‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ ~Matthew 22:37-39
In times of stress and crisis, without realizing what is going on, we can become weary, worn-down, depleted, unhealthy, either in our body, in our mind and heart, or deep within our spirit. God invites us to practice wise patterns of self-care, loving ourselves because God deeply loves us and cares for us. We love because he first loved us (1 John 4:19). So writes the elderly John in his first letter. Jesus calls us to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. Jesus assumes that we all love our own selves. Too often, though, people neglect caring for themselves, and allow their body, mind, heart, or spirit to slip into unhealthy ways, becoming ill, or dis-eased.
In 2021, every other week, I will write on one or more of the following 30 ways to practices self-care. This collection of self-care habits were gathered from dozens of other sources, including pastors, counselors, hospitals, social workers, and other care providers who care enough to share wisdom in the ancient, yet contemporary way of self-care.
- Rest and relax. Daily practice a little R & R time. Reserve some time for yourself to rest and relax, even if it’s just a few minutes
- Eat healthy. Eat balanced, regular meals as much as possible: prepare a healthy meal, and then sit down and eat slowly with gratitude.
- Drink plenty of water. Throughout the day, make sure you are drinking enough water.
- Breathe. Take time to breathe slowly for a few minutes.
- Read an uplifting book. Parents, read at night to your child at bedtime.
- Sleep. Aim for eight hours of sleep each night. Give yourself the gift of sufficient sleep.
- Exercise. Take a walk outside, walk stairs in your home, or find other creative ways to stay active, such as gentle stretching, or just walking around your backyard.
- Maintain daily structure. Make a daily to-do list to check off. Set small goals and make sure your daily routine involves space for some fun and relaxing activities.
- Declutter. Declutter your desk, a room, part of your garage, a closet, a drawer, or a shelf. Get rid of five things you have not used in five years.
- Spend time in God’s Creation. Watch a sunrise or sunset or appreciate some aspect of nature you rarely have time to notice.
- Feel your feelings. Be honest about your emotions. Process what you are feeling and experiencing with God and others. Acknowledge fear, uncertainty, and frustration.
- Friendship. Find a trusted companion that will listen and help you process what you are thinking and feeling. Ask for help when you need it.
- Limit your intake of news and media. Choose reliable news sources that report facts, and avoid media that sensationalizes emotions. Limit your exposure or take a break from news.
- Take a break. Step away from stressful activities, and do something you love to do.
- Be gentle with yourself. Be gentle also with those around you.
- Practice random acts of kindness towards others.
- Look for the good. Try focusing on what is positive, what is a blessing from God.
- Learn something new. Learning a new skill or challenging your mind is a great way to boost your mental health and enhance your life.
- Focus on what you can control and take steps to help yourself by practicing self-care.
- Journal. Consider writing in a journal weekly. List who you are praying for. Write down Bible passage that have encouraged you, write down your dreams, hopes, thanks.
- Take time to pray, worship, and meditate. Reflect on God’s Word. Christ will keep you centered and focused on His goodness and faithfulness.
- Stay connected with people you love. Connect with friends, church members, and family even if at a distance through texting, phone, video calls, letters, cards.
- Reach out to a pastor or friend. Share your burdens and ask them for prayer and spiritual guidance.
- Serve others with love. Find ways to help others. Demonstrate the love and compassion of Jesus Christ—to yourself, to your family, to your neighbors.
- Give thanks to God. Be grateful for daily blessings.Reflect on the good gifts God has given you. Take a few minutes to think about the small pleasures that are still part of your daily life.
- Be still. Practice moments of quiet and being still.
- Laugh. It is good for the soul.
- Listen to music. Play beautiful, uplifting music.
- Sing. Sing songs of praise and worship to God.
- Kneel to pray.Before you get in bed, try kneeling by your bedside, and offer your life to God, thanking the Lord for another day.