On the surface, self-care is a trendy wellness practice. When you cut a little deeper, it’s clear that true self-care involves an active, deliberate decision to preserve your health, whether mental or physical.
There’s a difference between self-care and self-indulgence.
Buying a face mask at Target isn’t self-care. Neither is lighting a candle and using a Lush bath bomb. Sure, some days are tough, and it seems like your best bet is to crawl into bed and have a pint of ice cream for dinner. But all of these activities act more like a band-aid instead of addressing the actual issues.
Caring isn’t a cure, but it is a start.
In my unprofessional opinion, real self-care is a lot simpler (and yet, a lot harder). “True self-care,” says Brianna Weist at ThoughtCatalog, “is making the choice to build a life you don’t need to regularly escape from. And that often takes doing the thing you least want to do.”
Most people seek out distractions when our reality is too much to deal with, too unpleasant, too dark. Tumblr culture self-care is a crucial example of avoiding real life to #TreatYoSelf and temporarily ‘feel better.’
If you want to move beyond the temporary fix and simply better yourself, you have to get back to the basics. I’m not talking about a sensible white t-shirt or a nice denim jacket here. No, you have to take care of basic human needs like drinking water or going for a walk and soaking in some actual sunlight.
As silly as it might sound, remembering to check in with yourself and breathe more. Do you ever find yourself holding your breath without realizing it? And then put your lungs to work, with a renewed appreciation for the effortless act of breathing in and breathing out? A simple activity like this does wonders! I’m no expert, but I’m pretty sure breathing has a proven, lasting positive effect on humans (historically and scientifically speaking).
Outside of the basic stuff, you also have to work on yourself and take intentional steps to get better for the long-term. Like the Times says, self-care is for anyone who wants it. Shifting away from the instant-gratification mindset and making decisions based on whether or not something will make you feel better right now doesn’t happen overnight. You have to constantly work at it, but it’s gratifying work. In the same way you might care for a garden (or in my case, proudly mother two houseplants), the more you maintain your own well-being, the more you’ll grow and flourish.
So, adopt an attitude of self-improvement instead of self-indulgence. Your future self will thank you.