Mamas need to know they are doing a good job caring for their families, and sometimes they need reminders to take care of themselves. This is that reminder.
Often, mamas are stretched so thin there’s nothing left to care for ourselves. We have the wisdom to recognize when someone else needs something, but neglect to admit when we need a little TLC too.
Since many of us seek Google’s advice to gauge if we are doing something right or wrong, or how-to do something, just so you know…self-care doesn’t have a straight-forward definition. It’s your overall well being – spiritually, physically, emotionally, diet, hygiene, sleep, etc. So the signs of depletion are easy to miss for those who push through life putting ourselves last. Because, you know, stuff needs to get done.
Surprisingly, yet not surprising, Jesus is the perfect example of how-to maintain overall wellbeing. Yes, Jesus. He’s definitely known for His care for others. But He did manage to care for Himself too. There was even a time or two when He showed us it’s ok to phone a friend for help, because He had someone step in and care for Him, a.k.a. angels (Matthew 4:11, Luke 22:43).
Still pondering Jesus taking care of Himself? Think about His spiritual life. He never neglected it. He knew what needed to happen first, before anything else.
Prayer: Jesus prayed often, and had a favorite location for prayer that even those closest to Him knew its whereabouts. Including His back-stabbing friend, “Judas knew the place…” One of the most fascinating examples is when Jesus was in His go-to prayer spot, the Mount of Olives:
“An angel from heaven appeared to Him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, He prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.” Luke 22:43–44
Have you ever had drips of sweat falling to the ground from praying so fervently?! Maybe from working out or struggling to get an unhappy toddler buckled in their seat while holding onto coats, the bag, their snack, all while trying not to cause a scene. Just me? The point is, prayer is important. Having a dedicated location to pray isn’t a requirement to pray, though it could be helpful.
“Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Matthew 6:33
Hygiene: Motherhood is messy. Sweaty teenagers like to hug us leaving their post-practice stench on our shirt. We have puddle stompers. Babies projectile vomit or have blowout diapers on us. Even the non-verbal man-child resists the diaper change or is frustrated by a routine change. Or time in the sun sitting on bleachers, pushing a swing, chasing toddlers, and nervousness from how best to interact with a foster child can keep us busy and sweaty.
With all-of-the-things going on and all-of-our-people needing us, it’s easy to neglect our shower time or the morning/nightly routine. Jesus shows us that even though we care for others, it’s important to make time to freshen up. He made certain His feet were clean before entering a banquet or home. He even washed the feet of others! John 13:3-17 is where you can find one of the examples. Let’s focus on verse 12:
“When He had finished washing their feet, He put on their clothes and returned to His place. ‘Do you understand what I have done for you?’ He asked them.” John 13:12 (NIV)
Sleep: Sleep is something Jesus did when He needed it. Shamelessly. Better yet, guilt free. Even if it rocked the boat, and His friends were freaking out. Wait. It was the storm that rocked the boat. The friends thought they were going to die, and they couldn’t understand how Jesus could be sleeping. Here’s how it went down, well almost:
“One day Jesus said to His disciples, ‘Let us go over to the other side of the lake.’ So they got into a boat and set out. As they sailed, He fell asleep. A squall came down on the lake, so that the boat was being swamped, and they were in great danger. The disciples went and woke Him, saying, ‘Master, Master, we’re going to drown!’ He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm. ‘Where is your faith?’ He asked His disciples.” Luke 8:22-25 (NIV).
This is permission to take the nap when the baby is sleeping, or the kids are at school, or Sunday afternoon. Even if there’s a million things to-do and everything seems chaotic. All the problems can be better faced when you’re well rested. Guaranteed. Taking time to rest and sleep is an active way to show your faith that God will work everything out and is in control. You don’t have to be “on” all the time. Rest in Him.
Exercise: There’s no surprise to how Jesus could have been in such a deep sleep on a boat. Can you imagine if Jesus and His friends had step counters? They walked everywhere. Which is why He needed to wash His feet before dinner. Well, unless He was in a field multiplying bread and fish for a crowd of thousands – twice! Eating well and lots of walking shows us He cared for Himself physically. Copy and paste. Pick an activity that you enjoy and choose to move today. Your mind will thank you for it as well.
Emotional wellbeing: Ah. The feels. This is a tough one because everything factors into our emotions. Joy and excitement can bring us up. But stress, chaos, worry, and a billion other things weigh us down. Causing us to overthink, feel overwhelmed, and get stuck in misery. Ever notice the shortest scripture is, “Jesus wept.” John 11:35 (NIV). Even Jesus was overflowing with emotions when a friend died and loved ones were struck with grief that He needed a good cry. Sometimes mamas tend to push our own feelings down, think that feelings don’t apply to us, and ignore the warning signs. That is until we run out of suppression space.
Face your emotions head on, let them have their moment, speak truth from scripture over any lies, and then lay those emotions down in prayer at Jesus’ feet. Experiencing and dealing with the emotions will be much healthier than stuffing them down, because you know they will resurface later if you don’t.
Call on a friend, a mentor, or even a counselor recommended by your church to help process through the tough and overwhelming emotions that come with motherhood. You will never regret spending time on your emotional health.
When you feel depleted and have something you need some guidance on, ask God before Google.
Ask God for wisdom to discern where you have some necessities to address, if what you’re doing is a little over-the-top, or why your attitude is a little “extra”. Caring for yourself is more of a balance thing. It’s not consistently depleting ourselves in any area of our life for too long of a time – being out of balance is bound to happen.
When you’re overwhelmed, coming out of a tough season, or not feeling well it’s ok to take the time to reset. Remember, prayer is a direct line to the ultimate care giver. Trust your Shepherd to guide you through taking care of yourself, so you can take care of those He has entrusted to you.
The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
Psalm 23:1-3a (ESV)
Stephanie is a literary agent and marketer with The Blythe Daniel Agency, Inc. She helps non-fiction and select fiction writers polish up their book proposal, and secures books with publishers. Stephanie also promotes books by curating and executing custom publicity campaigns and online marketing plans. She has worked in publishing for 8 years and represents bestselling authors and new voices.