After a long day of work and possibly caring for family, you may find yourself utterly exhausted. A part of you says, All I need is some ice cream, a warm bath, Netflix. A little self-care never hurts. Yes, in fact self-care is very important for your well-being. However, there’s more to self-care than meets the eye. 

The term “self-care” has grown over the years to encompass more than just healthy lifestyle habits involving diet, exercise, and sleep. At times it is more about doing whatever we can to help ourselves in the moment to feel better and more at ease in our hectic lives – such as eating ice cream to sooth our inner world. This form of self-care comes more naturally to us and addresses stress more immediately, in order to quiet our internal experience. Others include more mindful practices that may take more time and effort to benefit us and have longer term impacts. Knowing how to incorporate several forms of self-care in a healthy manner can be the key to keeping your life physically, emotionally, and mentally balanced even during the toughest of times. 

Self-Soothing, Self-Indulgence, and Self-Preservation 

Self-soothing and self-indulgence can easily come to mind when you first think about self-care. Self-soothing consists of simple behaviors that help us cope with stress. These behaviors can include listening to our favorite music, being in nature or taking a warm bath. Knowing what soothes you can be immediately helpful in stressful situations, given that it isn’t unhealthy. 

Sometimes, stress can lead to self-indulgent behaviors that grant immediate gratification – eating unhealthy foods, drinking alcohol, or buying luxury items are all examples of this. While it’s not bad to indulge yourself on occasion (as a reward or in order to cheer yourself up), continuously doing so can cause bad habits to develop over time. Like with all things, moderation is key. 

Self-preservation is a very instinctual form of self-care. It’s your body’s way of protecting yourself from harm or unpleasant emotions. Like self-soothing, self-preservation certainly comes in handy during times of crisis or extreme stress – your body just wants to survive and avoid pain. However, it is important to recognize that some forms of self-preservation (like avoidance) could lead to more pain down the road if left unchecked. 

Self-Compassion, Self-Love, and Self-Awareness 

Self-compassion, self-love, and self-awareness are forms of self-care that focus more on conscious thoughts and feelings about ourselves as well as holding compassion for our bodily desires and instincts. In fact, for some people these elements need to be taught and nurtured over time. 

Self-compassion is being your own friend. It’s about accepting yourself even when you make mistakes and understanding when you need to recharge. Similarly, self-love involves recognizing your inherent value as a human being and caring for your own well-being as a result. We humans often tie our self-worth to external factors such as relationships, achievements, and wealth. Self-love is stable and does not hinge on these things. 

Developing self-awareness is one way you can learn more about yourself. By identifying and validating your feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, you can better understand how those experiences inform your behavior and your perception of the world around you. Implementing and developing self-compassion, self-love, and self-awareness in the long run will lead to increased happiness, success, and confidence. That is a true sign of caring for yourself. 

As you can see, self-care is an umbrella term for many different kinds of behaviors and thought processes. All of them ultimately aim to make ourselves feel better while facing the challenges life throws at us. We get so caught up in our day-to-day responsibilities that it can be hard to know when we might need to pause and focus on caring for ourselves. I am here to help. I offer in-person appointments as well as HIPAA-compliant virtual options for those who need some assistance. Contact me, today.