We often do so much for others that taking care of ourselves individually goes untouched. I’m not talking about getting our nails and hair done – those are things we do to keep our masks shining. The concept of self-care is deceptively simple: making time to take of yourself for the benefit of your overall mental and physical well-being. But if you’re human who exists in this world – the real world, where burnout, depression, anxiety, pain, illness, trauma, oppression, shitty families, violence, tragedy, breakups, divorces, death, unemployment, addiction, and good old fashioned bad times exist – you know that “taking care of yourself” is never a simple thing.
There is no denying that alcohol and other mind-altering substances give the user some type of pleasant sensation. Even if the “high” does not constitute a state of euphoria, it is at least a respite from unpleasant sensations of anxiety, tension, and depression, and awkward self-consciousness. The use of such chemicals is nothing other than the pursuit of contentment.
There’s a frustrating misconception that anything that is not 100 percent selfless is selfish. But taking care of ourselves and caring for and considering others are not mutually exclusive. In fact, taking care of our own health and well-being empowers us to be better friends, partners, coworkers, bosses, family members, and humans. Without doing the essential work of showing up for ourselves, how can we expect to be in any shape to show up for others? As the old saying goes, you have to put your oxygen mask on before you can assist anyone else.
One of the most common criticisms of self-care is that it’s unfair and unrealistic to put all this pressure on yourself to be in charge of your own well-being. And that’s absolutely true—there’s nothing more annoying than the old adage that you can “choose happiness,” as if you’ve always had the power to zap away your misery and have just been squandering it. None of us has the capacity to soothe all that ails us on our own. Self-care is as much about opening yourself up to the many ways others can help you as it is about taking care of yourself. It’s educating yourself on resources, giving yourself permission to access professional help without shame, and asking for what you need.
We have options we can attend self-care groups or twelve-step groups, we can try therapy and we can stay stuck. One thing I’ve found out is that I must stay centered with God in my life before I attempt any outside intervention.
1, Jesus said, “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matthew 11:26-30 MSG
2. When Elijah saw how things were, he ran for dear life to Beersheba, far in the south of Judah. He left his young servant there and then went on into the desert another day’s journey. He came to a lone broom bush and collapsed in its shade, wanting in the worst way to be done with it all—to just die: “Enough of this, GOD! Take my life—I’m ready to join my ancestors in the grave!” Exhausted, he fell asleep under the lone broom bush.