Let me open by asking this- when you “treat yourself,” are you giving into unhealthy temptation, or are you doing something that helps you be better in other areas of your life?
I have noticed that self care has morphed from investing in yourself to simple indulging, often in activities or items that are superficial or unhealthy. Indulging isn’t always bad, but it is to make you feel good in the moment instead of setting yourself up to feel cared for in the future. Choices are never just one decision, they affect every future decision without us even consciously knowing it. For example, eating an entire pizza to yourself after a hard day might just make you feel gross afterwards and even worse in the morning, often translating into other unhealthy habits like getting an energy drink because you feel tired. This type of “self care” is bullshit- a cycle of action and reaction developing habits, which can feel unbreakable.
How can self care break the chain of habits that lead to feeling unfulfilled? How can you treat your mind, body, and spirit with things that fill you up, so that you can help serve yourself and others better?
First of all, let’s talk about what care means, which by definition is the process of providing for the needs of someone or something. I think what tends to happen is that we focus on the “self” portion of this two-part buzzword far too much. We use it as an excuse to often act irresponsibly and throw the “care” part to the side unknowingly.
We are people of immediate satisfaction, of choosing the path of least resistance. We are born into a society that chases fairness, and we often are blinded by the thought that the world works in such a way, and that we are owed something.
It may sound harsh, and I am the one who may need to hear this most, but we do not “deserve” anything at all. Even for working hard or going through something that we never thought we’d make out of alive. We are enough by just being and that calls for the responsibility to proactively treat ourselves well from the beginning.
Societal constructs tend to put us in a position of being financially unstable and truly believing that we deserve more than the amount we work for. There’s no wonder why Americans are paying over $113 billion in credit card interest and fees, up 49% from 5 years ago.
Swiping the card and getting a new pair of heels may make you feel like you are investing in yourself, but you may find yourself in an awkward financial situation at the end of the day, sitting down with a financial advisor to formulate a solution to your debt problem. Real self care is organizing your financial life and acting financially responsible in the first place.
Treating your body
When it comes to food, it is hard to listen to what your actual body is craving. But when you are in tune with your holistic health, it is easier to hear the real, biological cravings instead of habitual comfort cravings. Unhealthy food temptations can be influenced by anything from what you are used to eating, to what is convenient, to what ads you are being served. I remember when I had a less healthy diet, I would eat excessive amounts of unhealthy food simply because I was “treating myself”. It wasn’t until I committed to eating food that was fuel for my body regularly that I found out that I actually do love healthy eating. A bowl of raspberries was just as exciting and delicious as a bowl of candy, (if not more).
Treating yourself to a dessert to celebrate eating a healthy diet all week simply doesn’t make sense, as giving your body the whole foods it deserves should be the focus of authentic self care and a reward in itself. I believe in shifting our perception from self care being something that makes us feel good, to doing something good for us.
Treating your (future) self
Don’t get me wrong, sometimes you just need to eat an entire pizza or spend a night in the bubble bath, as long as you are aware that choices define habits and habits shape our reality. I noticed that I start to fall into certain behaviors that become routines when I tell myself, “I worked hard today, I am going to skip doing the dishes after dinner and lay in bed, enjoying a bottle of wine.” I feel pretty overwhelmed the next day when I wake up tired to a messy kitchen. I put my “future self” in an even worse situation, calling for more “self care”- it is a vicious cycle of procrastination and reaction.
I may be making myself sound like a total square here, but these days, sometimes self care for me is doing the damn dishes and other microscopic habits that take the pressure off my daily life, because that is something I do deserve and have control over. I encourage rethinking self care to be a proactive way of setting yourself up for success, rather than a reactive way of making yourself good for a moment. What if we thought of getting the things done that hold us down so often as its own reward?
Take charge of your life and the pressure in it. I will leave you with a few healthy ways to “treat yourself” when you are feeling overwhelmed.
- Eat healthy foods
- Write down a few mantras
- Clean up and declutter
- Update your household budget
- Go to bed an hour earlier
- Get active- whatever that means to you
- Say no sometimes and slow down your schedule
- Practice gratitude
- Try a digital detox- spend time doing something you love
- Take a class, try something new
- Try cooking a new recipe
- Create a playlist that makes you want to dance
- Take care of the car or home issue you have been ignoring (or create a plan to do so)
- Try journaling
- Get out in nature