When Self-Care Isn’t Enough

If I’m honest, I’ve had an uneasy relationship with self-care. I enjoy bubble baths and pedicures as much as the next girl, but I recently realized that my idea of self-care was missing the mark.

The epiphany came on a day when I was pairing up mismatched socks, listening to my children bicker in the other room while feeling a low-level anxiety gnawing at the edges of my mind. In that moment of blinding ordinariness, I realized that even when I’m not “working,” I’m still working. I’m putting dishes in the dishwasher. I’m picking up stray granola bar wrappers. Even when I watch a movie with my husband, I’m returning emails, writing out the week’s menu, or mentally listing tasks that need to be accomplished.

And I realized: I don’t need more self-care. I need rest. And they are vastly different things.

Psalm 127:2 says it this way:

It is useless for you to work so hard
from early morning until late at night,
anxiously working for food to eat;
for God gives rest to his loved ones. (NLT)

Rest is a gift from God that I’ve too often denied myself. I’ve convinced myself that I’m too busy, or it’s too selfish, or I just don’t have the time.

At the root of our attempt at self-care is the very real need for rest. But as Christians, our rest is ultimately found in Him.

The greatest act of self-care you can give yourself is simply permission to rest.

Jesus shows us a new way. Something that doesn’t require us to buy more stuff, consume more things, or covet what we don’t have. We don’t need to live a life of scarcity, looking to consume more to feel better. Remember what Psalm 23 says? The Lord is my shepherd—I have all that I need. An abundant life isn’t something to strive for in the margin of your life, in those stolen moments where you escape your family, work, or the mounds of laundry weighing you down—it’s something to which you already have access.

On vacation last week, rest looked like lazy walks on the beach with my 4-year-old, her hand in mine, the sand firm and warm beneath our feet. This week, it’s found in the chorus of frogs in the pond behind our home, in the warmth of the sun on my face as I pad out to the mailbox. It’s appreciating the heat of the coffee mug cupped between my hands. It’s noticing that the robin has returned to run his beak into my windows for the third morning in a row. It’s in the moments before I exit the car to pick up a child from school, in the stillness of the morning, and in the pause after I turn out my bedside lamp. Friends, self-care is not another form of striving to look good or slim down. It’s finding renewed strength—not at the spa, but in ordinary moments when we’re reminded of our desperate need for a living God.

All it requires is a breath, a prayer, a moment of presence.

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matthew 11:28-30 (MSG)


Kristin Demery