Have you ever convinced yourself to do something in the name of #self-care? Watched an entire season of a Friends in one day? It was self-care!
Let’s be real, we’ve all been there. The trouble is that it’s often hard to know whether you’re actually practicing self-care or simply being lazy.
Rest is SO important and I often talk about letting yourself take breaks, but it’s difficult to know sometimes if you actually need a break or if you need to push through and get things done.
For example, exercise is an important element of physical self-care. If you have a workout scheduled but you’ve had a stressful day and feel like taking a break, is it because your body truly needs a rest or because you’re trying to avoid working out? Of course, nothing bad is going to happen if you miss a day, but you may benefit more if you just do the workout.
There’s a difference between self-care, self-soothing, self-indulgence, and laziness – and it’s important to be clear on what these things look like for you. Otherwise, you might be sabotaging yourself by finding excuses NOT to take care of yourself when you actually need self-care in your life.
In this post, I’m sharing some tips to help you distinguish between self-care, self-soothing, self-indulgence, and old fashioned laziness. If you’ve struggled to know whether you’ve been taking care of yourself or sabotaging yourself, this post is for you.
Let’s Talk About Self-Sabotage
What is self-sabotage?
Self-sabotage is getting in the way of your own success. Rather than external circumstances preventing you from reaching your goals, it means you’re doing things that are stopping you from reaching those goals.
One of the best explanations for why we self-sabotage comes from Gay Hendricks’s book, The Big Leap. Hendricks describes that we all have limits to how much love, success, and creativity we will let ourselves enjoy.
When you’re on the verge of a breakthrough, you might fall back into old habits. You might try to push yourself back into your comfort zone when something feels difficult or uncertain (even when you feel like a good change is coming).
How does self-sabotage show up in self-care?
Self-care is so important for protecting your time and energy, but it loses its effectiveness when you start to call everything self-care.
Unless you’re clear on YOUR definition of self-care, you can end up convincing yourself that anything is fair game.
At its core, self-care involves activities and practices we engage in on a regular basis to reduce stress and enhance our well-being.
Here are some examples:
- Setting and sticking to boundaries
- Maintaining good personal hygiene
- Physical exercise
- Meditating regularly
- Talking to a therapist
- Getting enough sleep
Self-sabotage means doing the opposite of the thing you need. You might talk yourself out of self-care and convince yourself that you don’t need it right now or that you need to focus on work instead.
Even knowing this, it’s difficult to identify which actions are self-care or self-sabotage in disguise. Let’s talk about how you can tell the difference.
Types Of Perceived Self-Care
We can call anything self-care if we really want to, but here are some common terms that people often use interchangeably with self-care:
Self-soothing (or self-pampering) involves little to no exertion from you that makes you feel better in some way. It may act as a sense of escape, especially if you’ve had a stressful day. For example, getting a manicure or watching Netflix. You might feel relaxed by these activities, but they’re not necessarily going to help you find balance or become a healthier person.
Now, self-soothing is not frivolous or unimportant. It’s good to relax! But it’s important to know when you’re self-soothing rather than practicing self-care.
There’s also self-indulgence which involves excessive or unrestrained gratification of one’s desires. Self-indulgence is a “treat yo self” mentality. There’s nothing wrong with treating yourself once in a while, but self-indulgence is not true self-care (remember, self-care is about regular practices and habits whereas self-indulgence is better in small doses).
Then we have good old fashioned laziness. Laziness is the quality of being unwilling to work or use your energy to do something. An example of this would be putting off a task (especially related to self-care) because you don’t feel like it.
Is laziness okay? If you’re avoiding something, not exactly. Doing nothing doesn’t always mean you’re being lazy. If you’re being intentional with relaxation, it can serve you well. You’re allowed to veg out and give your mind and body a break.
“Self-care only works if you’re actually caring for yourself and not just letting yourself off the hook.” – Hannah Jack
In order to know if you’re in need of true self-care, you have to listen to yourself and make the choice to do what is best for you. Your mind will try to trick you into doing what’s easiest (which is often the lazy route). That’s why awareness is key.
Everything comes down to awareness. What classifies something as self-care is ultimately the intention behind it, so you have to be aware of your own intentions.
Here are some questions to help you become more aware of your intentions when making decisions around self-care:
- Am I making this decision to escape or avoid something?
- Will this choice help to reduce my stress levels?
- Am I trying to disconnect from myself?
- Will this choice enhance my well-being?
- Will my future self thank me or suffer later because of my actions now?
