Oxford Languages defines self-care as “taking action to preserve or improve one’s own health; the practice of taking an active role in protecting one’s own well-being and happiness, in particular during periods of stress.”
I didn’t realize how stressed I had been until I woke up lying in the back row of an airplane, wearing an oxygen mask. Apparently, I had been walking down the aisle when I simply fainted. Just before losing consciousness, I remember feeling an overwhelming sense of relief. For one week, our family would be taking a much-needed break from an intense period of life in our host country. I finally felt like I could rest, so my body demanded rest immediately.
Our host country wasn’t causing the stress. In the past, I had been content there. However, one year after we arrived, unforeseen events began that brought insurmountable stress to our team.
We all worked hard so these events would not bring further hurt to our community. The situation was prolonged far beyond our abilities to handle. We were young, scared, and juggling too many impossible tasks. We were also new parents. In the middle of our circumstances, we could not see how unhealthy we were. However, when I woke up in the back of an airplane, I began to realize I was not okay. I had been exhausted too long.
I began to put restful activities into my week, like reading books at a local tea shop on Wednesday mornings. I exercised more often. These activities improved my health considerably and my ability to live in my host country for a few more years.
Eventually our family saw we needed to leave. My husband’s doctor told him that continuing with his current life situation would result in serious health crises early in life. To honor the life God had given us, we needed change. Leaving was not cowardly or unspiritual. It was wise. It was not failure; it was acknowledgment we had done what work we could and needed to move into a new season of life. After a period of rest and counseling in our home country, we are serving as global workers again in a new place. Our situation is not perfect, but we are healthy, thriving, and enjoying seeing God at work.
Why is it temping not to rest?
Perhaps because western culture values busyness. Perhaps because I falsely assume that everything depends on me— when in fact the world was running on its own before I arrived on the scene and will continue to do so after I leave. Perhaps because I sometimes fear that self-care means laziness, indulgence, or that others will judge me for self-care if they discover I’m taking rest. Perhaps because it can be easier to show kindness to others than to myself. But rest is vital to life and work. Taking the rest I need is vital to myself, my family, and everyone I serve. Jesus had a human body that needed rest, so I should not consider myself beyond the need for rest.