Your best friend calls you, and you pick it up frantically as you sprint out the door.
“How are you doing?” she says.
“I’m stressed. I’m going to be late for my massage, because my private pilates class ran over. And if I don’t get home by 5, I’ll never get my meal prep done in time to do my face mask. I meditated this morning … but it’s clearly not working for me like it is for everyone I see on Instagram. I just want to relax!”
It sounds a bit ridiculous when you read it … but have you been there? Have you ever felt like your self-care is actually stressing you out?
These days, self-care is trendy (as it should be! I’m all about giving your body what it really needs and prioritizing yourself). But just like anything, something good taken to the extreme does not make something great.
In my mind, there are three main reasons that self-care can “go wrong:”
- You see self-care as necessary to fix something “broken” (YOU!). Self-care is aimed to make you feel great, to help you take care of yourself, and to bring out the best in you. It is not meant to “fix you,” to resolve something that is broken, or to cover up your flaws. Choose to do self-care because you want to, not because you need to, to be “good enough.”
- You view self-care as a comparison to others. Self-care is meant to make you into your best self, not to make you better than someone else or as good as someone else. Have you ever thought: “I’m not as zen as her, so I have to meditate,” “I’m not as naturally pretty as her, so I have to get facials,” or “I’m not as organized as her, so I have to meal prep”? How about changing those to “I don’t enjoy feeling stressed and having my mind racing, so I’d like to try meditation,” “I love the way my skin glows after a facial, so I’m going to book one,” or “meal prep makes my week so much less stressful, so I’ll give myself that gift today”! It’s you vs. you … choose to let your best self win, not to do something because someone else is!
- You see self-care as something you “should” do, not something you want to do. If you’re doing something and not enjoying the benefits, it’s likely not self-care. If you hate taking baths, by all means, don’t take a bath! The magic is in the enjoyment and in the relaxation … not in doing something just because you think you “should.”
Have you fallen into any of those traps? If so, here are 4 ways to adopt self-care habits without letting them overwhelm you:
- Cultivate who you follow on social media carefully. Social media is the ultimate comparison trap, and if we let ourselves, we can spend hours scrolling through other people’s highlight reels, and comparing them to our darkest moments. There are far more pictures of perfectly posed, flexed, fitness models and gorgeous, colorful salads than there are of puffy undereye bags or an empty half gallon of ice cream and a stomach ache. After all, influencers are trying to inspire us towards healthy behavior, and many of them do a great job! But if any social media account is making you feel worse about yourself or causing you to compare yourself, simply unfollow them! Use social media as a way to feel inspired and happy, not a tool to beat yourself up.
- Understand that continuous improvement does not mean that you’re not already good enough. If you already know two languages and you want to learn a third, that’s awesome! Go you! But that does not mean that you’re not good enough for only knowing two as is, even if Sally next door already knows five. I personally love continuous improvement, and am constantly working on taking myself to the next level in all sorts of ways (fitness, education, business, stress management, etc.). But I am careful in the way I talk to myself about this type of goal. I want to be my best self, so I work on myself. It’s not that I’m not good enough as is, even if I didn’t run that next race or meet that next business goal.
- Find what works for YOU (not her, you!). Once again, self-care should feel good¸ not like a chore. If it feels like a chore, skip it! You don’t get a gold star for getting that massage even if you’d rather watch another Friends rerun. So often, you know the answer to what really works for you. Give yourself permission to listen to that inner voice!
- Search for the gray area. Once you dive into the world of self-care, it’s easy to get hooked and start exploring more and more methods of self-care. If you started with a technology-free walk, that’s great! That doesn’t mean you have to do a gratitude journal AND meditate AND take a bath AND do yoga AND get acupuncture AND … you get the point. You don’t have to do ALL the things, just start with one thing! And if it feels like the right answer to add one more, go for it! If it doesn’t, great! Just because you like something and you’re feeling the benefit doesn’t mean you have to do more. And it doesn’t mean you have to do it every day. Find the self-care recipe that works for you – your preferences, your time, your body.
Now it’s your turn … How do you truly care for yourself, without letting it overwhelm you?