Serving or caring for others can be incredibly rewarding. But it can also be incredibly stressful. So stressful, that it interferes with self-care.
And inadequate self-care is not a good thing. Not for you, nor the people you care for and serve.
I know the barriers and excuses for incomplete self-care very well. Yep, I’ve been there. I told myself the same things you probably say to yourself every day:
- I don’t have time to take care of myself.
- I don’t need to focus on me right now.
- I’ll take care of myself when I get my to-do list done.
- I want to take better care of myself (But I don’t even know how to start!)
- My needs aren’t as urgent as [name]’s needs are right now.
- And, I didn’t say this out loud, but some days, I told myself…I’m not worthy (of self-care).
I take better care of myself now, thanks to what I call faith-driven self-care.
What is faith-driven self-care? Using my faith to drive my self-care choices and actions.
Most days, I care for and serve others well and take good care of myself too. I am so grateful to be where I am now. But, it was one heck of a mountain to overcome!
So, I wrote this article to share what I learned on my journey to help other people, like you, lower stress and start taking better care of yourself.
Research shows that caregiving is one of the leading causes of stress.
Who are you serving or caring for right now?
- Perhaps you’re caring for children, grandchildren, or aging or even ill parents.
- Maybe you’re serving in a ministry.
- You may even be a professional caregiver, providing care for a living.
- Or serving clients professionally.
- And, just maybe, you match more than one of these scenarios.
Well, here’s the thing. If you fit into at least one of the above situations, you are likely experiencing high levels of stress on a pretty regular basis.
And, it doesn’t matter who you take care of or serve. Taking the responsibility of caring for another person, or the act of caregiving is stressful.
However, it’s one thing to care for or serve others for short periods, or in an organized, supported ministry framework.
But, sometimes, the caregiving (or serving) demands stay constant. And, most often the caregiving or serving demands increase. While some people thrive in this scenario, many find enduring the increasing levels of heavy stress, over long periods, to be tiring.
That’s a problem for most people.
Feeling prolonged levels of stress and burden leads to exhaustion or even burnout.
I think most of us have heard of the term burnout and know its not a good thing. But have you ever wondered why prolonged stress or burnout can lead to illness or disease?
Well, on top of the damaging high cortisol (hormone) levels causing emotional, mental, and physical symptoms, there’s something else going on.
You see, people who love and serve others tend to put their own needs last-even when they start to feel bad.
Over time, this process can lead to legitimate symptoms or illness.
But, leaving your job or ministry isn’t always the right answer or an option. And, you can’t just stop the responsibility of caring for your family either.
No one can prevent parents from aging or their need for our help. Furthermore, it seems that as our children grow up and our parents become older; our lives get busier and more stressful!
So, what should we do? Should we ignore it?
Doing nothing didn’t work out too well for me; I had to do something different. And, I’m guessing that if you’re still reading this, you might be thinking you need to do something different too.
Boy, do I have good news for you!
As a Christian, You Have Access to A Unique Strategy – ‘Faith-driven Self-care’
I have to confess that talking about how to use faith-driven self-care hasn’t always been one of my go-to conversation topics.
Heck, there were days I wondered if it was even possible to take good care of both them and me. It always seemed like an ‘either or’ situation.
But it is possible, and now I live it every day. Faith-driven self-care has helped me in many ways!
Faith-driven self-care helps me see:
1 Self-care is not a sign of weakness.
2 Self-care doesn’t take too much time.
3 We are worthy of self-care.
4 Bringing self-care into your prayer time can prevent resentment towards your family.
5 When you start talking about self-care during your prayer time, you’ll find you will also begin to bring prayer into your self-care time.
6 God becomes a natural and comfortable part of your self-care routine.
7 Faith-driven self-care helped me learn how to prioritize appropriately (surrender how I spent my time).
8 Faith-driven self-care showed me how to manage my time for my self-care, caring and serving others, and fulfilling my purpose.
9 Trusting God with my self-care reduced my stress and anxiety and led to an appropriate level of control of my future health and wellness.
10 When I asked Him to help me with my self-care, He equipped me as I walked forward in faith.
11 When we take care of ourselves and work to honor the Lord in the process, we take steps of faith. The Lord will accept our actions of faith as obedience.
12 Trusting God with the journey and leaning on the Holy Spirit gives us the bold confidence to keep going!
All of these things were changed in me because I allowed my faith to drive my self-care choices. Well, to be more specific, I allowed faithfulness to drive my self-care choices.
