The Importance of Self Care
How many times have you crawled to the end of the week with hardly any strength left? Or snapped at everyone and wondered why you’re so on-edge? Or realized that it had been forever since you’d had a good, long laugh with a friend? Too often we neglect ourselves because “I just need to get this done.” We make everything on our To Do lists a priority, while forgetting that we ourselves are a priority too.
The reality is, no matter how healthy our marriages or relationships with other people are, no one will know when you’re running on steam and need a moment to recharge except you.
Mark 12:33 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.” It’s amazing to me how many women are so good at loving and serving God and others, and yet burning out inside, exhausted and run-down.
It’s almost like there’s this guilt that comes with thinking about loving ourselves. “If I love myself or spend money on myself, I’m not caring for someone else.” ” I shouldn’t use this extra money on me.” “I don’t deserve to have an indulgence or an extravagance.” These words, not spoken by God but too often spoken by well-meaning people in the church or other Christians around us, often rob us of the very care we need.
There has to be a better way.
I was raised in a church that esteemed caring for others. It was a small town and many struggled financially. My family often hosted neighborhood kids, led Bible studies, and were leaders in the church. We took in missionaries, and our dinner table was always surrounded by people outside our family. We were really good at loving God and taking care of others, but it wasn’t until I got older and started to feel burnt-out by so much serving, that I started to wonder if I was missing a crucial element to what Jesus said. While it’s a wonderful thing to have the heart of a servant, it’s also true that if we are not being cared for ourselves, we will not be able to care for others. It has been a long road to freedom to find the true gift that God has for me in this verse.
There are moments when time spent with God is all our soul needs to be recharged and refilled — when “the joy of the Lord is our strength” (Nehemiah 8:10). I wholeheartedly believe this verse to be true. However, as an introverted wife and mother, home-schooling three children, serving my local faith community, and writing, I can easily forget to practice self-care. I need to remember to make myself a priority too.
In an effort to help me and you remember when we might need a nudge towards self care, I’ve made a few helpful reminders.
1. Know Your Cycle
It has been my goal over the last three years to fine tune and get to know my body. Who I was as a single girl is not who I was as a young married woman, and neither of those is who I am now as a mother of three children. Your cycle can affect you differently based on your season of life, and you need to be aware of how these things can affect each other. When I’m heading into my two weeks of PMS, it’s important for me to know that I operate differently — my energy is sucked dry, my patience level wears thin, and I’m in need of some major introverted moments. This is all okay. I take out my calendar and plan accordingly. Certain days on the calendar are empty, and on those days I find moments to escape and find a cave with a good book.
(If you’re on birth control this may not apply to you as profoundly, although I believe taking a moment to restore your body while you take your sugar pills is important. Often, being on the pill won’t allow you to hear your body when it needs a break.)
2. Know How to Make It Easy
Too often, I just flat-out forget to take care of myself. With all the demands of my life, scheduling moments for self care get muddled in the chaos of my daily rhythm. I forget to take my supplements at breakfast, and suddenly I am off-kilter throughout the day. As a result, I learned that the best way to encourage myself towards better self-care was to just make it automatic. My supplements are now on Subscribe and Save from Amazon Prime. I always book my hair appointment when I’m in the salon and enter it into my phone. I have three nights a week consistently blocked out where I am available to meet with friends. Sometimes we can make the process of self-care harder and more complicated than it has to be.
3. Know Your Worth
Too often, I find myself putting aside things that need to be done for myself for the sake of finances or things that I deem to be more important than me. How many times have you said, “Oh, it’s not important” or “other people want me to do <fill in the blank>, so that’s more important”?
In those moments, I am so grateful for a husband who always finds a way to make it work even when I don’t see it as an option. Usually our closest relationships see our worth more clearly than we do. It’s important to allow those close to us to speak into those fragile moments and remind us that we are important too. Sometimes all I need is a quiet night to myself while my husband plays with the kids, or even a quiet two hours at Starbucks with a good book, or a night to wander Anthropologie with a friend. Whatever you can do to remind yourself of your worth, you should do it. (Within reason, of course!)
How I feel about myself directly affects my sex life, my interactions with others, and how I talk to myself. When I am reminded of and am encouraged to declare my worth, I find life and the ability to breathe. When I remember how my Father views me, it’s much easier to prioritize the things I need.
(By the way ladies, this is why it’s so important to marry a man who sees you the way God does — with unconditional love and an absolute understanding of your worth. Marriage should be a reflection of how God sees us — we should always be looking for the men whose behavior towards us mirrors God’s strength, passion, and declarations of our worth.)
In the end, remember that you are worth it, that you are important, that your needs matter too. When we give ourselves the care that we need, we are able to care for others — and that is the abundance of life that Jesus described.