The Art of Self-Care

“You are worth the quiet moment. You are worth the deeper breath. You are worth the time it takes to slow down, be still and rest.”Morgan Harper Nichols
By Annie Amador
July 24, 2020

Many of us already have a lot of great ideas about self-care. Maybe you think of bubble baths, comfort food, exercise, meditation, or a glass of wine. While those things are wonderful, they represent a limited view of self-care. Instead of another to do list, self-care can be seen as more like a life philosophy—a life of caring for the whole self.

As such a life philosophy, self-care encompasses multiple dimensions: mental, spiritual, physical, emotional, relational. By addressing all dimensions of ourselves, we are able to have longevity and avoid burnout. Self-care is also deeply personal. What works for someone else may not work for you.

It’s tough to navigate self-care because of its multidimensional and idiosyncratic nature. The good news is, there is no one right answer. The bad news is the same—you’ve got to figure out what works for you. And not to make it any harder than it already is, but self-care is also dynamic. What worked for you yesterday might need to look different today because circumstances have changed. However, this also means that self-care is flexible. We have many options at our disposal, working synergistically toward our wellness. We can think creatively about how to maintain a life of caring for our whole selves.

To start cultivating a lifestyle of self-care, it can help to distinguish two possible goals of self-caring behaviors. The first is actively reducing suffering. This can include actions like seeing a doctor when you’re sick, resting an injured muscle, or setting a boundary of not speaking to a toxic relative. These behaviors attempt to prevent additional pain. You could call it remedial self-care.

The second goal is actively inducing relaxation or wellness. This can include activities like listening to your favorite music, enjoying dessert, taking a trip to the beach, or having an exercise routine. These behaviors attempt to add pleasure and support rejuvenation and health. You could call this aspirational self-care.

Some activities might support both of these goals at once. For example, a massage might reduce back pain and induce relaxation. A vacation can build separation from work stress and allow for peaceful downtime.

Can you think of areas in your life needing some boundaries? How might you reduce suffering for yourself? Easing or preventing pain helps us stay healthy. And what about active relaxation? Is there room for more quiet moments? Stillness and pauses can be deeply healing.

Another important point to make about self-care is this: rest is for our enjoyment, not just so we can keep working. God wants us to enjoy his creation. He gave us Sabbath for this reason. Self-care ought not to be merely a means to an end, but a true enjoyment and cultivation of a life worth living. You are worthy of rest.

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Photo by Annie Amador