self-care
Mental Health

A Guide to Self-Care

So, what exactly is self-care? We will take an in depth look at what it means to care for ourself well in this ultimate guide to self-care.

Self-care is taking care of yourself well so you can show up as your best self in your life. Taking care of yourself well includes taking care of your body, mind, spirit, and heart.

Self-care isn’t selfish or self-indulgent either. It is good stewardship of the body we have been given, that in turn allows us to utilize it in ways that benefit ourselves and others. Can you imagine if we cared for others the way we cared for ourselves? For some of us, this thought may be tough to think about. For those who do not take the time to process their emotions, do things they enjoy, or eat things that nourish their bodies, this would mean we would not be caring well for others in this scenario. It would mean a complete neglect for others, as we neglect our physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional needs.

Have you ever been on a flight and heard the flight attendant say, “In the event that the cabin loses pressure, oxygen masks will be released, place your mask on first before helping small children or anyone who may need your assistance”. Put your mask on first? That doesn’t sound very loving at all. But wait, who will take care my child if I pass out? This is exactly at the heart of self-care.

Jesus knew that self-care is an issue of the greatest importance.  That’s why He regularly took time out to re-fill His pitcher with Living Water. We all have to do the same. It’s only when you allow your cup to be filled that you can fill the cup of others. If you have nothing in your cup, you can’t give anything away.

self-care

Caring for Your Body

Eat

Your body needs fuel and proper nutrients in order to function well. Your body needs regular, healthy meals. A balanced diet and plenty of water can improve your energy and focus throughout the day. Do your best to give your body the fuel it needs. Taking care of our bodies can increase our confidence and give us more energy.

Exercise

Studies show just 30 minutes of walking every day can help boost your mood and improve your health. You don’t have to run a marathon to get your body moving. You can go on a walk, a short run, or even do a workout routine in your living room. If you struggle with stress or anxiety, exercise can be an invaluable tool to help combat racing thoughts and increase your immunity at the same time. Studies also show regular, mild cardiovascular exercise can fend off depression.

Sleep

Having a regular sleep schedule (8-9 hours of sleep) is very important for brain function. Even small things can begin to feel overwhelming if your brain is not functioning well. If you are having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep it is important that you address this. You can talk to your primary care doctor. A counselor may also be able to help you troubleshoot this.   

Caring for Your Mind

Mental self-care is attending to your mind. It involves engaging in a variety of activities and attitudes, learning new things, being curious, and working on creative projects.

Make Space for Yourself

  • Go on a walk.
  • Listen to relaxing or uplifting music.
  • Go fishing
  • Exercise to upbeat music
  • Read a book.
  • Take an online class or learn a new skill or hobby.
  • Cook your favorite meal.
  • Take a relaxing bath.

Caring for Your Emotions

God created emotions. Our Heavenly Father experiences emotions and He created us to experience them too. Our emotions are designed to carry useful information that directs us to what we need to attend to. A good analogy for this is to think about if you were to touch a hot stove.  The pain you would experience from touching the stove would teach you a lesson that would save you from further harm. Pain alerts us to injury that is either happening or has occurred that requires our care and attention. In the same way, emotional pain informs us of present or past hurt and alerts us that care and attention are necessary.

A great way to enhance emotional self-care is to change your self-talk. Is your mind cluttered with stressful thoughts? Anxious thoughts? Is your mind flooded with negative self-talk? Do I notice myself carrying any negative perspectives about myself or others? By slowing down, we can use mindfulness to ground ourselves and begin to seek truth in moments where our thoughts are racing. This is important because our thoughts drive our emotions which often direct our actions.

Connect with Others

God created us for connection. Close connections are important to our well-being. The best way to cultivate and maintain close relationships is to put time and energy into building relationships with others. It is important to identify the right people to bring into the “circle” with you. These people will be trustworthy, good listeners who are not quick to offer advice, and people who care for you. With today’s technology, there are many ways to stay connected to family and friends. Reach out to your support system. Ask for emotional and practical support when you need it.

Caring for Your Spirit

In its purest form, spiritual self-care is allowing divine inspiration to breathe into your life. Reading the Bible, praying, having conversations related to your faith with other believers, worshiping, and reading Christian books are all parts of spiritual care. Find that place, if it is only one hour a week, where you can retreat- become quiet. The objective is to find a place apart from the daily grind where you can get in touch with God and discover who you are within the context of His love.

An empty lantern provides no light. Self-care is the fuel that allows your light to shine brightly.

– Unknown

Practical Ways to Engage in Self-Care

So maybe you have noticed some areas you are doing really well in caring for yourself in and other areas that may need more attention. Having awareness is a great first step! Here are some practical ways you can get started in caring for yourself physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally. You can also check out our article Qualities of a Healthy Marriage for other practical self-care tips.

SPIRITUAL SELF CARE

  • Intentional time for regular prayer and worship.
  • Fellowship with other believers.
  • Studying Scripture with others and independently.

PHYSICAL SELF CARE:

  • Get a good night’s rest.
  • Go on a walk or run.
  • A healthy diet that is not too permissive or restrictive.

MENTAL SELF CARE:

  • Learn a new skill or take up a new hobby.
  • Take a dance class.
  • Unplug from technology.

EMOTIONAL SELF CARE:

  • Give yourself permission to feel.
  • Meet up or talk with a good friend or mentor.
  • Consider yourself and what you want and need.
  • Remind yourself that you DO matter!

I hope you found this guide to self-care beneficial. What are your favorite ways to practice good self-care? What are some ways you are striving to take better care of yourself currently? Leave a comment below and let me know your thoughts. I would love to hear from you!

Leslie is a licensed professional counselor. She works as a therapist at a marriage intensive retreat center. She is also a foster mom and police wife. Her and her husband live in Missouri with their two teenage sons and three dogs.

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