- Am I letting my head get in the way of doing what I really need?
- Would I be able to do the things that I need to do more effectively if I a) rest now or b) work now and rest later?
- Am I going to feel better by doing this thing? Am I going to feel worse?
Remember, awareness is key. Slow down and ask yourself if what you’re doing is self-improving or self-defeating. When given the chance, choose the option that enhances your well-being.
Written by Catherine Beard
Self care is necessary for our physical and mental health, yet often it’s the first thing we drop when we find ourselves stretched for time. Without adequate self care, we are less likely to be the best possible version of ourselves, and our relationships, work, and experience of the world suffers as a result. Although it might feel like the opposite, the times when we feel least able to pay attention to our self care are the times when we most need it.
If you’re feeling stretched for time, it can be difficult to know how to start fitting self care into your week. Here is the 5-step guide to self care for busy people:
1. Start with Your Needs First
Self care is conventionally portrayed as pampering yourself, however, what it’s really about is meeting your human needs. This could be a need for relaxation, a need for quiet, a need for connection, a need for stability, and much more. Before you engage in any kind of self care related activity, think to yourself: what needs do I want to meet here? What do I need most in my life right now?
Not only will this help you truly care for yourself on a very fundamental level, but it will make your self care more efficient. Instead of engaging in random self care activities in an attempt to feel ‘better’, you can pinpoint exactly what it is you need right now and go straight to meeting that need.
2. Schedule It
“I don’t have enough time” is one of the most common reasons I hear from people who are struggling to engage in self care on a regular basis. The antidote is this belief is to make time. Perhaps this sounds easier said than done, but one certain way to create time for your self care is to schedule it. Find a gap in your calendar during the next week and schedule in an appointment called “self care time”. Then, most importantly, stick to it.
Be realistic with your scheduling: if all you can see is the odd 10-minute gap, use that. Depending on what your current needs are, your self care could simply involve closing your eyes and breathing deeply for a few minutes to relax.
While we’re on the subject of time, let’s talk about priorities. When we feel like we don’t have time to do something important, it’s either because we’re not making time, or because our priorities are out of alignment with what we actually need. Everything we do with our time is a choice. It might feel like we ‘have’ to do certain things, but, in reality, we have complete control over how we spend our time.
You can fit self care into your schedule, no matter how busy you are, by deciding it is a priority. Whether this means making it the first thing you do each morning, forgoing TV or Facebook time, saying ‘no’ to certain commitments, or potentially displeasing others, you can fit self care into your weekly routine if you prioritize.
4. Be Assertive About Setting Your Boundaries
When you start deliberately taking time for yourself and saying ‘no’ to commitments and requests, you might experience resistance from people around you. This can be emotionally challenging, especially if you’re not used to saying ‘no’ or placing your preferences above other people’s. If you’re faced with this kind of resistance, you need to be assertive about your needs and boundaries.
When you start setting down boundaries about what you are and aren’t willing to do, it can be hard to stand your ground in the face of push-back from those around you. Remember: you can take half an hour for yourself, and the world will still be there when you return. And when you do return, you’ll be in a much better, healthier position to deal with the world around you.
Self care is not a luxury. It’s not selfish and it’s not indulgent. Self care is absolutely necessary to your physical and mental health.
5. Focus on Little and Often
Like exercise, meditation, learning, and other beneficial activities, self care is far more effective when you engage with it little and often, as opposed to big chunks every now and again. Practising some kind of self care activity that takes 10-15 minutes a day is far more helpful than one that takes two hours once a month.
As well as the simple deep breathing exercise I mentioned above, other quick self care practices include meditation, short yoga routines, journaling, dancing around the room to a track of your choice, leaving uplifting quotes around your home or office for when you’ll most need them, creating a set of affirmations, or finding a change of scene.
Self care doesn’t have to involve a lot of money, nor does it require a lot of time. If you’re struggling to fit self care into your routine, start small, prioritise, and listen to what you need.
Written by Hannah Braime (LifeHack)
Natural oils are more hydrating and less irritating than many commercial facial cleansers. Give your skin extra hydration with this simple face-cleansing method.
Oil and cleansing may seem about as compatible as oil and water. Yet conventional beauty wisdom notwithstanding, cleansing your face with oil may be a good option if you’re aiming to clean up your personal-care regimen.
Commercial facial cleansers typically contain ingredients that can damage your skin, including surfactants, preservatives, and synthetic fragrances. Washing with oils, however, can help your skin safely retain moisture. It can also unclog pores and even remove makeup.
