It's a phrase that's getting thrown around quite a bit these days. I see it on my insta-feed, I hear about it at church, and the people in my life are constantly reminding me to, "take care of myself"...to "embrace the art of self-care". Anyone else use the good ol' hashtag #selfcare to document your morning yoga, Sunday nap, or kale-with-something smoothie? (Guilty as charged, here.) I think we've got some good intentions, but we need to take a good look at the reality of what it means to truly take the best care of ourselves.
Don't get me wrong, I'm all about long, hot baths and putting my feet up to read a good book. I indulge in the occasional (ahem, weekly) ice cream Sunday, and I am a huge fan of treating yourself to a latte after a killer workweek. So, what's the harm if I cruise through season ten of Grey's Anatomy while painting my toenails and browsing Pinterest for a new haircut?
There's nothing inherently wrong with this picture, but this is not an accurate or beneficial definition of self care.
Are they fun? Yes.
Relaxing? You betcha.
Instilling healthy habits that motivate me towards health and kicking anxiety to the curb?
We need to embrace the necessary reality that self care is not synonymous with comfort.
Nor is it an excuse to be lazy. This mandate doesn't come from thin air, either. The Bible calls us to be wise stewards of all that we're given--bodies, time, energy, and resources included. We're also told that moderation is key, something our Netflix-binging, smart-phone loving generation may be prone to struggle with.
Taking care of ourselves should not lull is into a false sense of accomplishment (though I sure wish eating an entire jar of peanut butter in my sweatpants constituted "progress"). Time invested in our own development should be invested wisely, and move us towards reaching our goals in a God=glorifying manner. So, how exactly do we do that?
1. Make room for bubble baths and Gilmore Girls re-runs. I'm not saying you can't ever mindlessly relax or take time to be a bum on the couch. Those times can be great when we need to shut off for a little while, but they shouldn't be our standard of self care by any means. And even more-so, we shouldn't define those things as the source of comfort or rest.
2. Remember that sometimes self care requires making the hard choice. As in setting the alarm an hour early to hit the gym. Cooking those veggies in the back of the fridge instead of yet another night of take-out. Opting for an hour in the Word instead of the next episode of Making a Murderer. Turning down the shopping date with your best friend because your budget doesn't really allow for that Target splurge this month, even though their new collection is oh-so-freaking-cute. You get the picture, right? Make the wise choice over the easy choice if you're really digging into some self-improvement this year.
3. Set realistic expectations. Say it with me, R E A L I S T I C . I easily fall into the trap of picturing myself as some kind of superwoman on Monday morning, only to find that by Friday, I'm overwhelmed, nothing on my list has been accomplished, and I feel like a total failure because I tried too much at once. Honestly? You probably won't finish that book you started two years ago sitting on your nightstand, clean out the car, actually fold your laundry, get the kids to school, have a healthy meal ready by 6, and work a full day while you're at it. Be sure you know your limits, and if you're going to push yourself, do it in increments and aim for slow, steady increase in productivity.
4. Recognize the worthy goal. Sometimes it's necessary to evaluate our goals against the good wisdom in the Word. What are we trying to improve, and why do we feel it needs changing? As great as it may feel to drop five pounds this month, we've gotta find a way to take these strides with balance. For every hour invested into something temporal, how many hours are we investing in the eternal? Into life-giving friendships? Our marriages? Our families? Our relationship with our Maker? It helps, in light of missed deadlines and skipped gym days and another night of eating pizza, to remember what the most worthy goal is. Pressing on towards the calling God has placed on every single one of us--to make Him known and to give Him glory.
5. Leave room for grace. That's not just a saying around here. We truly, truly believe that leaving room for God's grace to abound in our lives and relationships and goal-setting will change the way we think for the better. When we recognize our failures and setbacks as opportunities for God's strength to be revealed, we will no longer view ourselves as failures when we don't measure up to our to-do lists. We will want to make progress because we love ourselves in our mess, enough to work our way out of it. We will feel propelled forward when we remind ourselves that our purpose is rooted in Christ, rather than dragged around by an impossible set of worldly expectations. The reality is that any outward progress is simply fruit of the work He's accomplished in our hearts. That's the kind of self care we're pressing into this year, and we'd love for you to join us.
I’m not there yet, nor have I become perfect; but I am charging on to gain anything and everything the Anointed One, Jesus, has in store for me—and nothing will stand in my way because He has grabbed me and won’t let me go. Brothers and sisters, as I said, I know I have not arrived; but there’s one thing I am doing: I’m leaving my old life behind, putting everything on the line for this mission. I am sprinting toward the only goal that counts:to cross the line, to win the prize, and to hear God’s call to resurrection life found exclusively in Jesus the Anointed.
Words by Chelsey Mead, Image by Barbara Marcella Photography