Ready to experience a transformation?
How to Develop and Use Faith-driven Self-care
Faithfulness is the seventh Fruit of the Spirit and is the operative word for, and the living out of, your faith.
Synonyms in the dictionary include:
- Among a long list of others (look it up – you’ll be amazed!).
This positive and active attribute of character is a much-desired characteristic in people with whom we have relationships.
So, how amazing would it be to allow the development of faithfulness in our relationship with the Lord?
How amazing would it be to allow faithfulness to MOTIVATE us to perform self-care that honors Him?
Pretty awesome, right?
So, how do we do this?
First: SPEND Time With God to Develop Faith-driven Self-care
Faith-driven self-care requires that God be the priority over your life. And to make that happen, you need to spend time with God to develop and mature your faith and faithfulness.
Pastor and author Robert Strand wrote: “Faith and faithfulness are closely linked–faith being foundational to all that we believe and act upon. Faith is that undefinable power through which we realize as reality, things that are as yet unseen.
Faithfulness is the working out of this in your belief system.
When we have faith in God, we act in faithful ways.
Acts of faithfulness are the demonstrations that we have a true faith in God and such acts are the threads holding our belief and behavior systems together.” (taken from ‘Faithfulness a devotion series by Robert Strand Nine Fruits of the Spirit’ pg. 12).
The development of faithfulness requires faith!
When we believe that God exists and that He will respond to us for passionately calling out to Him, and then we act in that way, we are pleasing the Lord!
I feel like this is an excellent place to share a little more of my personal experience with you. In a nutshell, I felt like I couldn’t put self-care first.
But the reasons changed over time.
Initially, it was because I thought self-care was a sign of weakness or vanity and completely unnecessary.
At the time, I was young, and I had a job as a nurse educator, helping people (mostly older than me) make lifestyle changes. I had A LOT of lifestyle improvement knowledge.
But behind the scenes, I was living off of diet cola and candy-coated chocolate peanuts. No time to slow down and take care of myself because I’d miss out on FUN.
But Self-care is Not a Sign of Weakness.
A few years later, I got an exciting job, and I had a baby. I was delighted!
But, I was still not taking good care of myself.
My baby had colic for nine long months. People told me to hire a nanny or focus on getting rest.
Instead, I was working over 50 hours a week at what turned out to be a stressful job, while taking care of my family and going on very little sleep; some nights just 3 hours – 1 hour at a time.
I was miserable – I felt horrible, had zero energy, no creativity, and as desperate as I was ‘to try to stop’ and take care of myself, I felt like there was never any time.
But Self-care Doesn’t Take Too Much Time.
Just a few months later, I was a stay-at-home mom.
A mom who was expecting life at home with her colicky baby girl to be fun, happy, restful, and quiet. Who learned that ‘doing life’ all day at home alone with a cranky baby who didn’t sleep, wasn’t that easy.
I felt isolated, was grieving and angry over leaving my lucrative job, and I felt terrible.
I was at least 15 pounds heavier and getting more depressed by the day.
But then, I didn’t care because I convinced myself that I wasn’t worthy of self-care, and I had no motivation. I remember waking up one day, looking around and realizing I had ‘lost’ who I once was.
But, as time moved forward, the idea of starting something new seemed impossible.
At least, that’s how I felt. I was embarrassed by what I saw in the mirror – and didn’t even recognize myself.
But We Are Worthy of Self-care
If you’re going through any of these things like I did, you might be wondering if you have a fighting chance at getting back to where you once were.
Or, you might wonder if it’s even worth it. You might feel like you (and your self-care) are not the priority anymore.
And, many days you don’t feel like it is ok to put yourself as a priority.
What God Says and Does:
You know what? Scheduling AND KEEPING time with God erases ALL of these lies and worries.
That’s why He wants you to make Him the priority!
Spending time in Scripture provides the validation that you ARE worthy, and that taking the time to care for yourself is healthy and essential in the Lord’s eyes.
He is God. He is the creator of all things, including you.
He could have created you to be maintenance-free. But He didn’t make you that way.
He didn’t make ANY of us that way.
So that means taking care of your body, mind, and soul is what God expects from you.
Scripture teaches that God is holy, and is the standard and the source (through the Holy Spirit) of faithfulness.
