Self-Care: Selfish or Smart?

How creating space for yourself creates life in others

by Jody Destry

[6 min read]

 

When was the last time you set aside a few hours to do something to recharge without feeling guilty?

Whenever the topic of self-care comes up in my conversations with leaders, I get mixed responses. Most leaders like the idea of self-care, but actually integrating any self-care practices into their life is another story. The most common excuse or reason for this seems to be, “I don’t have time for self-care.”

Most Christian leaders would admit to being time-poor. There is always more to do than time to do it and never enough people to help. The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated this even more as extra pressure landed on leaders to pivot and deliver ministry in new ways and the line between home and work became even more blurry than usual as we grappled with lockdown.

There’s unspoken guilt that most leaders carry because we often feel like the demands of ministry frequently encroach on precious family time and put pressure on our relationships. The thought of then taking time out for ourselves (which means even more time away from family and friends) seems either completely self-indulgent or entirely unachievable altogether. Instead, we opt for slogging it out, burning the candle at both ends until we hit the proverbial wall. Sound familiar?

For some reason, this seems to be more accepted and even celebrated in our culture than taking time out to intentionally look after ourselves well. Sometimes we even take pride in our busyness as though it’s some kind of badge of honour. But the truth is, the number of leaders experiencing burnout is rising at an alarming rate.

Apparently, strong leaders don’t need self-care. Because not only is it a sign of weakness and deficiency, but it’s just another flaky fad buzz word floating around in the atmosphere. The cool new leadership trend that everyone’s posting about that’ll be overtaken by the next cool new trend tomorrow.

NOPE.

Self-care isn’t new, and it isn’t a fleeting fad; in fact, it’s been around for millennia. Jesus was a big fan of self-care, and we only have to look at how he lived to see how integral self-care practices were in the fruitfulness of His life and ministry.

Throughout the Gospels, we find Jesus often retreating to quiet places to recharge and pray, and we also see him resting and enjoying food with His friends. Yep, eating was high on Jesus’ agenda. After a big ministry event, He always ate a big meal and rested! Amen to that!

Jesus also practised gratitude, regularly taking time to give thanks to God for His provision and teaching gratitude as a remedy to worry (Matt. 6:25-27). Jesus modelled healthy rhythms of work and rest for us to follow. Consider Jesus’ response to the law expert in Matt. 22:36-39:

“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?”

Jesus answered him,“ Love the Lord your God with every passion of your heart, with all the energy of your being, and with every thought that is within you.This is the great and supreme commandment. And the second is like it in importance: You must love your friend in the same way you love yourself.(TPT)

Jesus was on to something. How can you love God and others well if you have no energy in your being?

Jesus cared for others so well because he cared for himself well. Self-care isn’t self-centred; it’s others-centred because it allows us to bring the healthiest, most thriving version of ourselves to the people we love and lead. How can we really love others well when we’re not taking the time to love ourselves well?

Here’s the thing: Your health as a leader is your responsibility, not anyone else’s. It’s not your boss’s responsibility to make sure you’re healthy, it’s not your partner’s responsibility and it’s not even your Pastor’s responsibility. It’s YOURS!

And believe it or not, when you prioritize your well-being, everyone around you will thank you for it. Your family and friends, your team, the people you work with and the people you pastor will all benefit from you becoming a well being! Health generates health and healthy things grow.

The reality is we don’t have time NOT to make self-care a priority.

So HOW do you actually implement self-care practices into your daily rhythm?

Well, I’m glad you asked. Here are 3 self-care hacks to get you started.

1. Make it intentional and consistent

Pick a regular time every week and block it out in your calendar. As an appointment with yourself. Start small. It could even just be 30 minutes a week (that’s only 0.3% of your week – totally doable!). Don’t be tempted to cancel it. There will always be things that seem more urgent, screaming at you for your time and attention.

Learning to view self-care as one of your most important tasks as a leader is a game-changer. If you have to cancel, make sure you reschedule the time straight away. Find someone like a coach or mentor to keep you accountable and have them regularly ask you how your self-care is going. (Oh, how we love accountability!)

2. Do things that recharge YOU

Make it personal. If it’s getting out in nature, do that. If it’s going to check out a new restaurant with a friend for a long lunch - enjoy (and invite me)! If it’s skydiving, go jump out of a plane; if it's pouring a glass of red wine and relaxing in a bath - awesome. The point is, self-care isn’t one thing in particular. It looks different for every person. Find places and people of sanctuary and do the things that leave you feeling refreshed and energised.

3. Find a hobby

Find something you love to do with no other agenda than ‘just for fun’. Don’t be tempted to turn it into a profession or figure out how to make money from it. (Not everyone needs to open their own sourdough stall!) Maybe there’s something you started in COVID that you told yourself you’d continue doing once life got back to ‘normal', but you haven’t kept it up. Or maybe it’s time to pick a new one.

Which one of these could you try this week?