Self-Care in an Unpredictable World

The concept of self-care has transcended mere social media trends and become a profound movement with real implications for wellbeing. While it might conjure images of luxurious bubble baths and fragrant candles, the roots of self-care delve deeper, offering strategies for effectively managing stress in an unpredictable world. As political unrest, pandemics, natural disasters and economic uncertainties persist, the need for effective stress relief strategies has never been more essential. Amidst various forms of self-care, the power of rest emerges as a potent antidote to stress. An age-old practice of finding solace and connection in the middle of life’s chaos is encapsulated in the idea of a Sabbath rest.

Diving into Sabbath Rest

The concept of a 24-hour rest period has ancient origins, dating back to the beginnings of this world. The first book of the Bible, Genesis, tells of God’s creation of the Earth in seven days, culminating in the creation of humans on the sixth day. However, on the seventh day, something unique occurs—God, having completed His work, rests. Genesis 2:2 captures this unprecedented moment, stating that “On the seventh day God had finished his work of creation, so he rested from all his work” (NLT).

The term “rested” in this context is shabbat, signifying a cessation from work. God ceased His labour on the seventh day. Subsequently, the idea of Sabbath rest is reiterated in the Ten Commandments. The fourth commandment encourages the remembrance of the Sabbath day to keep it holy, based on the example set by God Himself during the creation week (the commandments can be found in the second book of the Bible: Exodus 20).

The term shabbat is intertwined with another Hebrew word, nuakh, often used in conjunction with it. While shabbat denotes a literal cessation of work, nuakh encompasses a different type of rest—a settling, dwelling, and finding peace. Together, they describe not only a pause in activity but also a profound experience of comfort and connection—a restful engagement of heart, mind and spirit.

Sabbath and Hygge

Imagine experiencing this restful engagement during a snowy visit to Copenhagen in the heart of winter. As snowflakes softly descend on cobblestone streets, you’re enveloped in an atmosphere of hygge—an intricate Danish concept embodying coziness, contentment and wellbeing through appreciating life’s simple pleasures. 

Hygge, which CEO Meik Wiking of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen calls a defining feature of Danish cultural identity, evokes feelings of warmth akin to snuggling by a fire with a book or a hot chocolate.Interestingly, the translations of shabbat and nuakh evoke a similar essence—a pause imbued with comfort and a spiritual, physical and emotional experience.

Beyond Individual Wellbeing

While the modern self-care movement emphasises personal wellbeing, it misses a crucial point—resting in isolation is inherently limiting. Sabbath rest extends beyond individual self-care to encompass communal care, global care and earth care. Psychologists recognise the benefits of communal reflection, not only for individuals but also for entire communities.

The ancient commandment to observe the Sabbath day doesn’t merely target individuals. In Exodus 20:9, the commandment extends to the household, even including foreigners among them. In the context of ancient Israel, families comprised extended relatives, servants and livestock. Hospitality was a cultural cornerstone, making rest coordination a community-wide endeavour. The emphasis is not solely on individual rest but on collective wellbeing.

In the contemporary context, the Sabbath principle persists. To fully experience Sabbath rest, the burden of work should be lifted from the entire community. Observers of the Sabbath often refrain from shopping, entertainment or sports, recognising the importance of alleviating the burden of service from others. This act of abstention highlights the interconnectedness of rest, community and service.

Furthermore, Sabbath rest offers opportunities to serve the community. Some use this time to extend invitations, visit those who are alone or perform simple acts of kindness. This amplifies the principle that Sabbath is about more than individual practice—it’s a collective expression of God’s love.

A Beacon of Hope

In our current world, marred by conflicts, uncertainties and challenges, the Sabbath rest shines as a beacon of hope and peace. While it has historical roots in the creation of the world and the lives of the ancient Israelites, it’s equally relevant today. Sabbath rest isn’t merely about relationships among humans—it’s about a profound connection with God.

To shabbat (cease) is to nuakh (dwell)—to pause, cease working and rest in a deeper relationship with God. Embracing a Sabbath day allows room for God to dwell within our lives, our communities and our relationships. It’s a weekly practice of rejuvenation, reflection and reconnection.

As the self-care movement continues to gain momentum, let’s remember that the essence of rest transcends personal boundaries. Sabbath rest encompasses a holistic wellbeing that radiates outward to touch our communities, relationships and the world. It’s an enduring practice that echoes across cultures and times, inviting us to find solace, peace and communion amidst life’s challenges.

Watch this webinar for more helpful expert advice on the health benefits of the Sabbath.

The original version of this article appeared in Signs of the Times.