Self-care versus self-soothe and why we need both!

Published by Annie Barrett: 
October 4, 2021

Often we think of self-care as “doing what feels good” or “treating yourself to something special." While self-care can feel good and even special, this explanation this is not exactly what self-care is.

Self-care is engaging in activities and practices that cultivate your resilience and build your capacity to move forward in a healthy way, while self-soothing activities help you get through the present moment.

We need both!

During the past 18 months of this global pandemic, we have needed a lot of self-soothing to get through the stressful days and weeks and months of this pandemic. Some of the ways we have self-soothed may have been reaching out to a friend when we've been upset, taking a walk, and deep breathing, or listening to music. Other ways we have self-soothed during this pandemic may have included binge-watching Netflix, comfort eating carbs or sugar, drinking alcohol, spending time on social media, and the list goes on. I don't intend any judgement here! This has been a tremendously tough time and we have all been challenged to cope and get through it. I myself have watched more TV than ever before!

Yet, if we're honest we can see that some of our self-soothing may have interfered with our self-care. Like, did you binge watch Netflix and go to bed later than usual and then not get up to do your workout in the morning? Or did you eat start to eat more sugar and carbs and see your weight increase? Did you spend more time on social media than was healthy and notice you became more anxious?

The opportunity here is to view self-care as setting ourselves up for a healthier future and to take steps to prioritize and implement healthy habits. At the same time, we can start to notice the ways we self-soothe when we are stressed or frustrated and create healthier ways of self-soothing.

True self-care sets you up for a healthier tomorrow and might include:

  • Exercising and moving your body daily
  • Filling your prescriptions or taking your supplements
  • Getting regular health check ups
  • Planning for and eating nourishing food
  • Getting coaching or therapy
  • Joining a fitness class
  • Making time for family and friends
  • Setting up a budget
  • Mindfulness and meditation

Healthy forms of self-soothing that can get you through a difficult moment might include:

  • Going outside
  • Moving your body
  • Taking a bath
  • Calling a friend
  • Doing mindful breathing and meditation
  • Listening to music
  • Doing something creative or a hands-on project like painting, cooking, or knitting
  • Listening to music or an uplifting podcast
  • Reading a good book

What habits do you have in place that set you up for a healthy future?
What self-care activities do you want to add to your life?
When you're under stress, how do you self-soothe?
Are there better ways of self-soothing that you'd like to try?