We’ve all learned that we should prioritise self-care by now, and we have probably managed to compile a list of our beloved methods and techniques of self-care that we resort to when the going gets tough. BUT, and this is a massive all-caps but, are your rituals a part of an authentic self-care experience or are they just self-soothing rituals. Which brings us to the next inevitable question…what’s the difference between self-care and self soothing? Let’s explore below.
Taking a bubble bath, or grabbing a fancy salad are all actions that make us feel good about ourselves, albeit momentarily. Actions along those lines work well to distract us and to provide us with comfort during stressful times but they’re not considered actions of self-care. Simply because they do not help us move forward or fix anything. In fact, we should become wary when a certain self-soothing escape such as shopping, eating, or sex turns to excess, this is the start of addiction.
Self-care should support our growth and help us find meaning in life. In Tibetan traditions there are two concepts worth knowing; self-compassion and self-cherishing. Self-compassion which is the essence of self-care is about accepting your circumstances and wanting to improve upon them, whereas self-cherishing is when you take things further to make yourself feel much better by indulging in some self-soothing rituals …for example shopping!
When you’re looking to incorporate self-care rituals into your routine, look for things that align with you and your sense of worth. It is about incorporating rituals that help you build a foundation of support that you can practice during less stressful times, only to fall back on during your more stressful times. You should be able to easily integrate your rituals in your daily life otherwise what’s the point of binging on meditating if you’re only doing it for a limited period. There will come a point when you question things and say “then what?”. So if meditating doesn’t sit well with you, forcing yourself to do it will have the opposite effect of what we’re trying to establish. It might actually make you feel worse.
Self-care is basically about being the adult here. It shouldn’t be glamorous, in fact, it should be a balanced act of practicality and spirituality combined. It is about being in charge of your mental and physical health, of your nourishment and hygiene, of your finances and sense of community, and of your traumas, anxieties and insecurities. When you acknowledge certain weaknesses and emotions you take ownership and that in itself is hugely empowering.
IF you need to self-care this minute do one of three things. Either do something that brings you joy, such as reading a book, going for a walk, or playing with your dog. You could do something that brings you order; cleaning, organising or decluttering. Or you could do something that “gives you a sense of mastery” such as learning a new skill or language or improving on something you already know such as taking a cooking class. When doing any of these things dopamine floods your brain and gives you a sense of accomplishment that you will want to feel again and again. Do not rely on shopping the latest handbag or lipstick to give you that kind of rush.
Self-soothing isn’t wrong when done in moderation; should you feel the need to escape your mind by playing Candy Crush …doing it without excess is okay. But a better way to soothe yourself for example would be to take deep breaths or do a grounding exercise. Train yourself to take baby steps when it comes to self-care; teach yourself mindful breathing so that you can fall on it when you really need it. Keep it simple yet consistent.