Self-care: we hear those buzz words often nowadays, but what do they really mean? Bubble baths, pedicures, Netflix binges, and comfort foods? Maybe sometimes, but when it comes to using self-care as a tool for actually experiencing an increased sense of contentment in your life, there’s more to it than that.
Many of us see engaging in self-care activities as a way to escape from the stress of daily life; little “treats” we deserve in order to counteract the parts of life that are difficult, painful, or arduous. Others see those activities as too indulgent, or they simply feel undeserving of the respite. But what if there’s an entirely different perspective? What if self-care isn’t about escaping your reality through instant gratification, but it’s about creating a life you don’t feel the need to escape from? That self-care isn’t the same as self-indulgence (and it isn’t rooted in judgment), but that it’s a responsible form of self- compassion that can be used to propel you towards your personal goals? Sure, sometimes self-care might look like a long afternoon nap, or a spa day, or a meal of your favorite foods–but it may just as easily look like sitting down to finally tackle your budget so that you can begin to pay off your debts. Or like making a salad when you’re craving fast food because that choice is aligned with your hope to improve your physical health, or declining a social invitation because you’ve been feeling stressed and need the opportunity for downtime at home. It’s less about trying to band-aid the current feelings of stress with something enjoyable, and more about consistently making choices that add feelings of peace, joy, and contentment to your life. Self-compassion expert and author Dr. Kristin Neff describes it well, “Self-compassion involves turning towards what I’m experiencing with care, whereas self-indulgence involves turning away from what I’m feeling, often in an attempt to try to feel better.”
So the next time you feel your stress levels peaking, take a moment to stop and consider the parts of your life that hold the most meaning and impact–and respond to yourself with kindness, intention, and action.
Lauren Keppel, LCSW
Lauren Keppel can be reached by phone at 630.718.0717, ext. 239 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. For immediate assistance to schedule an appointment, please connect with one of our Client Care Specialists at 630.718.0717, ext. 240.