By: Hadassah Umbarger, Guest Writer
Mini complaint, guys. Why does self-care have to be hard? Generally, when we try to “sociologize” what’s wrong with our culture, nation, or world, I feel like we come to the conclusion that we as humans are just obsessed with ourselves and no one else. If we cared for other people as much as we care for ourselves, then basically every major problem would go away, right? World hunger, poverty, etc. etc…
But I’m here to propose that we don’t care for ourselves. We might care for ourselves in the sense that, yes, we look for what’s going to be the most beneficial, comfortable, and easiest for us, but we don’t care for ourselves in things like looking after our physical and mental health as well as we ought to. I see you. Yes, you should feel called out.
This has been something that’s been bothering me this semester for multiple reasons -- one of which is my noticing myself and the friends around me slowly slipping into a routine of carelessness. Another was when a friend of mine had a realization that when we as Christians are called by Jesus to love our neighbor as ourselves, love of self is implied. We might feel like it’s “holier” or “better” to put others’ needs before our own, but friends, it’s hard to care for other people when you don’t care for yourself.
For instance, I’m a happier, healthier person when I let myself do some of my random hobbies occasionally. Is it, in the strictest sense of the word, necessary to devote some time to painting a watercolor chicken or making a miniscule dinosaur walking a dog out of clay? Absolutely not. I will continue to live, and the people around me will continue to live. But when I do those things, it refreshes my soul in a way, and then I’m empowered to be more alive and present, more joyful and loving to the people around me.
But having hobbies that I enjoy and having the strength to devote time to them, is hard -- and I feel like it’s one of the later steps when we’re reevaluating our self-care. Listy friends, it’s time for a list. Let’s start with the basics:
1. Have I been getting/giving myself enough sleep? If not, why not?
2. Have I been giving my body the things it needs besides sleep -- water, good food at regular times, and fresh air and exercise every once in a while?
Now let’s kick it up a notch. Remember, this is just a suggestion. This list is by no means comprehensive and all-entailing, and it will look slightly different for each person. How are you doing with the more external regular tasks?
1. Cleanliness: Have I been able to keep myself, my room, and my laundry relatively clean? Or do I end up in a bind and stressing out because I neglect those things?
2. Homework: Don’t panic, but have you been able to complete any homework early this semester? Why or why not?
3. This won’t apply to everybody, but if you have pets/plants, have you been able to stay on top of caring for them?
Oof. Now I’m starting to feel called out by myself. But it’s ok, we’re gonna work through this together. It’s time for our last tier: seemingly superfluous but life-giving (or sucking) things.
1. When I get on my phone, watch Netflix or YouTube or check my social media, am I doing it because I want to or because I don’t have anything else to do? What’s my screen time average each week?
2. Do I have hobbies that I enjoy? Do I let myself do them ever? Or since they aren’t homework, do I deem them as not necessary? When was the last time I read a book or did something “real” for me?
3. Have I been spending any time in prayer? Do I ever take my stress to Jesus or just try to power through?
4. Do the friends I hang around encourage a culture of self-care, or do we fall back on things like self-deprecating humor and end up not caring for ourselves together?
5. Do I have someone I could coerce into being an accountability partner? Someone who I could encourage to be more self-caring while counting on them to do the same for me? Think work-out buddy, but for your overall health. It can be anyone, really: your mom, a teammate, a dog even.
I encourage you to look this list over, and pick one or two things that you can start changing now. Because yes, you can. Just because some of us have done the first half of this semester this way doesn’t mean we can’t change the next half. And I’m going to try too.
We got this, friends. Let’s make the second half of this semester, and the rest of 2021, a time where we can learn to care for ourselves more.
PHOTO: Courtesy Photo, Unsplash