Self-care or self-soothing?

We talk a lot about “self-care”. About the importance of taking time out just for you. Time to relax, recharge and refocus.
As we all know, sometimes it’s easier said than done. Life gets in the way, kids get in the way, work gets in the way. Days, weeks, and months (even years) roll by, and suddenly you realise that you can’t recall the last time you had time just for you.
At the other end of the self-care spectrum, perhaps you often make time for self-care.
But is it self-care or self-soothing you’re committed to?
As I found out recently, there’s a difference.
I had the pleasure of hearing from the formidable Kathy Rees from City Cave Ipswich at an International Women’s Day event recently.
She spoke about the definition of self-care, and alerted us all to the fact that, while we think we’re taking good care of ourselves, often we are actually self-soothing.
What’s the difference? Well, it comes down to being proactive versus reactive.
Self-soothing is reactive. It’s retreating from the world when the going gets tough and taking time-out to hide away and heal. Sometimes it’s absolutely needed, but it’s not self-care.
Self-care is proactive. It’s prioritising your mental health and deliberately scheduling positive activities just for you, no matter how you’re feeling. Self-care a preventative approach.
So, you’ve had a bad week. You need a little “me time” away from the world. You grab a bottle of icy cold sav blanc and a block of chocolate and snuggle up on the couch under the doona to binge watch MAFS. No judgement here. I get it!
This is not self-care. This is self-soothing. It’s a momentary, transient fix which, in the long-term, can be detrimental to your health (physical, emotional, and mental).
Committing to self-care is very much about showing up for yourself. It’s about creating a proactive, preventative plan.
Maybe it’s taking a long, hot bath with a good book.
Maybe it’s taking a walk while listening to an audio book or podcast.
Maybe it’s booking a float or a massage.
Maybe it’s doing a gym class or learning to paint.
Only you can decide what self-care activities are best for you.
That said, I understand that MAFS, a bottle of wine, and a block of Snack can absolutely feel like a great solution. And it might be, in that moment, as it can distract you from your problems. Momentarily. But it’s not a good choice for your body in the long run.
You are literally sugar coating your problems with chocolate, then washing them down with wine. We’ve literally all done it!
However, genuine, positive self-care is about doing something that feels good and is also good for you. See the difference?
Let’s look at it another way.
When you are craving self-care, is it because you are running away from something bad, or running towards something good?
It’s an interesting question, isn’t it? I challenge you to ask yourself this question next time you’re about to veg out on the couch with the doona, wine, chocolate, and MAFS after a bad day.
Self-soothing tends to be related to running away, whereby self-care is generally a more positive approach towards living a better life, so you don’t need to self-sooth so often.
So many of my clients have spent far too long running away from the bad, rather than focussing on running towards the good, especially when it comes to their diet, weight, and fitness.
But, together, we create a proactive, preventative plan to help them achieve their goals, which is often weight loss. A plan that includes genuine self-care.
Because, like the ad says, you’re worth it.