Are You Sabotaged By Self-Care?

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Are You Sabotaged by Self-Care?

We may have the best of intentions when we make a list of all the good things we “should” do for ourselves. But amidst the increased chaos of the last few years, are we actually doing more harm than good?

The term self-care has been used more since 2020 than ever before. We’re stressed to the max, and “self-care” is the thing that is supposed to make us feel better. The thing we’re supposed to do to be combating the unprecedented anxiety, fear, anger, and depression.

…If you feel “burnout” setting in, if you feel demoralized and exhausted, it is best, for the sake of everyone, to withdraw and restore yourself.
Dalai Lama

Yes, Dalai Lama, yes! I need to restore myself. I should be meditating every day. I should be doing yoga, and journaling, and exercising, and reading up on minimalism.

And that’s how self-care actually becomes a source of anxiety. One word: Should.

Now, “take a Peloton class” is on the same to-do list as “laundry, fix leaking drain, reorganize junk drawer.” We know that things like going for a walk or making time for a hobby might make us feel better, and even improve our quality of life. But when we put these things on a “should” list, it becomes one more thing we’ll beat ourselves up for when we don’t do it.

A Quick List of Things You Don't Realize Are Actually Self-Care

  • Saying NO
  • Setting boundaries
  • Saving money
  • Time with pets
  • Pausing before you respond
  • Doing one thing at a time, instead of trying to multi-task

The reality is that sometimes we truly just can’t. We can’t afford that massage that we want (or we can’t afford to take 2 weeks off to backpack in Europe). We can’t because at the end of the day all we have enough energy for is to throw in that last load of laundry, or pack school lunches for tomorrow. Or maybe we chose to go back to school while still having a full-time job, so right now  “self-care” looks like just finishing homework on time. If we expand the definition of self-care to include “anything that helps us make progress towards a goal or a purpose,” it looks a lot different. 

Not all self-care practices are created equal, and they can sometimes have unintended consequences.  In our quest for self-improvement and relaxation, I’ve noticed that many of us have the tendency to push ourselves too hard, or set unrealistic expectations. That leads to feelings of failure and stress – most likely a couple of the very feelings we wanted relief from. Things like fad diets and exercise routines, while labeled as “self-care,” can quickly spiral in to unhealthy obsessions causing time management issues or even physical and emotional distress. The pressure to constantly engage in self-care activities can become overwhelming, turning moments of relaxation in to yet another thing we don’t seem to have time for. True self care means listening to our bodies and minds, finding practices that genuinely rejuvenate us, and understanding that it’s okay to take a step back when needed.  

Be nicer to yourself. You’ll take that bubble bath while drinking a glass of wine one day. In the meantime, just keep binge-watching your favorite show, call it “down time,” and don’t apologize for it.

(Don’t worry, tables don’t actually look like this in real life)

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