Jesus lived out and demonstrated the example of faithfulness in the New Testament with His disciples and followers. And now, the Holy Spirit is ready and able to bring this character trait to full maturity in our lives today.
How do we allow the Holy Spirit to do this?
Hebrews 11:6 tells us, “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” (NIV)
Remember? Through faith.
So, make it a point now to start scheduling and keeping your time with God. Got a busy family? 10-15 minutes a day is a great way to start and is entirely possible!
The Second Step to Develop Faith-driven Self-care: Bring Self-care into Your Prayer Time
I had never used faith-driven self-care before, but the Lord taught me how to do it through prayer. This is how I discovered that it can be as simple as earnestly asking God to help you take better care of yourself.
In the past, I think I kind of separated my physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual needs in prayer. But, we don’t need to do that; we are living beings with all of these systems woven as one.
Psalms 139:13-14 reads, “For you created my inmost being. You knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”(NIV).
God knows exactly how each one of us needs help with our self-care.
He understands more of what we need than we do!
What God Says or Does:
The Lord already expects us to talk to Him about all of our needs.
Did you see the point in the Scripture verse above? God made you wonderfully and knitted you together. That means that taking care of your physical needs is just as important (and not separate from) the importance of taking care of your spiritual needs.
Scripture also teaches that God is pleased when you take care of your body in a way that is honoring to Him.
One example of this in Scripture is Romans 12:1 which reads, “Therefore I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God-this is your true and proper worship.” (NIV).
When you offer your body (and the loving way you care for your body) as a form of worship, it is pleasing to the Lord.
The Lord sees you and your body as valuable, so the care you give to your body is precious (worthy) to Him too.
You see, you are precious to the Lord, and it is essential to take proper care of yourself.
Therefore, you also need to look at yourself and your self-care as worthy.
Good self-care can impact your attitude and your caregiving. Aren’t you happier caring for your family when you have plenty of rest and are well spiritually, physically, mentally, and emotionally?
Resentment can squash your joy in the service of parenting, caregiving, and ministry, especially when your family IS your mission field!
Bringing self-care into your prayer times can prevent resentment towards your family.
Finally, when you start talking about self-care during your prayer time, you’ll find you will also begin to bring prayer into your self-care.
God becomes a natural and comfortable part of your self-care routine.
Third: Use Faith-driven Self-care to Surrender to God’s Will & Timing
I described getting lost in the list of to-dos, the chaos, the barriers, and the stress of keeping the schedule of a person serving or caring for others.
But I had another problem. Maybe a bigger problem. I was so busy serving and taking care of others, that I could never get around to fulfilling my calling; my purpose.
I even knew what God wanted me to do! But, I didn’t think I could add one more thing to my busy schedule!
But after A LOT of prayer time, I learned that I had a problem saying no.
And, with the Lord’s help, I realized I also didn’t attempt to control my schedule at all because I made ‘pleasing others’ and ‘making everyone happy’ my idol.
Faith-driven self-care helped me learn how to prioritize appropriately (surrender) how I spent my time.
Moreover, I was also afraid I was going to mess up something. In my marriage, my life, my family, my job, my children. I didn’t see it until I spent a lot of time with the Lord about it, but there was a reason behind my idolatry.
I was afraid. I didn’t want to fail!
Fear is a substantial barrier to lots of things, including taking better care of yourself. It prevented me from seeing that God was working in other people’s lives. By that, I mean I had a tough time watching people struggle-even when it was for something good.
So I tried to control everything!
I thought that doing everything for the people I loved (which was micromanaging them) was my role and that I was helping them.
But the truth – I was doing too much! It wasn’t going to make an impact in their struggles, and I was taking time away from the things the Lord expected me to do.
So, faith-driven self-care showed me how to manage my time for my self-care, caring and serving others, and fulfilling my purpose.
What God Says or Does:
God is always faithful. He delivers on His promises. And He is continuously in control.
Worshipping only God (and not my family, pleasing others, or avoiding failure) allowed me to build confidence and trust in God’s faithfulness to my family and me. I also learned how comfortable my belief and obedience to the Lord could be.
God can handle all of my family’s needs!
When I surrendered to God’s will and timing and trusted God’s faithfulness, I felt an overwhelming sense of calm.
This trust led to an appropriate level of control of my future health and wellness.
