Self-care is a gray area in my life. In fact, I’m not sure if I practice it at all. If we’re going by social media’s definition of self-care, I might be doing some of it. I do skincare, catch up on makeup tips, and I try to find time to treat myself, which involves sleeping in and watching TV until time becomes relative. That, for me, is self-care done right.
But I know there’s something wrong. In reality, I have a feeling I’m not really doing self-care at all. It feels more like I’m escaping problems I’m too scared to face.
Read more: 5 shows for your next existential breakdown
Self-care can get gritty and quite ugly at times, contrary to Instagram’s definition of it (bath bombs and face masks sold separately).
That’s when I learned the difference between self-care and self-indulgence. Before, I thought self-care means to treat ourselves. But according to psychologists, self-care can get gritty and quite ugly at times, contrary to Instagram’s definition of it (bath bombs and face masks sold separately). The essence of self-care requires facing our demons and calling our problematic selves out.
“Self-care is often a very uninviting thing. It is admitting what is ‘healthy’ for your whole self and no longer just running from your problems and calling the distraction a solution,” psychoanalyst Laura Spalvieri of SACAC Counselling writes on their website. Self-indulgence, on the other hand, is what happens when treating ourselves gets a bit too much. “Self-indulgence is something that feels really good but does not have additional benefits beyond feeling good. It is an activity that gives us momentary pleasure but does not move us in the direction of our full expression,” psychologist Dr. Kate Siner points out.
“Self-indulgence is something that feels really good but does not have additional benefits beyond feeling good.”
We have every right to treat ourselves. I’m not condemning bath bombs and face masks forever. Sometimes, it’s the little things that we can latch onto when life gets tough. But if we use this to run away from our problems, then we’re not taking care of ourselves at all. We’re making our problems worse.
So how can we take care of ourselves minus the escapism tendencies of treating ourselves? Here are some tips I’ve read on that might be helpful the next time a burnout comes our way.
Give it to me, I’m worth it (not the Buzzfeed show)
There are days where sleeping makes me feel guilty. In my head, I don’t deserve to rest. I don’t deserve to eat. I don’t deserve to calm down ’til work is over. This is where the burnout and anxiety begins. So take my advice, remind yourself that you’re not being selfish. You’re human and it’s okay to feel tired.
In order to find out what’s wrong, we need to tell ourselves that this is for our own good. As Forbes says, “self-care is necessary to remind yourself and others that you and your needs are important too.” Empathizing with our needs is the first step to addressing them.
Check yo’self before you unwreck yo’self
It’ll always be different from other people. That’s not my inner Daria coming out, it’s just that we are different from one another. This means the self-care we need varies too. How will we know what kind of self-care we need? Through self-assessment quizzes.
According to Psychology Today, self-assessment quizzes can teach “which self-care strategies may be especially helpful” for us. They recommend taking the Berkeley Well-Being Institute Quiz. Through quizzes like these, we can learn what self-care strategies will work if our own thoughts cloud our judgment. If you break down a lot like me, that tends to happen a lot.
Is this your type?
After committing to taking care of yourself full throttle, let’s learn some general types of self-care. It helps to see what aspects of ourselves we might have neglected. Though the self-assessment tests will orient you with this, learning these aspects can guide you to make better life choices. Here are the general types according to Transcend:
Physical – Do you stay hydrated? Have you seen the sun lately? Those are just the few we question we can ask ourselves to check if we are in shape. Don’t think of going through a Rocky training montage head on. Taking care of our physical selves can start with taking longs walks, visiting the outdoors once in a while, and making healthier food choices. Baby steps. Always start with baby steps.
Emotional – Caring for our emotions can start with a good cry. We can act all cool and share “dead inside” memes all day. But in reality, apathy will be the end of us. Acting like we feel nothing will not solve anything. We should acknowledge our feelings and let it out. The more we keep it inside, the less we feel better.
Psychological – We space out because we forget. What are we? Why do we care about our responsibilities? Who am I really doing this for? Sometimes, we need to reflect on our own life goals to get us back on track. Align with yourself every once in a while. Make a mental to-do list on your current life’s purpose. Your personal growth is also part of your road to self-care.
Spiritual – Do you believe in something bigger than yourself? Are you investing time in things you care about? Whether you believe in God or not, spiritual health is about hope and optimism. It keeps you grounded as much as your personal life goals. Pray, meditate, seek a Tarot reading—whatever works for your spiritual health to be in its peak.
Know when to throw in the towel
Here’s a friendly reminder that seeking professional help is an integral part of self-care. Back then, I thought if I seek professional help or any kind of help makes me weak. I hate being vulnerable to others and to myself as well. I feel like I’ll drag everybody down in the black hole I created within me.
But here’s the thing, we need to get over ourselves and swallow that pride pill. “Contacting a mental health professional can help you learn more about yourself, and patterns of behavior that may be ‘speedbumps’ on the way to taking good care of yourself,” Psychology Today writes. We don’t know everything. That’s why we a support system exists, consisting of friends, loved ones, and of course, our trusted expert.
Slowly but surely, I learned how rocky the road to self-care gets. It’s not exactly smooth sailing once I’ve committed yourself to it. There are times where I forget to check if everything is okay with me. Sometimes, I fall back to the pressures of just sleeping it off or neglecting emotions throughout. But that’s why I continue to unpack and unlearn.
Looking through write-ups and journals on self-care made me realized that it is maintenance. It is more than things we can hold or pleasures money can buy. Sometimes, the first step to self-care starts with by simply asking ourselves if we are okay.
Art by Tyra Monzones