Hey friends! Today’s video is about self-care vs self-soothing. They are not the same thing and one is much better for you than the other one.
Self-care is when you are taking care of yourself. We become aware that we’ve got some kind of pain or injury. That can be a physical pain or injury. That can be an emotional, mental, or spiritual pain or injury. Suddenly something feels off and we begin to think, “You know what? I probably need to take care of myself a little bit here.” And then, hopefully, we do.
But sometimes we experience those same pains and injuries and we think, “Oh, I need to take care of myself.” But instead of picking self-care which is going to help with the pain, we pick self-soothing. Self-soothing, as I am going to define it for this purpose and to help distinguish between these two things, is something that makes us feel better in some way but actually does not help us heal.
That can be something that is just pleasurable and comforts us. Like a big bowl of macaroni and cheese that is comforting and delicious and is a self-soothing tactic but it isn’t really self-care. I’ve never heard anybody say that a bowl of macaroni and cheese is going to help them through any pain or injury.
Maybe you are so tired and you just think, “All I need is a nap.” Now if you are physically tired, you haven’t had enough sleep, and you just need more sleep, a nap might be just the right thing for you.
But sometimes we are tired for other reasons. We’re tired because we are overwhelmed. We’re tired because emotionally, mentally, or spiritually we’ve had enough. We can’t take anymore. A nap isn’t necessarily going to make us feel better. That is a soothing technique that becomes more of an escape from dealing with what we are actually feeling.
So when you feel really down and depressed and you just want to sleep and sleep and sleep, that isn’t necessarily self-care. That is a lot of self-soothing. I’m not getting judge-y on self-soothing. Go ahead and pick it. We just have to recognize that when we pick self-soothing, we’re not going to be healing. We’re not picking self-care.
Sometimes it gets a little bit confusing. Let’s say I have a knee injury and my knee really hurts. But I always go to the gym no matter what because that makes me mentally feel better (not me necessarily, but some people). So, my knee is screaming. Self-care would be that I take it easy, maybe I skip the gym that day and put some ice on it. I try to heal it. Self-soothing is that because I always feel mentally better when I go to the gym, I just push through it. I check that off my list, because that’s going to make me feel better. But that isn’t going to help my injury. That isn’t self-care. That’s self-soothing. They are different.
And as different as they are because of the result they have, it can be very tricky to figure out where you are falling. Is it self-care or is it self-soothing?
A good question to ask yourself is this, “After I do this thing because I am trying to treat this pain, am I going to feel better? Or am I going to feel the same? Or am I going to feel worse?” If what you are about to do is going to make you feel better in regards to the pain you are feeling, then that is self-care. If it’s going to make you feel the same or worse, then that is self-soothing.
And sometimes we pick it. Sometimes we just want that pleasure. That glass of wine sounds good when you are feeling overwhelmed or you want to escape. Or that TV show. Or yes, macaroni and cheese does make me feel better. For a moment, right? But beyond that, when you finish doing that activity or that thing or whatever it is, it wasn’t self-care so it doesn’t actually help with the pain that you feel.
So we have to be careful if we really have an interest in working on self-care, because we will rationalize. Me, too. Everybody. We are all guilty of rationalizing something as “caring for ourselves” when really we are just indulging in something that makes us feel good and that isn’t going to help us in the long run.
Kind of a tricky thing to work with. So ask yourself that question, “How is that going to make me feel after I do it?” You should be able to begin to see that line (however faint) between self-care and self-soothing and make the choice that is best for you in the long run.