By: Lindsay Sullivan
It was a bright and sunny day and I had a sudden burst of energy that I wanted to take advantage of. I slipped on my running shoes and headed to my favorite park for an outdoor run. I had a moment of time off in the middle of the day so after my run, I grabbed my blanket out of my car (pro-tip, ALWAYS keep a blanket handy for those spontaneous picnics and outdoor naps!) and my current read to sprawl out on a patch of grass to soak up some free vitamin D. In the corner of my eye I saw a father and daughter walking along the path across the way,
“Daddy, why is that girl laying there?” The daughter curiously asked.
“She’s taking a break because she wants to,” her dad politely responded.
He was half-right. I was taking a break because I had grown to a point where I recognized that I needed to.
Self-care. When I think of the buzzword as of recent, it often comes off as a selfish, shallow act to put yourself first and “treat-yo-self” because “you deserve it.” Lather on the face mask, kick back and relax and binge-watch that Netflix series because “you need a break.”
Pop culture has diluted self-care to mindless and meaningless activities. Not that there’s anything wrong with Netflix, face-masks or relaxing - all 3 of which serve very important purposes (thank you Netflix and my fave charcoal face mask for existing!!) but self-care goes deeper than just “taking a break.” Self-care is much more than self-soothing.
Self-care is any activity that supports our health - mind, body and spirit. What brings you joy? What fills your bucket? What gives you those bright and vibrant bursts of energy? What makes you come alive? Some days maybe that’s painting or journaling. Maybe it’s catching up with a friend over coffee. Some days it’s staying home instead and taking the extra time to cook a meal and take a nap. It can, and most likely does, look different day to day.
Self-care encompasses how we parent ourselves. It isn’t always pretty, it’s sometimes hard and definitely requires discipline, but it is fundamental in order to create a strong foundation for our busy lives.
Growing up in church, I always assumed that serving others was most important, and taking time for myself was selfish. It sounds ridiculous on paper, but the moments I took to myself were filled with anxiety and thoughts of guilt or shame. I had always assumed that in order to “love my neighbor” I had to consistently give of myself.
But I never understood the full context of this command:
Matthew 22: 37-39 “And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
When we take care of ourselves, we have the capacity to take care of others. As I look to Christ in scripture, yes - He was constantly involved in ministry. But it’s also noted that He spent 40 days in the desert in solitude and went off to pray by himself frequently as well. He did both, resting in solitude with the Father and giving of Himself in ministry.
One of my favorite authors, John Mark Comer writes in his book “Garden City”
“Work and rest live in a symbiotic relationship. If you don’t learn how to rest well, you will never learn how to work well (and vice versa). After all, the opposite of work isn’t rest- it’s sleep. Work and rest are friends, not enemies. They are a bride and groom who come together to make a full, well-rounded life.”
So ask yourself, “What can I do to take the best care of myself right now?”