The church should be part of nurturing self-care

We live in a world of self-help manuals. The genre itself used to leave behind a bad taste – almost like a social stigma. No longer. Millennials have revamped and updated the genre, buying into a movement that focuses on living your best self. The genre now markets itself as self-improvement or personal development. A rebrand has occurred.

Increasingly, I’ve noticed a shift in my students – they’re more conscious and focused on their own personal sense of well-being. Self-care – whether through exercise, volunteering, retreats, habit-building,  etc. – has become a trending concept. It’s no longer frowned upon to admit to staying in, lounging and binge-watching Netflix rather than going out – because you’re participating in “self-care.”

This particular moment in history seems to correlate with this rise in self-improvement. We’re encountering a world of financial turbulence and political insecurity. In my quick scan of the bookshelves, at least five books had help for “adulting” in the title. As we struggle to make sense of and find our own place in the world, we’re looking for balance – how to enrich our personal lives to achieve fulfillment and goals  previously achieved in careers and professional spaces.

As the boundaries between professional and personal spaces become increasingly blurred, “adulting” has become certainly different in terms of preserving a healthy sense of mental wellbeing. We live in a digital age that encourages mindlessly scrolling our newsfeeds, mindlessly watching shows and taking in various media. The rebranded self-improvement movement focuses on mindfulness. Apps and blogs, like “A Peace of Me,” are devoted to “living an integrated life, bridging the gap between spirituality and success – in a way that’s easy to digest and understand, promoting the use of technology but in a much more mindful manner.”

In that one statement, perhaps , we see a bit of a problem. What, exactly, does spirituality entail? We know that young adults are becoming more “spiritually” minded – and that contributes to a lack of engagement in the Catholic faith. Spiritual has come to mean not an adherence to faithful tenets, but a devotion to individual mind and body positivity. 

It seems to be a little-known fact among young adults that it’s okay to make an appointment with your parish priest. I was somewhat hesitant myself. While seeking a therapist – for which you’ll be charged – has become normalized, admitting to seeing and talking with a priest – which is free – is not. And yet, the right priest could make all the difference. I’ve struggled with a lot, personally and religiously this past year, and not once did it cross my mind to call up a priest. Talking with a friend over coffee, she gave me the phone number of her priest: “Call him. He’s made a world of difference.” It was exactly what I needed.

Certainly, we’re living in a changing world and, with those changes, new outlooks on self-care are important. But integral to that change comes our own embracing of the Church. Like all relationships, our relationship to our faith is challenging and needs constant nurturing. But you won’t find that on a bookshelf. 

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