In this episode, we are talking all about self-care, what it is and what it is not, and why self-care is not selfish.
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WHY SELF-CARE IS NOT SELFISH
Self-care is not selfish however I can see why people might think that.
The name itself and the whole notion of self-care has really become popular in secular, humanistic thought.
However, the concept of tending to your mental, spiritual, emotional, social, and physical needs is founded in the Bible and like many other Biblical concepts, it’s been distorted.
Self-care has been found to be a core building block for surviving and thriving in ministry and in this episode we are going to talk about what self-care is and how it doesn’t have to take a lot of time, energy, or money to do.
WHAT RESEARCH SAYS
A research study was done in 2013 on what makes those serving in ministry resilient. 73 pastors representing 26 states met 3 times a year for 6 years.
Their conversations were transcribed into thousand and thousand of pages that all centered around one question. “What does it take to survive and thrive in pastoral ministry?”
From their research they came up with 7 primary themes. 4 of them are what you would expect;
- Spiritual formation
- Emotional and cultural intelligence
- Healthy marriage and family
- Strong leadership and management skills.
However; the 5th theme was Self-care, a practice not traditionally considered in leadership requirements.
Nonetheless, the study determined that self-care was absolutely necessary to develop a resilient and fruitful ministry.
They identified that self-care involves a pastor taking time to tend to their spiritual, emotional, physical, social, and mental needs and it was necessary for a pastor to thrive.
Now, I understand that this isn’t necessarily new information for some. We have heard countless times that to be healthy and avoid burnout we need to exercise, eat well, get good sleep and have some downtime.
But if all you think of is vacations, green smoothies, and going to the gym when you hear self-care then I’m not surprised that self-care is moved to the bottom of your to-do list.
This is because all of these things take time, money, and a lot of effort. They become just one more thing on the already very long list of things that “you should” be doing.
And oftentimes we have mindsets or beliefs that deter us from actually doing self-care. Beliefs like self-care is selfish.
Yet self-care is all about accepting the love of God as His children, not fulfilling selfish desires.
We are to find rest, joy, peace, and love in God, and out of that overflow of love, we are able to serve and care for others.
In 2 Timothy 4:6 Paul describes ministry as being poured out as a drink.
Caregiving and offering empathy to others takes from us and it’s self-care or tending to those spiritual, emotional, physical, social, and mental needs that fill us back up.
These things don’t need to be expensive, time-consuming, or take a lot of energy. And If it doesn’t rejuvenate you and strengthen your relationship with Christ then it’s probably not self-care.
SELF-DESTRUCTIVE THINGS DISGUISED AS SELF-CARE
I have fallen prey to labeling self-destructive things as self-care. Things like binging on Netflix, eating a bag of chips or Oreos because I’m worn out and need self-care.
While resting and finding joy in food is self-care, we tend to push them too far out of desperation because our tanks are completely empty.
WHY YOU NEED SELF-CARE
Living in Canada every new driver learns that in the winter it’s important to always have at least a quarter tank of gas otherwise it could freeze and leave you stranded.
Honestly, I don’t know if this is an old-wives tale that is passed down because I’ve never known anyone to have their gas freeze but the point is that in the winter we have to become more aware of our fuel levels.
We can’t rely on the warning gaslight as we need to be more mindful before what is in our gas tanks freezes.
Self-care requires the same awareness. As caregivers, we are constantly giving out and so there is a higher risk of being depleted.
Waiting until the weekends, vacations or sabbaticals may be too late for many of us.
INDICATORS YOU NEED SELF-CARE
One of the more subtle indicators that we are in need of refueling is what I have called “must-be-nice- syndrome”.
This is when we are engaging with others and they share that they are doing something that would be classified as self-care. Things like they went for lunch with a friend, or they just finished a new great book, having a creative hobby, or maybe it’s simply having down time in the evening.
Of course, you are polite on the outside but in your head, you think “must be nice” wish I had that opportunity.
If you find yourself experiencing “must-be nice syndrome” this as a red flag identifying that you need to prioritize some sort of self-care.
Often times we think that self-care takes a lot of time but it can be as simple as using your commute to intentionally transition from work to home
DIFFERENT KINDS OF SELF-CARE
When going to work or an event you can listen to music and podcasts to get into the mindset, but I like to encourage people to turn off all stimulation and noise when they are returning.
This allows you to process what you hear and saw that day. It gives your body and mind time to rest before transitioning home.
Self-care can be just eating lunch with real food at lunchtime at a real table, not in a meeting or a bar on the go as you visit a loved one in the hospital.