Whether you’re buying a premixed oil cleanser or simply selecting a specific oil, choose one suited to your skin type. For example, consider avocado oil if you have dry skin; rosemary and camellia-seed oils are good for especially sensitive skin. For oily or acne-prone skin, opt for lighter varieties, like grape-seed or argan oil.
- Pour 1 to 2 teaspoons of your preferred oil into the palm of your hand
- Apply the oil to your dry face. Gently massage it into your skin with your fingertips.
- Soak a washcloth in warm tap water. Wring it out and gently wipe your face to remove oils and any impurities.
- Finish by applying moisturizer, if desired.
Written by Molly Tynjala (Experience Life)
Cucumber and pineapple are naturally hydrating foods, so they can help your liver and kidneys clear toxins from your body. Pineapple is also the only major dietary source of the enzyme bromelain, which helps your body digest protein.
Makes one serving
Prep time: five minutes
Add all ingredients to blender and blend until smooth. Serve.
Written by Maddie Augustin (Experience Life)
Perhaps it’s an antidote to our current age of anxiety, but the self-care movement is having a moment. Everywhere you look, therapists, life coaches, yoga teachers, and others are emphasizing its health benefits. But what is self-care, really?
On social media, where the term is often associated with images of lavish desserts and rose-petal bubble baths, self-care may seem to be about self-indulgence. Perhaps you prefer to view it as a periodic escape from reality: an afternoon at the spa or a Saturday morning spent binge-watching TV.
In fact, the term has roots in medical care but gained more of a following with 1960s political activists, who championed personal wellness to balance the stress they experienced as a result of their work.
In recent years, however, the notion of self-care has struck a chord with a wider audience. In addition to the aspirational, consumer-centric way the phenomenon is often served up in the media — think pricey face masks or luxurious beach vacations — its appeal no doubt owes much to our need for respite from the always-on, hyperconnected environment in which we live.
“People in our culture are waking up to the fact that they have been living incredibly stressful lives,” says Minneapolis-based integrative psychiatrist Henry Emmons, MD, author of The Chemistry of Joyand The Chemistry of Calm. He notes that modern lifestyles conflict with the ways humans are naturally wired to live and thrive, which creates significant physical, mental, and emotional discord.
“It’s not in our nature to be sedentary. It’s not in our nature to sleep six hours or less per night. And it’s not in our nature to eat a lot of really high-calorie foods for long periods of time,” he observes. “Self-care is largely about following the dictate of our evolution; it’s about doing the kinds of things our bodies really want us to do.”
So, while a bubble bath may indeed deliver short-term relief, it’s committing to consistent, personalized, healthful actions that will ultimately help you navigate life’s stressors and make choices that support the life you want to live.
Self-care is quite literally about caring for yourself.
In order to care for yourself, it helps to identify what activities will address your deepest needs — in other words, what makes you healthy and happy. The goal of your personal self-care practice will depend on where you’re starting and which areas of your life you’re hoping to nurture. But, no matter where you are now, turning inward is a good place to begin.
“Self-care starts with self-awareness,” explains Seattle-based productivity and mindfulness coach Sarah Steckler. “The more self-aware you are about your needs, about your emotions, and about what’s coming up, the more able you are to respond versus react to things.”
That means you’re probably not going to find your best self-care ideas on Instagram. Instead, says Emmons, “it means paying attention to how you’re spending the bulk of your waking hours, whom you’re spending them with, whether the work you do is satisfying on the whole or just outright stressful, and the choices you make with regard to money.”
It also means paying attention to how you feel after you eat, and whether choosing healthier foodsmakes a difference. It means noticing your energy levels when you get more or less sleep or when you move your body more or less during the day.
Embracing added structure in your life — going to bed and waking at regular times, for instance — is often a good place to start. These actions anchor you throughout the day and provide regular opportunities to notice how you feel, says Sarah Kucera, DC, founder of Sage Center for Yoga and Healing Arts in Kansas City, Mo., and author of The Ayurvedic Self-Care Handbook.
“It isn’t about being rigid,” Kucera explains. But it is about discipline.
“There’s a crossover where self-care and self-discipline are the same things,” she argues. “Like in the discomfort of getting up in the morning when you want to lie in bed a little bit longer, but then you realize how good you feel because you didn’t lie in bed longer.”
The most effective self-care strategies will emerge from an ongoing process of exploration. Journaling, for example, can help you recognize areas in your life that could use some attention.
