Weekly Devotional: Self-Care in College

Student looking frustrated at desk

College life can be a tough adjustment. For many college students, it is often their first time experiencing life away from family and their hometown. As part of finding success in this new season of life, prioritizing self-care can be an important component.

A key point to remember is that self-care is not an act of selfishness. As Christians, we can use examples of times when Jesus took time away from his ministry to tend to his own needs. Humans need to step away from their daily activities to care for themselves and to not confuse that care with acts of selfishness.

In This Devotional: 

What Is Self-Care? 

Self-care is the practice of tending to your own individual needs when you start to lack in certain areas. God created human beings to have needs. Some are physical, like the need for sleep, nutrition and exercise. Some are emotional, like the need for understanding, connection and support. Some needs are spiritual, like the need for peace, wisdom and feeling a sense of purpose or fulfillment.

As young adults, we need to make time to care for these needs. Self-care in college means to learn to listen to your body, mind and spirit so you can provide for your own needs. In college you have the opportunity to interact with tons of new people, try different activities around your campus, engage in clubs and organizations, and have the freedom to make your own choices about what you want to do. However, with that freedom can come extra stress, such as busyness, lack of sleep, overbooking, falling behind on other commitments, feeling guilty for not saying “yes” and not taking care of yourself.

How Do I Practice Self-Care in College?

God created us uniquely and with specific sets of needs that are going to look different from the needs of those around us. This means your self-care practice should be specific and unique to you and your needs. For example, some new friends from class invited you to go for a late-night McDonald’s run for the third time this week. You’re super excited to go but you know you have a quiz in your 9 am class and you have been feeling a little stressed out about it. You know you want to nurture these friendships but your body is trying to tell you it has other unfulfilled needs. Here you can practice self-care by listening to your body and staying home to get to sleep earlier.

Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” -Mark 6:31 NIV

Self-care in college is all about learning what you need and when you need it. It may take some time before you understand what kinds of practices work best for you. Maybe when you are lacking rest, an evening walk and some tea can help you get sleep. If you are feeling overwhelmed, you might need a quiet movie night with your roommate or go through a devotional during the week. 

Is Self-Care Selfish?

By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done. -Genesis 2:2-3 NIV 

Your wants and your needs might not always line up. You may have to miss out on things others wanted you to do in order to care for your needs. You might find yourself agreeing to every request out of fear of disappointing others or letting them down. You cannot function at your best when your needs are not being met.

In Mark 6:31, Jesus is calling on his disciples to step away from their work and the people who needed them in order to care for their needs. Even though they had important work to do to help others, Jesus understood that their human needs had to be fulfilled before they could continue serving others. In Genesis 2:2-3, we see that God himself took the time to rest after the creation of the world. He took a break from His work to show us that we can too.

For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. -James 3:16 NIV 

Taking a restful break to care for your own needs is not selfish. Selfishness is putting your own desires above others and believing that what you want is more important than what other people want. Selfishness is thinking your needs outweigh everyone else’s and you are willing to put yourself above them. James 3:16 states that selfishness is followed by other sins and can lead you down a dark path. Selfishness is a reflection of your heart. Someone whose heart cares more about their own desires or worldly treasures will continually live in a selfish manner. Occasionally making selfish decisions is part of being human, but the practice of continual self-care is not a selfish one, rather one that reflects a heart that wants to continue to do good things. 

Are you intrigued about pursuing a Christ-centered degree program that not only equips you to assist others in leading more fulfilling lives but also underscores the significance of self-care? Take a deeper look into the counseling and behavioral health degrees offered by Grand Canyon University, where the importance of caring for oneself is integrated into the process of empowering others. 

Approved by the local outreach coordinator of the Office of Spiritual Life on August 30, 2023.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.