What is self-care, really?

What is self-care, really?

We all tend to have a habit of getting stuck in a vicious cycle of overthinking, having negative feelings, and then doing things that leave us more drained than before. When I need to refill my proverbial cup, I take a walk in Piedmont Park or take out my sketchbook and start painting. By putting in the form of self-care that works for me, I bypass that cycle and nourish myself.

However, what frequently happens is we run into an issue when the idea of self-care is conflated with self-soothing.

Self-soothing gives us comfort and distracts us but can lead to an emotional or physical hangover when used in excess. Think of how long you aimlessly scroll through social media or how many episodes of The Office you watched in a row without moving from the couch. Self-soothing can also show up as excessive drinking, overeating, or needless shopping.

True self-care is about doing things that support your growth and recharge your battery.

Replenishing yourself with something that brings you joy, something that brings order to your life, or gives you a sense of mastery. Most importantly, it has to align with what works best for you. Self-care goes deeper than instagrammable bubble baths or the latest trendy Starbucks drink. You have to genuinely enjoy the activity which may involve using trial and error to notice how you feel after. For the creative type, self-care may look like drawing or paint-by-numbers, but for the outdoors type, it may look like going for a hike or simply going to the nearest park.

Self-care needs to be considered a daily practice, not just a weekend escape, or it can lead to a cycle of burning out, adding in self-care, and finding yourself burnout all over again in a couple of weeks.

Simple practices such as journaling, making tea, and stretching help you create space in your day to be present. Self-care encompasses how we parent ourselves, so it isn’t always glamorous, but it is fundamental to creating a supportive foundation for our hectic lives. So ask yourself, “What can I do to take the best care of myself right now?”.

Written by: Bethany Cabreja

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