“A lot of people resist journaling, but I encourage people to try it anyway,” says Steckler. “When you tap into your stream of consciousness through freewriting, when you actually turn your thoughts into something tangible on paper, you tap into the possibility of a solution.”
Emmons recommends setting aside a few uninterrupted hours as a “mini retreat” to identify self-care needs. “Give yourself a chance to respond to a few good questions,” he suggests. “Anything that can take you to a deeper, more reflective place.”
These questions might include: What kinds of foods do I find most nourishing? Which relationships really feed my soul? How do my finances support my well-being? What kind of movement feels good for my body? What do I like to do for fun?
Even if practicing self-care is a wholly new concept for you, chances are you already have some helpful tools in your toolbox, Emmons says. “Most of us are actually doing quite a few good things for ourselves already. It’s really just a question of which side of ourselves we are paying most attention to.”
5 Truths About Self-Care
The popular buzz often presents a narrow view of self-care. If you think that self-care looks a certain way (or that it applies only to a certain kind of person), it’s time to reconsider. Our experts offer their perspectives on five key truths about self-care for all.
1) Self-care isn’t selfish.
If you’re a parent, a caregiver, or anyone else responsible for the well-being of others, taking time awayfrom those duties can feel inappropriate or even selfish.
“But the truth is, the more we make time to take care of ourselves and the more we put on our own oxygen masks first, the more we empower ourselves to feel fulfilled,” says Sarah Steckler, a mindfulness and productivity coach. And the more fulfilled you feel, the more you have to offer to those who need you.
This mindset applies to your to-do lists, as well. “Taking a break and resting will actually result in your being more energized and more productive,” says Ayurvedic practitioner Sarah Kucera, DC. “People have a hard time seeing this. They see that they’re not getting something done in the short term, but the mental shift to seeing the bigger picture is huge.”
2) Self-care isn’t necessarily relaxing. Or easy.
Self-care may entail sticking to a budget so you can manage your debt. Or maybe it’s modifying your diet and lifestyle so you can wean yourself from medication. It could involve leaving a toxic relationship or learning to establish healthier personal boundaries.
Self-compassion is key to this type of self-care. Far from coddling, self-compassion means cultivating a clear understanding of your situation and facing it with curiosity and kindness — and without judgment.
It also requires understanding that, like everyone else, you are imperfect. Self-compassion supports the disciplined behaviors you practice to create a life that you want. (For more on this, see “Cultivate Self-Compassion.”)
In practicing self-compassionate self-care, says Steckler, “we honor the moment that we’re in and give ourselves permission to be there with ourselves, even when it’s uncomfortable.”
“Change of any sort is difficult,” adds integrative psychiatrist Henry Emmons, MD. “When you’ve been in a less-healthy state, you have created a certain homeostasis. Things are the way they are, and even changing for the better can feel uncomfortable. If you really stick with this, you’re creating a new normal for yourself.”
3) Self-care is for everyone.
The soothing benefits of self-care are certainly not just for those who can afford monthly manicures and massages. Emmons recommends simple sense-awakening practices, like aromatherapy or listening to calming music, as tools available to almost everyone. “Those things are not expensive, and they don’t take a whole lot of time,” he says. “You just have to be present for them.”
And though self-care practices are typically associated with women (Emmons and other experts concede that women make up the majority of their clients), men absolutely benefit from actively tending to their needs, as well.
“Men are hurting in our culture today,” says Emmons, who envisions a not-so-distant future when more men will become receptive to the notion of self-care.
Steckler adds that men have been coached to be productivity-focused, and not taught to explore what lies beneath their feelings of stress or being overwhelmed. For her male clients, she often frames self-care in the context of productivity.
“I would encourage men to consider this: What do you need to do to feel your best, to really feel like you’re at your optimum state?” says Steckler. “Just start there.”
4) Self-care is unique for everyone — and different at different times.
“We are not made the same,” says Emmons. “We have different temperaments and mind–body types, and so what’s right for me in terms of self-care might be the opposite of what’s right for someone else.”
Further, what could be problematic if done long term may be exactly what the doctor ordered in the short term. “Zoning out in front of Netflix for a half-day might be just what you need if you’ve been pushing and pushing yourself for days or weeks,” he says.
“I think the word ‘accumulate’ is really important,” adds Kucera. “If I don’t take care of myself today, maybe that’s fine, but if I don’t take care of myself today, tomorrow, and then this month, and then next month — and we know it’s easy to get out of rhythm — then all of a sudden we think we need to do a cleanse.”
