31 Jan Is it Self-Care or Self-Sabotage?
Let’s get real about the concept of self-care. There is a lot of buzz on social media that celebrates and encourages the practice of self-care. They suggest engaging in yoga, mediation, eating foods that help your body, making therapy appointments or even taking a nap–all healthy ways to honor your body and mind. But, so many people are misunderstanding this concept as well. Many of the things they suggest as “self-care,” may actually be self-sabotaging your health.
Messages that are intended to inspire you can make you feel insecure or encourage you to be less mindful about your limits. For example, “do this diet to change your life” or “treat yourself to a spa appointment.” These sound like great ideas when you’ve got a nutritionist or doctor guiding you on the right health plan or if you have the money and the time to get an intense spa session, but if it interferes with your budget or keeps you from feeling good before or afterwards, it’s actually causing you much negativity.
You see, when we do things that don’t align with our unique lifestyle or body and we avoid tuning into what our body needs or what feels good for us, we are likely creating self-sabotaging habits that hurt us in the long run.
The practice of self-care is simply engaging in actions that improve our mental and physical health. However, with all the attention it’s getting, I see many people making self-care an excuse for overspending, spending hours in front of the screen and prolonging important actions like necessary appointments or tasks (i.e. paying bills or going to the dentist ‘later’ isn’t taking care of your body or your credit score). Many people are confusing self-care with overindulgent, avoidant and unhealthy activities that sabotage their health.
What Self-Care Really Means
“Treat yourself” isn’t a good message for self-care. It doesn’t feel good to be on hold with the credit card company, but if I’m doing it to get a charge disputed (aka more money in my pocket), I am going to feel fantastic later. It’s making time to do the things you NEED to do to feel better.
Self-care isn’t something that you can just put off until you have more time or money. Your brain, body, family and self-esteem suffer when you don’t take time to tune-in to your needs. It’s not selfish, it’s necessary.
Self-care is a very active and powerful choice to engage in the activities that are necessary to gain or maintain an optimal level of health. If that feels like it’s costly or annoying, remember it doesn’t have to be. You can engage in simple activities to improve your health without spending a lot of money or time.
Simple Ways to Start a Healthy Self-Care Practice
- Check-in with yourself several times a day. Get in the habit of being mindful about how you are feeling. Before you check your phone, check in with yourself. Ask yourself: “What feels good right now and what feels off? What do I need to do to feel better?” For me, this may mean drink more water, respond to that email I forgot about or maybe even write in my journal. When we listen to our bodies, we are practicing self-care in a profound way.
- How are you giving more than you’re receiving? Fix that. If you are giving more to a person, a job or an experience and not getting an even exchange of energy in return, you’re going to burn out. Look for things you can begin to reduce so that you can make more time for yourself and the people in your life that do value your time and energy.
- Avoid avoiding. Self-care can mean stepping up for yourself and getting out of your ego’s way. Make the doctor or dentist appointment that you’ve been avoiding, or call or email your accountant. Adulting can be hard or annoying, but it’s an act of self-care to take action rather to avoid. You may feel anxious or worried about the next steps, like going to the doctor, but you’re honoring your body’s needs and the next steps will feel easier.
- Take your time. We are in a culture that profits off of fear and insecurity. By allowing yourself to take time before buying something, making plans or pressing send on a text or email, you are giving yourself an opportunity to do what’s best for you. Think about how gratifying it is when you decide not to buy another shirt that you likely don’t need or saying no to plans that you really don’t have the energy for. Don’t let FOMO make you feel like you’re going to miss out on something. If it doesn’t work out when you’re ready, it wasn’t supposed to.
- Think about the things that really serve your body and mind. You do have to push yourself sometimes to get on the exercise machine, make that call or to get out of your own way, but this should be with the intention to feel better within a few minutes.
Activities that allow your brain to slow down and reset are the things that keep you healthy and happy. Make a list of these things and try to do one of them each day. Some examples are:
- Drinking water and staying hydrated
- Exercise (even for 10 minutes–helps me feel so much better)
- Eating regularly (and avoiding foods that you’re sensitive to)
- Putting your phone on silent
- Taking your supplements
- Playing with your dogs
- Talking to close friends
Self-care activities aren’t always super fun, but no one said they had to be. They need to be the things that help you feel your best.
Try doing one new self-care practice each day and see how you feel. Chances are, it will make you proud of yourself and will lead to more activities that help you improve your mental and physical health.
Authored by: Emily Roberts