Mothers who are looking for how to start a self care routine are, in my experience, feeling overwhelmed. I know that is true for myself. By the time I am googling how to take care of myself it is because I am beyond the breaking point. So what are self-care practices? How do we, as Christian moms, care for our mental health? Should we even be thinking about our emotional health on a regular basis?
Self care is a hot topic in Christian circles and especially with Christian women. You may have heard that self care is selfish from some, and that you need to be doing much more for yourself from others. There is no denying the huge movement in our culture right now of selfishness. Selfishness is in fact sinful behavior. On the other hand going to the opposite extreme and neglecting yourself is not the answer either. So what is the best answer regarding self-care activities?
Taking Time For Yourself
The concept of self-care, like I mentioned earlier, has become a hot topic recently. There are two sort of extremist camps on the topic of the importance of self-care. Personally, I fall somewhere in the middle.
I recognize that the world is promoting selfishness at all costs. I know that both being selfish and being worldly are not things that I, as a Christian, want to take part in. At the same time I do not see any logic in ignoring my needs altogether. The good news is that there is a middle ground. You can take care of yourself without making an idol out of it. In fact, you SHOULD take time for yourself.
Self-care, as in taking care of yourself, is not selfish.
When I am feeling despondent, depressed, or overwhelmed I know that the first place I need to look at is my spiritual life.
How much time am I spending in the Word and in prayer?
As someone who has struggled with clinical depression since I was a teenager I can say that for me prayer has been an incredibly important part of my healing. Going to God is always the first thing I do when it feels like the walls are starting to cave in.
God cares when the piles of laundry are making you anxious. (Philippians 4:6) He cares when you are not feeling like a person. God cares about the screaming children, the dirty bathroom, and whatever else is on your heart that’s weighing you down. Reaching out to God in prayer and spending time in the Word is the best thing you can do for your stress levels.
Taking care of your physical health is an important part of your self-care plan. Caring for the mind and body that the Lord gave you is necessary in order to fulfill the calling He has put on your life. The Lord has called us to be wise with our time and I believe that taking good care of your body is a good use of your time.
John Piper shared how physical exercise is part of being a wise steward of the bodies and minds that God has given to us.
"If you ask how the fruit of exercise relates to the fruit of the Spirit, my answer is this: the Holy Spirit produces his fruit both directly and indirectly. He can zap you in your worst moments and make you kind. But he often does it indirectly. For example, if you are impatient when you get little sleep, and if patience is a fruit of the Spirit (which it is, Galatians 5:22), very likely the Holy Spirit will not only remind you of the sufferings of Christ and the glory of God’s promises, but he will also give you the humility to stop being God and go to bed on time. And if you sleep better when you regularly exercise, then the Holy Spirit also will give you the humble discipline to exercise so that you sleep better so that you are more patient. If he does it that way, it is still his fruit."
Physical activity and exercise is a great first step when you are taking a look at self-care ideas. However, you do not have to start training for a marathon in order to improve your overall health. The best way to start is with small steps.
Physical Self-Care Strategies
- Get a good night’s sleep. Being sure to get enough sleep is a great way to improve many areas of your life.
- Carry a water bottle to help you stay hydrated.
- Take a walk to get some fresh air.
- Look at the types of foods you eat. Aim to have more healthy meals and healthy foods that fuel your body.
- See a doctor. Many women do not take the time or spend the money to get themselves to a doctor but that may be exactly what you need to do. Looking after your own needs in this way can make a huge difference. Whether you seek a naturopath or prefer western medicine please make yourself a priority in this way.
My Self-Care Strategies
Taking personal time for myself is one of the ways that I practice emotional self-care and incorporate it into my daily routine.
It took a lot of occurrences of being burnt out, stressed out, or feeling like a shell of a person before I came to the realization that taking some personal time was a big deal for me. I hope that you do not have to reach your breaking point again and again before coming to that realization yourself.
I was so hesitant to take any personal time to work on a hobby or do something just because I enjoy it. In my mind I had convinced myself that doing so was selfish and it made me a bad mom or a bad wife. After all how could I justify taking personal time when the to-do list was not complete?
The reality of the situation was that my choice to not take personal time and rather martyr myself to motherhood and marriage was the thing that was making me a bad mom and wife. Not taking care of myself made me very unpleasant to be around. I had a short fuse, was easily annoyed, and even started to feel resentful. Ignoring my needs did not make me a better mom. In fact, the only thing it increased at all was my depression.
These days my husband and I make a point to each have one night of the week that we devote to spending time doing something we enjoy. I usually spend my time binge watching YouTube videos, reading a book, crafting, or sometimes writing posts for this blog. In addition to the one evening a week that I spend doing things just for me I also do some things every day to care for myself both physically and emotionally.
How To Start A Self Care Routine
To decide what to incorporate into my daily self-care routine I took stock of the things that fuel me and give me energy. I also took a look at the things that drain my energy and leave me with less mental space. After figuring out those things I am better able to incorporate self care into my daily routine.
I will share a few of the different types of self-care that I practice each day.
- I have made it a personal rule that I do not tackle anything major in the morning until I have sat down and had a cup of coffee. One reason for this is just how much I enjoy a great cup of coffee. Another reason is that I found jumping out of bed and immediately tackling the day is just not for me. I am the best version of myself when I have had a chance to come to terms with being awake.
- Another rule is that I go to the bathroom alone and with the door shut. I have two very young children who feel it is important to glue themselves to my side at all times. I am sure all moms can relate. However, I give myself the gift of privacy when I need to use the restroom. I go in alone and I close the door behind me.
- Monitoring my social media is another important form of self-care for me. The more time I spend scrolling aimlessly on social media the more likely I am start playing the comparison game. That is a personal struggle of mine. I also find that if I have spent a lot of time scrolling I have a difficult time with my energy levels. I struggle to find the motivation to get up and do the tasks I need to accomplish.
- I try to make sure that my children and I spend some time outside every single day. The weather does not always agree but most days we are able to get out in the backyard for awhile. I enjoy gardening, playing with the kids, or even just sitting on the deck and watching them do their own thing. The fresh air and sunshine do wonders for my mental health.
- I also love to snuggle up with a good book. That’s not something I am able to do every day but with audiobooks I have been able to still read quite a lot of books even as a busy mom. I enjoy reading and learning. Listening to a book or podcast while I am doing some chores around the house or pulling weeds in the garden has a positive impact on my day. I think that is one of the reasons I was so excited to start my own podcast as the audio version of this blog.
All of these things that I have mentioned are personal examples of some of the ways that I practice self-care. The way that you practice self-care may look different. Maybe you would enjoy a long undisturbed bubble bath once a week. Or you might prefer a cup of tea in the afternoon instead of a morning coffee. There are endless ways that you could incorporate self care. The most important thing is that it works for you.
Starting Your Own Self Care Routine
I hope that you have been inspired by this post to start your own self care routine. Self care does not have to be selfish. Taking care of your physical and emotional health so that you can better serve God, your family, and community is responsible.
"On the seventh day God had completed his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, for on it he rested from all his work of creation." Genesis 2:2-3 (CSB)