Finally, note that the self-care you need today will not necessarily be what you need tomorrow — or next year. “Self-care is a cycle,” Steckler says. “When going through a big life change, for instance, we may need to come back down to the baseline levels of self-care, almost like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. We may just need to ask ourselves, Am I brushing my teeth every morning? Am I getting some movement? Am I drinking enough water? And then work our way back up.”
5) Self-care is best practiced in real life.
Many of us garner social-media validation for our self-care efforts (thumbs-up for that perfectly composed veggie bowl!), but there’s a difference between what we do for public consumption and what we do for ourselves. If you’re performing your self-care strategies for social-media likes, odds are they aren’t serving their intended purpose in your real life.
“Self-care is not just doing things in order to do them, to check them off, to talk about them on social media,” Steckler says. True self-care is about what nourishes us and sustains us — even when no one is watching.
Written by Jill Metzler Patton (Experience Life)
Most people think of meditation as a way to find calm, and a regular practice can certainly help you foster more of those stress-free moments. But meditation can be a tool in other ways as well, especially for stronger athletic performance. By tapping into meditation basics and using them consistently, you may find it’s easier to focus during your workouts, visualize greater success for hitting milestones and even break through some plateaus.
Training requires a level of physical and mental stress, says Amishi Jha, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Miami in Florida. But at a certain point, the attention and mental resources required for a higher level of training might sputter out.
In a recent study, Jha and her colleagues gauged whether meditation training would benefit college football players. They found that those athletes who meditated the most showed considerable mental resilience compared to those who didn’t.
Meditation can also help ease some medical conditions that might be interfering with your fitness goals. The National Institutes of Health has noted meditation can be beneficial for issues like muscle and joint pain, high blood pressure, irritable bowel syndrome, anxiety and insomnia.
Fortunately, you don’t need to block out a half hour every morning and sit on a meditation cushion to tap into a meditative state of mind (unless you want to), since there are mini-meditation practices you can do anywhere, anytime.
Here are three techniques to consider to get more meditation into your day:
ALTERNATE NOSTRIL BREATHING
Deep breathing is often part of a meditation or yoga practice, but some people find that trying to concentrate on breath just brings up more distracting thoughts. This strategy works for many people looking to reset their busy minds.
First, exhale completely, then inhale deeply. On your next exhale, gently place an index finger against your right nostril to close it off. Inhale, then release that nostril and close off the left. Exhale, then inhale, through that side. Repeat for 15 rounds.
Focusing on the technique can help to calm a monkey mind and also prompts deep breathing, which has been shown to engage the parasympathetic nervous system — your body’s natural de-stress response. As that happens, you’ll lose the kind of muscle tension that can hinder athletic performance. Think of it as a warmup for both brain and body.
There are so many sounds around us at all times that it’s natural to filter out the cacophony of noise, from traffic to your furnace kicking in. But when that filter is set at too fine a mesh, it can make us feel disconnected and even challenged when communicating.
Take a listening break instead. Whether you’re in the fresh air or stuck in a meeting, take a deep inhale, exhale and then listen to the sounds around you as if they’re part of a radio show. Inside, you may hear heating vents kicking on, pens clicking or people chatting down the hallway. Outside, it could be the way the wind is passing through the trees or insects buzzing just out of sight.
Active listening as a meditation practice can lead to greater fitness benefits as well, since it helps you to “drop in” to your body and be more aware of your surroundings. That can be a huge advantage when you’re working on something like listening to your breath as you’re running or lifting.
Many times, people hold tension in certain parts of their bodies without being fully aware of that tightness. After time, symptoms like a headache, shoulder pain or pinched neck become a chronic issue. Head off that progression by regularly “checking in” with your body to see where strain might be developing.
As with other mindfulness practices, kick off your mini-meditation with a deep inhale and exhale. Then, begin to feel each part of your body and consciously relax them along the way. For example, start at your toes — bend and flex them, then think of a word that helps the relaxation process like “soften” or “rest.” Continue to your feet, then your ankles and so on.
This technique is especially good to do just before a workout, whether that means your next long run or as you’re taking weights off the rack. You may discover that your hips feel like a cement block or that your lower back is more frozen than you thought. That level of awareness can help you refine and modify your form for greater injury prevention.
As you incorporate these practices more often, you’re likely to find that it becomes easier to get focused during your workouts and to tap into mindful eating techniques as well. That can give you more fuel toward crushing your fitness and weight-loss goals. The best part is that even a little meditation can go a long way.
Written by Elizabeth Millard (MyFitnessPal)