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When Does Self Care Becomes Self Destruct?

Man Sitting on Grass Field

On the surface, it seems like self-care and self destruct habits would be at opposite ends of the spectrum. After all, one set of actions is designed to improve your life, and the other is a quick way to ruin it… but surprisingly the lines between these two things can often become blurred. Sometimes we set out to change the way we’re doing things under the impression that we need to loosen up, chill out or start living life to its full potential. But can easily get caught up by ‘too much of a good thing’- and the actions you’re taking to help you thrive are actually having the opposite effect. Here are some examples, and things to look out for in your own life.

Treat yo’ self
We live in a society where work is prioritized. Our days, weeks, months and lives, in general, are dictated by work. We’re in the workplace for long hours, we have to ask permission and have our vacation time approved before we can go away, we can get in trouble for being even one minute late in the morning. If you sit and think about it, it’s a lot- and in many ways, we lose our freedom where we need to support ourselves financially. So to make all of that work feel worth it, it’s nice to treat yourself and spend a little money on your favorite things every now and again. It might be a meal out at a nice restaurant, a new handbag or piece of jewelry, or a bigger purchase like a new car. This is great and gives our lives balance, as we feel as though our hard work pays off by affording the things we want. The trouble can begin to set in when we start getting a bit too spendy. Maybe you’re prioritising treats and luxuries over your regular bills, or perhaps you’re running up debt. Some people shop excessively as a way to reduce stress, and can even become addicted. Have a think about your spending and ensure it fits within your budget. It’s good to treat yourself, but to be able to afford everything else, for most of us this needs to be structured. Work out what you can realistically spend on yourself after everything else has been paid.

Letting your hair down
Life can be busy, chaotic, and full of stress. We have lots of commitments we have to fulfill as adults, and it can cause even the most level-headed individuals to become overwhelmed from time to time. On the flip side, sometimes things can become so mundane and routine that you feel like you’re trapped in groundhog day. In either of these scenarios, you might feel like letting your hair down a little. It could involve going on a night out with your friends, or even just enjoying a bottle of wine at home. Done in moderation, these things are fine and can be a good way to ‘live a little. However, the problem comes when you start doing these things too often. If a bottle of wine once a month turns into once a week and then every day. If your party lifestyle starts affecting your work and health then it starts becoming a huge problem. Addiction doesn’t discriminate, and if you’ve got into a habit of drinking or even dabbling in drugs then it’s important to seek help before it spirals. Your doctor may recommend lifestyle changes or therapy, or it could be more serious- for example, you will probably need medical help for opioid addiction and other hard drugs.

Again, it all comes down to balance. Movie night at home with a big bucket of popcorn, a tub of ice cream, and a whole season of Netflix can be a great way to spend the weekend after you’ve had a particularly rough week at work. Tucking into a slice of chocolate cake can be a nice treat, and can actually keep your healthy eating plan on track (as you get to occasionally enjoy a little of what you like). But again, go overboard with this and it’s not self-care. Sitting on the sofa every weekend and refusing to move, eating junk, and not exercising all week is far from self-care- it’s total self-destruct.

Saying ‘no’
We should all be able to say ‘no’ when we don’t want to do something. It’s not about offending, hurting, or spiting anyone else. It’s politely refusing an invitation when you’re just not feeling up to it, or declining to do a favor for someone if it’s going to cause you stress or hassle that could affect your mental health. However, saying no to everything can quickly result in lost opportunities. Sometimes, being brave and saying yes, even though you don’t really want to, can lead to great things. It all depends on the situation, but be aware of turning down everything in the name of self-care.

In life, we need to find a balance. Self-care really can be indulging a little, treating ourselves, and letting our hair down. We all need to do these things from time to time, it can keep us on track and keep us sane! But start overdoing it and you’re going to cause yourself problems.

Where possible, find healthy methods for coping and relaxing. A bottle of wine every now and again, for example, is fine, but would you feel better going to a spa and having a massage? Skipping out on the gym when you’re feeling frazzled might seem like the best option to look after yourself, but would a light workout like a walk or a swim be better? Don’t feel bad about not being ‘perfect’, but do make an effort to live in a way that will make you happy and healthy in the long run. Short-term fixes are fine, great even. But that’s all they should be. Long-term coping mechanisms and stress reduction should be focused on health.