Crafting Our Own Self-Care Practice: advice from eshel's new social work intern

I’m Sara Hessdorf, and I’m excited to be joining Eshel this year as a social work intern. I’m passionate about finding ways to strengthen the Jewish community through empathy and listening. I’m looking forward to meeting some of you at one of our support groups or at a social event in New York City!

I wanted to share some of my favorite ways to make caring for your mental health more accessible. In our fast-paced world, it’s easy to overlook the importance of slowing down, checking in with ourselves, and taking care of our mental health. Both the frum Jewish world and the LGBTQ+ community have rich traditions of caring for one another, and we have the privilege of drawing on both of these worlds to create a self-care practice that resonates with our unique selves.

1. Honoring Ourselves

Self-care isn’t just about bubble baths and candles (though those are lovely too!). It’s about honoring ourselves and prioritizing our well-being, especially in the face of challenges. Whether you’re struggling with family acceptance, feeling isolated in your community, or simply craving connection, know that you’re not alone. 

Each of us has a unique neshama and is created in God’s Divine image. Taking care of our bodies and our minds is one of our sacred tasks. There are many ways we might take time on a regular basis to honor ourselves:

  • Repeating positive affirmations
  • Meditation
  • Davening
  • Affirming or celebrating your identity (even privately)
  • Doing something that makes you feel good, or taking yourself out on a solo date

2. Finding Balance

One of the greatest gifts of our tradition is Shabbat, a day of rest and rejuvenation. Let’s reclaim this sacred time to nourish our souls, connect with loved ones, and disconnect from the noise of the world. Whether it’s taking a moment to pause when lighting candles, enjoying a leisurely meal, or taking a mindful walk, Shabbat offers us a precious opportunity to find balance amidst the chaos.

If your Shabbos tends to be a busy and social day, you might try to bring a few hours of Shabbat to another day of the week by turning off your phone and taking a long walk, setting the table and eating a favorite meal, inviting a few close friends over, or taking a weekday nap.

Some ways to make Shabbat a moment of self-care:

  • Read a good book
  • Take a nap or rest without an alarm
  • Have a deep conversation with a friend, being fully present in the moment
  • Go for a long walk
  • Make mealtimes special and don’t rush

3. Community Care

As Jews, we understand the power of taking care of one another. Be there for others in your community when they need support – and don’t hesitate to reach out when you need help, too. We can lean on each other for support, empathy, and a listening ear. Whether you reach out through Eshel’s warmline or join one of our peer support groups, know that Eshel has resources available to uplift and empower you on your journey.

Resources for community support:

  • Warmline
  • Eshel support groups and events
  • Friends
  • Family
  • Local Jewish or LGBTQ+ Community (If you need help finding an inclusive Jewish community near you, ask us about Welcoming Shuls in your area)
  • For crisis support:

Self-care is not selfish—it’s essential. Let’s honor ourselves, embrace our identities, and nurture ourselves with love and compassion. Together, we can create a world where all LGBTQ+ Orthodox Jews feel seen, supported, and celebrated.

P.S. If you’re looking for support or just want to chat, don’t hesitate to reach out to Eshel. We’re here for you, every step of the way.  

Sara Hessdorf headshot Sara Hessdorf