Where Self-Care Falls Short

Self-care is a hot topic at the moment. Between the start of a new year and new year’s resolutions and an increase in mental health awareness and de-stigmatization (Woohoo!), everywhere I turn I see a podcast, an essential oils remedy, a self-care “how to” list, etc. As someone who has struggled with anxiety and is often terrible at resting and setting boundaries for myself, I jump at the opportunity to read or listen to something else that might help me. And yet, I walk away with a few snippets of advice that sound good in the moment but do not last longer than a meager 48 hours at most.

As I have entered into my fourth semester of college, I have found myself frazzled and out of breath. Trying to settle into a new routine and schedule can be overwhelming. My mom will call me and ask how I am doing with my anxiety and I tell her that I am too busy to worry about it. And then after a few weeks of “being too busy to worry about it,” it only takes something small to make me crumble.

PSA: this is not healthy. I know this and it is something I am fighting to change.

My self-care and rest HAS to look different. My tried and true tips are not sufficient. And there is one simple reason for this: 

“Self-care without Christ will not last.”

– David Marvin, The Porch

I was listening to a sermon from The Porch, a college ministry based out of Texas, when Dave Marvin said this and I practically stopped in my tracks. It is not a new truth to me by any means, but I had never heard it phrased this way. 

I know that my ultimate rest will only be found in Christ and yet I choose self-sufficiency over the one who will never leave me thirsty (John 4). In Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus promises to give rest to those who come to Him when they are weary and heavily  burdened. He wants to walk through the heavy with us because the rest he will provide is more than physical — it is emotional and spiritual as well. Don’t get me wrong here: exercising, sleep, yoga, reading a book or whatever you do to decompress are not wrong, but choosing them over Jesus will lead only to temporary relief and will ultimately disappoint. I have had to ask myself why I am choosing instant gratification over all-sufficient strength found in Jesus.

The answer is simple and it is one of my biggest weaknesses: Comfort. One of my greatest desires is to feel safe and secure. I hate change and I long to stay in what is familiar, what is comfortable. It is comfortable for me to stick to my self-care routine because I know I have instant results. It is comfortable for me to run to social media so that I can distract myself or find someone to listen to me complain. It is comfortable for me to use my coping methods as an excuse to not engage with others or do something that I do not want to do.

But the only place I will truly find my rest is in Jesus. When I wait on him, I will be filled with the strength of the Lord (Isaiah 40:30-31). I need to invite Jesus into my self-care. He needs to be the center of it all or I will come up empty. I knew that I would have to rewrite my self-care with Jesus woven throughout.

This looks like going to the gym, which is good for my physical and mental health, and listening to a sermon or worship music. It looks like starting my day with Jesus instead of social media, something I am still working on. It looks like having people in my life who will hold me accountable about my rest and ask me if I have prayed first before they give advice. It looks like taking any downtime I have and filling it with Jesus and truth, whether it is through music, reading a book, or journaling my prayers. 

Find what brings you the most rest and invite Jesus into that time and I promise you will feel more renewed than you thought possible. 

I do not write about my anxiety or my struggles because I have it all figured out. In fact as I was working on this post on Saturday, I was in a mental battle against my anxiety. Just under 6 hours later, I had an anxiety attack. I was frustrated. I thought I had been managing it well. And yet, here I am writing a post about self-care and Jesus and I am failing at it myself. I am telling you this because battling mental health requires grace. Sometimes our brains do things we just do not understand and that is okay. Our response is what matters. I quickly called my roommate and told her what was going on and she encouraged me to go back to the room and invite Jesus into my mess. So I did. A long hot shower with some worship music and prayer did not solve everything, but it forced me to lean into Jesus for my rest. It is okay to not be perfect — that is why we have the gift of grace.

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