Most of us know that in order to keep our shit together, we need to take some time for ourselves. Busy lives, work obligations, financial struggles, and family issues take a lot out of us, physically and mentally. We need to refuel and recharge.
The topic of self-care has grown in popularity online in the past few years. (Interesting side note: more people Google self-care in the fall than other times of year.) Unfortunately, so much of the self-care advice you see over and over again online focuses on short-term, feel-good fixes for yucky days. Eat chocolate! Get a manicure! Take a bath!
There’s obviously nothing wrong with treating yo’ self. But the temporary indulgences the internet advises don’t often improve your life in the long-term. (If you keep pushing yourself too hard, you’re just going to need another piece of chocolate and another and another.) Plus, self-care can go way beyond treats. A regular self-care practice can deeply enhance your mind-body relationship. Think of it as prevention, rather than cure.
In this article, we’ll tackle five self-care myths you’ve likely encountered online and propose some more positive, more lasting, and more inclusive approaches instead.
Self-care myth #1: Self-care is the same as pampering
With all the articles out there prescribing chocolate and bubble baths, you’d really start to think that self-care is lavish and unnecessary. But in a healthy mind-body practice, taking care of yourself isn’t an occasional treat. It’s an ongoing discipline that allows you to be well.
There are so many basic, healthy self-care actions you can take that aren’t indulgent by a long shot:
- Getting a preventative care check-up from the doctor
- Stretching before you go to bed and after you wake up
- Making sure your fridge has some fruits and veggies in it
- Taking two minutes to focus on your breathing
- Taking a couple hours off social media
- So many other practices I actually wrote a completely separate blog post for them
If you’re not making health-centered self-care a priority, pampering yourself occasionally isn’t going to solve anything. Try incorporating one or two healthy self-care habits into your day and see how much better you feel, for longer, than if you simply indulge in a treat.
Self-care myth #2: Self-care is only for certain people
A lot of the self-care articles online are targeted toward stressed, middle class, millennial women. Cool, but that leaves everyone else feeling like self-care is too expensive, time-consuming, or girly. Or that it’s only for people who can’t handle the stresses of life. Or that it’s simply unnecessary for them.
The truth is no one is too macho, too healthy, or too broke to practice some form of self-care, whether it’s as simple as drinking a big-ass glass of water right now, as boring as going to bed a little earlier tonight, or as lasting as committing to 20 minutes of meditation every day. Again, self-care is about giving yourself what you need in order to be able to show up and be well. That’s for everyone.
Self-care myth #3: Self-care is ultimately about others
A lot of folks struggle to feel worthy of self-care. With all of their obligations in life, they feel it’s more important to take care of others than themselves. They fear that taking time to refresh themselves is a selfish act that will take time away from their duties.
That leads well-meaning people to justify self-care because “you can’t pour from an empty vessel.” If you run out of physical and mental energy, how can you care for your partner, family members, and other folks in your life who depend on you? It’s easier for parents and caretakers to prioritize self-care if they’re convinced its purpose is ultimately to help them serve others better.
While that’s a sweet idea on the surface, it’s actually kind of insidious: it makes caretakers feel like they are still the last priority.
Self-care shouldn’t exclusively be about others. It can be completely self-serving, and there’s not a damn thing wrong with that. You have the right to take care of yourself and make your own well-being a priority, regardless of whether or not it benefits anyone else.
Besides, if you don’t take care of yourself, who the hell is going to take care of you?
Self-care myth #4: Self-care is for the bad days
If you wait to take care of yourself until you urgently need self-care, you’ve waited for too long. Again, self-care shouldn’t be a band-aid for an unhealthy and unsustainable lifestyle. It should be an ongoing practice that leads you to wellness in the short-term and the long-term.
Instead of focusing on your own wellness only when you’re at a low point, invest in yourself when you’re feeling fine, too. What makes you feel well? How can you incorporate more of that into your life? What small practices can you adopt to become a happier and healthier you? What can you do when you feel well to prevent (or minimize) feeling shitty in the future?
Self-care myth #5: Self-care is an excuse to slack off on your fitness goals
If we’re not careful, it’s easy to fall into a trap of unhealthy habits in the name of self-care. Eating cheat/treat meals multiple times a week. Hitting the snooze button over and over again. Skipping a workout, and then another, and then another. Feeling sorry for yourself because you’ve had a rough day or week.
Letting your fitness goals fall by the wayside isn’t caring for yourself. If you’re genuinely sick or exhausted, take the time you need to fix the problem, and then get back into your healthy routine as quickly as you can. But if you’re just tired, busy, or “not feeling it right now,” chances are you’ll actually feel much better if you stay disciplined and stick to your goals.
Let’s reshape what self-care means
Instead of thinking of self-care as temporary indulgences to make us forget our stress for a while, let’s reclaim self-care as a long-term wellness discipline. To use a cheesy metaphor, let’s think of self-care activities as deposits in the wellness bank. Let’s focus on using self-care to help us achieve our mind and body fitness goals, not (just) improve the way we feel immediately.
What does your healthy self-care practice look like? What habits can you adopt to improve your wellness in the long-term and short-term? Tell us in the comments or show us on Instagram with #strongpositive.