Self-care is a trending thing. Just check Instagram. There’s something of a counter to that in the soul-care trend going around in certain Christian circles. In any case, there are widely varying opinions on the whole idea.
I look at it like car maintenance. I’ve gotta change the oil routinely or my engine will eventually be toast. Getting a new set of tires is an expensive must-do, but I’m not going very far on treadless tires. If I don’t replace worn out breaks, I’m not going to be able to stop when I need to. Windshield wipers don’t last forever, and I have to buy new ones from time to time if I want to see well enough to drive safely in bad weather.
It’s not just our cars either. Homes need maintaining. Businesses need tending. Everything in life requires some kind of upkeep, including you.
The Christian response to the self-care craze has been to dub it soul-care and shroud it in spirituality. Part of caring for yourself does include caring for your soul, but we’re not just our soul. To disregard physical and mental health in favor of focusing only on the soul skates a bit too close to Gnosticism for my comfort.
Self care gets something of a bad rap because the stuff that gets tagged on social media tends to be things like manicures, expensive coffee, new clothes, and the like. The reason behind that is because a photo of a multivitamin, or someone having their teeth cleaned isn’t quite as aesthetic! There are definitely days when taking care of myself means getting out the good tea and brewing a cup to get me through a particularly long afternoon. (Sometimes it even includes breaking out the chocolate stash.) Self care is buying and armful of greek yogurt at the grocery store because it’s the only way I can consistently make sure I eat breakfast. It’s keeping a bottle of vitamins on my desk so I don’t forget to take one in the morning. It’s making time to read and learn new things to exercise my mind. It’s journaling my prayers to grow spiritually and keep my mental health in a good place. It’s doing stretches and sitting on a yoga ball to keep my back, joints, and muscles working better. It’s clearing off my desk on Friday so that I don’t forget to do important things. At it’s core, self care is stewarding the body, mind, and soul that you’ve been given to the best of your abilities.
How many times have you heard of someone who neglected their own health until it deteriorated to the point where they have no choice but to make changes? It absolutely happens. I’ve landed myself in the ER because I didn’t pay enough attention to my health. I know of women who’ve done the same thing and ended up with something far worse than an inconvenient ER visit. There’s nothing holy or spiritual about neglecting ourselves to the point of harm.
Instead of denouncing self-care as inherently selfish, or trying to spiritualize it by calling it soul-care, maybe we can focus on modeling a healthy level of taking care of ourselves for our kids. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if our daughters never had to feel guilty about doing the things they need to do to stay healthy in every way?