Christianity is a very others-focused religion. We talk about doing unto others, caring for the poor, and sacrificing ourselves for others in imitation of Christ’s sacrifice for us. We are often skeptical of anything that appears to be selfish, and praise people who live their lives completely focused on others. We also have absorbed negative beliefs about a divide between our soul (which is good) and our body (which is of the world, and therefore at the very least untrustworthy). The net effect of all this is that we are often downright neglectful of ourselves in favor of serving others, and struggle to be at peace with the bodies we inhabit.
Caring for the self, however, is an immensely important practice. We need to take seriously the language in 1 Corinthians 6:19, which says “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?” Your body is not a burden that is trying to lure you away from the life of the Spirit with its so-called “fleshly” desires and needs. Your body is the dwelling place of God’s spirit, and it is also YOU – you, who are loved infinitely by God. God chose to give you this body as the only way to experience Her – that cannot have been an accident. When we disrespect and discredit our bodies and their needs, we are actually limiting the ways in which we are able to fully experience the fruits of God’s spirit in our lives.
Below are 3 ways that you can begin to practice the discipline of self-care:
- Care for your body. Choose foods that nourish you (and that you enjoy eating!). Prioritize getting enough sleep, and try to stick to a regular sleep schedule. Keep your annual appointments with doctors and dentists – and if you have pain, illness, or injury, seek appropriate treatment instead of trying to ignore it.
- Set good boundaries. You need physical, emotional, and mental rest, and time to look after yourself. While caring for others is indeed an integral part of a person’s walk with Jesus, this should not always come at your expense. Evaluate your relationships – is there approximately equal give-and-take, or are there people in your life whom you pour into without any reciprocity? If you are a caretaker, are you sharing your responsibilities with others so that you have time to rest and replenish? Remember that you can’t draw from an empty well- don’t overcommit yourself or sacrifice your well-being for the sake of being more productive or giving.
- Be kind to yourself. Some of us reserve our most judgmental attitudes for ourselves, thinking things about ourselves that we would never say to another person! You can care for yourself by practicing positive self-talk. Try to notice when you’re being negative about yourself, and correct your thoughts to be filled with more kindness, grace, and forgiveness. Finally, practice self-kindness by really listening to yourself. Give yourself permission to be aware of your emotions, your moods, your instincts, and your physical needs. You may just hear the voice of God in the process.