeits to self-care and include eating too much, excessive drinking, using drugs, buying something you can’t afford, watching pornography, swinging into the drive thru, having an affair or sexual encounter you wish you didn’t have, or skipping a workout. None of these actions preserve or improve your health, rather they subtract from your health. Although in the moment these actions often feel good because they numb whatever you don’t want to feel, the end result is shame because ultimately they don’t bring healing.

13 Self-Care Practices you can begin TODAY to promote and preserve your mental, physical and spiritual health

  1. Getting enough sleep at night.
  2. Going to a doctor if you have an issue you need to address.
  3. Practice a hobby you enjoy (reading, cooking, quilting, gardening etc).
  4. Spend time laughing with your friends and family.
  5. Choose the salad at lunch instead of the burger.
  6. Practice meditation and prayer.
  7. Exercise regularly….even when you don’t feel like it.
  8. Create a budget.
  9. Ask for a hug when you need it from someone you love.
  10. Turn off your phone at 8pm.
  11. Take a break from social media.
  12. Say no to coffee with someone you don’t really want to meet.
  13. Visit a local church (and make it a weekly habit).

Try it.  Put on your oxygen mask. See how you feel after each activity, and how you feel after you have done these things regularly.

And remember, self-care is a practice, so if you don’t get it right or mess up, it’s ok, just make the next best decision.

Refuge.Church recognizes the value in professional counseling. Unfortunately individuals with mental health needs are often stigmatized, especially within the church community, and made to feel that they aren’t strong enough to cope with life’s challenges. At various times in an individual’s life, counsel is needed. Often times counsel can be provided through the comfort of a listening friend or a spiritual mentor within the church family. However, there are times when the needs prove to be so challenging that a individual could benefit from treatment by a mental health professional. Refuge.Church desires to provide a resource to those who want to seek the help of a therapist as a means to improve his or her mental health. You are not alone!

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