Eventually, I learned that my children are going to fail. And that this wasn’t necessarily a reflection of my parenting, but just a part of growing up. Sometimes it was even a part of God’s plan.
God uses everything for His good and human failings may teach or prepare us for something more significant in God’s plan.
Nonetheless, it is not appropriate to take ownership of another person’s failings-especially when it interferes with time for our self-care.
Surrendering to God’s will and timing helped extinguish my fears – the driver of my micromanaging actions that took me away from taking better care of myself and fulfilling my purpose and calling for the Lord.
It all started with finding more time in my schedule (because I wasn’t doing everything for my family).
Then, I wanted to be at my best serve the Lord and work for Kingdom growth.
Finally, when I surrendered to worshipping only the Lord, trusted Him to respond to me for seeking Him and asked Him to help me with my self-care, He equipped me as I walked forward in faith.
Faith-driven Self-care Occurs Through Small Steps of Obedience & Big Leaps of Faith
Like so many of you, when caring for my family was my top (only) priority, I found several self-care ‘shortcuts.’
I figured I was young and in good health, so you know, I would be okay for a while.
Over time, I realized how easily ‘a while’ can turn into years. Lots of years.
One morning I woke up and realized I couldn’t wait any longer to take better care of myself.
This sounds like a great thing, right? But it wasn’t.
I felt so burdened.
All I could think was how monumental my task was. I mean, how do I fix years of basically just ‘coasting’?
How do I adapt and change all of the habits I’ve developed over the years; the shortcuts, the cheats, the quick and efficient methods I’ve designed to get everyone out the door just in time for today’s deadline?
It looked like a HUGE change was going to be required. Something BIG will need to happen to fix ‘all of this’ (insert your favorite ‘hottie’ cliche here!).
Can I tell you a little secret? I knew the wake-up day was coming. I had already tried to change a few habits.
But I couldn’t stick to any of them.
Every time I decided to replace one, someone in my family needed something changed, moved, altered or otherwise, and I wasn’t able to keep with it. And, I remember thinking that it’s not just me I’m changing here. It’s me and the big long, heavy-as-a-sea-monster tail behind me called my family.
I thought that anything I tried to do had to be significant enough to work for me and my family too. And I couldn’t pull all of that weight.
I tried to change things, and I couldn’t make it happen. How in the world can I change all of us? And eventually, I wasn’t sure if it was even worth starting.
First, because I didn’t have a clue where to start.
And second, because I couldn’t handle the expected failure over and over!
What God Says or Does:
You know what? God is so good. I mean it.
We don’t have to feel like we have to make significant changes. And we don’t have to do it ourselves. That is the beauty of developing and maturing faithfulness.
We can put our efforts into trusting that God will change and improve us through the Holy Spirit.
When we commit to spending time with the Lord, bring self-care into our prayers (and then prayers come into our self-care), surrender to God’s will and timing, we are changing!
He takes us on this journey so we see how these little steps of obedience build and strengthen our faith. Then, we trust Him more. And even more.
Proverbs 3:26 explains, “for the Lord will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being caught.” (ESV).
“He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.” (Psalm 91:4)(NIV).
When I did all of the things above, the Lord reminded me He was always present with me. Always.
As I believed He was present, and I sought Him and had faith that He WOULD respond to me – just for earnestly seeking Him, I found courage, peace, protection, and strength.
When we take care of ourselves and work to honor the Lord in the process, we take steps of faith. The Lord will accept our actions of faith as obedience.
It happened to me. And friend, it will happen for you too.
Increases in the faithfulness of the Lord reduces the fear within us.
Trusting God with the journey and leaning on the Holy Spirit will give you the bold confidence to keep going!
Remember the 4 Steps of Faith-driven Self-care:
1. Spend time with God
2. Bring self-care into your prayer time
3. Surrender to God’s will & timing
4. Make small steps of obedience and big leaps of faith
In closing, I know I wrote a lot of information about how to use faith-driven self-care to take better care of yourself.
However, I want to see that there is only one starting place. And I know you can do it.
Spend time with God and stick to the meeting time with Him.
Bring your self-care needs, fears, and requests for your prayer time.
When you start talking about self-care during your prayer time, you’ll find you’ll also begin to bring prayer into your self-care. God will become a natural and comfortable part of your self-care routine.
I believe He will lead you to the next steps on your self-care journey.
And, friend, I believe in you.
Ready for more?