It could be developing a bedtime routine to allow for better sleep and even adjusting your notifications on your devices so you have more peace of mind and are not being distracted by every ping and beep.
Self-care is an intentional action that tends to your spiritual, emotional, physical, social, and mental health needs and aligns with Philippians 4:8 which says, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, and commendable if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”
If the word self-care is difficult for you because it suggests selfishness feel free to use the name soul-care. Whatever name you decide to call it, the concept is what matters.
WHAT IS THE GOAL OF SELF-CARE
The goal of self-care is to not indulge and fulfill selfish desires but ut it is to live out the great commandment which implies that we are to love one another as we love ourselves.
God wants us to be kind to ourselves and the results of that are being restored and refilled and in return yes become strengthened to give to others again.
However that is not the purpose, God wants us, you, and me to have healthy, peaceful lives that require us to take care of ourselves.
Unfortunately, many people, Christian leaders included treat the Great Commission of going and doing as though it trumps the greatest commandment of love.
MYTHS OF SELF-CARE
Self-care is too expensive.
Self-care is activities that are nourishing and rejuvenating. It doesn’t need to be extravagant or expensive.
One of my favorite self-care practices is stretching or going for a walk during my work breaks.
Self-care is tending to your physical, mental, social, emotional, and spiritual needs I often tell people to start small.
This can be eating, sleeping, and moving. Roll your eyes all you want but these things are transformative and commonly the first things discussed in counseling.
If you can get the sleep you need at the time you need it meaning that you sleep at night and awake during the day and if you can eat nourishing food regularly and move every day you will begin to see your mental and physical health shift.
It creates a strong foundation for you to begin to flourish. Without healthy sleep habits, nourishment, and movement every area in your life is going to struggle.
Self-care isn’t fancy vacations, Starbucks coffee every morning, and costly gym memberships. Self-care includes is meeting your basic needs.
Self-care is enabling
Some people label vices or unhealthy behavior as self-care and therefore it has received the reputation that self-care is enabling poor choices yet this is untrue.
As per the definition, self-care is an action towards self-preservation. Like I just mentioned self-care aligns with Philippians 4:8.
Not to belabor the issue but I’ve heard so many people call unhealthy numbing behavior like scrolling or binging on television; self-care.
However, if the result is a tired, stressed person the next day who is not functioning at work very well then I would argue that the movie was not self-care, but indulging in a desire to watch the movie.
Self-care strengthens you, it does not deplete you, it promotes your health and refreshes you,it is not an excuse to indulge in impromptu feel-good activities that leave you tired, and depleted and compromise your health.
I hope that we are regular practicing self-care so we don’t become so depleted we need to numb out and escape.
Self-care is lazy
The final myth that we will look at is that self-care is lazy.
The basics of self-care are:
- Proper diet
- Time away.
Take a moment and think of someone who engages in these activities in a healthy way. Are they lazy? Of course not, these are the people that we look to as being motivated, disciplined, and who are strong leaders.
Then why do we struggle with thoughts that self-care is lazy when we think of ourselves, but when we see others engaging in self-care it is highly respected?
I’m not suggesting we all turn into highly disciplined athletes who eat a whole foods diet. That is not realistic for 90% of people. But the myth that participating in self-care is lazy needs to go because it’s just not true. People who practice strong self-care habits are disciplined leaders.
Take note that self-care is not the golden ticket or a magic wand that is going to solve all the problems but it is absolutely necessary if we want to have any longevity in supporting others.
Psalms 23:1 speaks to the restoration that God wants for our lives.
“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. “
From the beginning of time, God modeled having rest by establishing a Sabbath. In Hebrews 4:9-11 we are encouraged to keep the Sabbath just as God did so that we can have rest and not be tempted to fall.
“So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. Let us, therefore, strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.”
Self-care is not selfish lazy, enabling, or indulgent. It is tending to our human needs for refueling. Self-care is seeing ourselves as children of God and accepting his love for us, and accepting that we are not perfect and require care for our social, emotional, spiritual, emotional, and physical needs.
It’s not a sin or weakness to need refueling, it’s being human and as leaders, I encourage you to consider how often you tend to these needs. What practices have you put in place to ensure you don’t go past that quarter tank.
Keep an eye out for the must-be-nice syndrome and learn what refuels your tank.
As you care for others recognize that self-care is often put to the bottom of the list when someone is facing a crisis or is struggling and that practicing self-care builds their resilience.
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