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Is It Self-Care Or Self-Sabotage, Part 1

Written by Kara Thompson, Licensed Social Worker

Let’s imagine: You woke up at 6 am, hoping to be ready to take on the day but instead feeling a sense of dread. Those 4 glasses of wine the night before sounded great at the time, but we are paying for it this morning. It had been a long day and we thought, “Hey, we deserve it!” But now we’re just tired, groggy, and technically have some time to kill before getting ready for our first Zoom meeting. We think to ourselves “I’m just going to hang out for a bit on my phone… they say I need to ‘rest’ more anyway right?” 10 minutes, 20 minutes, 60 minutes later…. We’ve been scrolling through our Instagram feed and have officially tapped through all of the content we can handle. We finally start to roll out of bed when our calendar reminder goes off reminding us of that early morning meeting with our boss that we completely forgot about… and that happens to start in 5 minutes. Our heart starts beating through our chest, we notice tightness in our shoulders, and our breath beginning to feel shallow. The panic sets in as we rush to get ready just in time for the meeting to start, but we notice feeling “off” for the entire rest of the day. “So much for the ‘self-care’ right?!” 

But let’s be honest here… was that really self-care or could have been something else? While I’m hoping that many of you reading this blog can’t relate to the above morning chaos, I’m guessing many of us can. The panic and anxiety that sets in as we begin to realize that the time spent in what we referred to as “self-care” was really not caring for ourselves at all. Instead, we noticed feeling exhausted, frantic, numb, or chaotic… not at all “relaxed.” There are a lot of conversations around the need to prioritize self-care, but let’s dive into better understanding what this actually looks like. 

Self-care is the dedication to being the protector of your own well-being while being rooted in values that enhance our future self. Self-care is personal. Your ideal way to take care of yourself may look different than that of your partner’s or your best friend’s. We can begin to do ourselves a disservice when we start labeling all ideal activities as self-care. Netflix, junk food, bubble baths, gambling… “but ‘self-care’ right?” Well… not so much. These activities may be things that we enjoy and that even provide us some short-term benefit. But it’s important that we get honest with ourselves in determining what is truly serving us and protective of our overall well-being. After all, the definition of self-care isn’t “do whatever you want to do with no regard.” The choice to practice self-care is the deliberate and continuous decision to pour into yourself emotionally, physically, and spiritually… all while respecting our wellness long-term.

There is often the misinterpretation that self-care is defined by the things that come easy to us or are the things that we enjoy. In some ways, we may really enjoy, for example, our time at the gym which can be a way to practice self-care. However, I would argue that the choice to practice self-care often means sitting in the discomfort of activities that we know are beneficial to our well-being but that also may be difficult. This intention may mean we are pushing ourselves outside of our comfort zone, holding ourselves accountable for our long-term health. For example, connecting with a therapist may be a way in which someone participates in self-care, recognizing its long-term positive effects despite it sometimes feeling difficult or vulnerable. 

Do you want to know how self-sabotage may be confused with self-care? Stay tuned for Part II of this series to learn more. If you or a loved one could use some support in creating healthy self-care practices, please reach out to us at Symmetry Counseling. You can contact us online or by phone at (312) 578-9990 to schedule an appointment with a clinician today.

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