The term “self-care” remains a buzzword in the wellness space, but how often do we ask ourselves if we’re practicing unhealthy self-care?
Self-care is associated with warm baths, yoga, massages, meditation or journaling about what you’re grateful for. It as an easy way to enhance happiness and decrease stress. And that’s great! We are all for that!
Yet the issue is when we mistakenly attribute self-care as being synonymous with caring for our mental health. Sure, self-care can absolutely support your mental wellness journey. But it cannot always replace the additional support we may need.
In this article we’ll help you determine if you are practicing unhealthy self-care.
For good reason, a consistent self-care routine (whatever that looks like for you) is encouraged for people who feel run-down, overstimulated, or constantly stressed. And, let’s face it, a lot of us feel this in the age of 24/7 emails and a never-ending stream of social media!
However, while there are plenty of healthy ways to improve normal stress levels, when it comes to mental health issues like anxiety and depression, self-care isn’t necessarily the best path to wellness. And it should certainly not be the sole path to wellness for mental health issues.
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Self-care can be fantastic for alleviating normal, everyday tension. But still, you can feel anxious and depressed even if you do exercise and eat greens, take baths, and do yoga.
There’s a common (and perhaps even growing) misconception that self-care is a magical way to treat these concerns. While studies have shown that meditation can help to relieve anxiety, it’s not a cure-all for everything that ails us.
When it comes to mental health, self-care isn’t necessarily the best path to wellness.
It’s vital to remember that stress and occasional sadness are different from anxiety and depression. We often see the word “anxiety” used loosely to describe basic stress instead of the more serious health concern that it is.
Claims that self-care can cure anxiety often refer to this watered-down version of the word, creating confusion. Since the meaning of these terms is so important, let’s now examine how you may be practicing unhealthy forms of self-care (and what to do about it).
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Ask Yourself These 4 Questions to Determine If You Have Unhealthy Self-Care Tendencies:
This is a safe space and a judgment-free zone! As you read the following questions, remain open and honest with yourself. Consider using a journal to write down your reflections and keep reading to the end for a few resources if you would like additional support.
1. Are you relying on self-care when you should be seeing a therapist or doctor?
Ignoring a problem is like adding fuel to a fire or putting a Band-Aid on a broken bone. Short-term solutions aren’t effective in the long run.
For someone struggling with these issues, surface-level “treatments” that don’t actually improve your state of mental health can create a feeling of incompetence. It can also encourage false comfort, distracting from the fact that what’s actually needed is professional help.
2. Are you neglecting social activities in the name of self-care?
Declining an invite to happy hour in exchange for a quiet night at home might be exactly what you need to unwind. (Introverts unite!)
But do you constantly cancel plans with close friends, avoid colleagues, or skip family dinners because you need more “me time” or don’t want to interact with anyone?
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3. Is your self-care sustainable?
Can you continue your self-care rituals long-term? This is a great question to determine if you are practicing unhealthy self-care.
Sure, a massage can be a great way to boost your mood and bask in the calm of a quiet, dark room. But do you have the time or money for consistent massages?
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4. Do you actually feel better?
Self-care can be a terrific treat if it’s practiced in a healthy way. However, if your morning exercise ritual makes you feel more anxious, then it’s time to figure out why.
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If you find certain exercises that help combat your anxiety or depression, that’s fantastic. So, definitely make time for them!
However, when you’re scrolling through an inspirational Instagram feed filled with beautiful posts inferring that wellness is solely about nutrition and exercise, it’s important to remember that wellness involves mental health as well.
“Self-care” is a buzz-word in the wellness world, but true wellness involves getting help when you need it.
Sure, meditation can help with anxiety . . . but is it helping YOU?
“Self-care” is a buzz-word in the wellness world, but true wellness involves getting help when you need it. If you’re struggling with anxiety or depression, you don’t have to rely solely on self-care.
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Remember, you are not alone! If you need support, National Alliance on Mental Health is a great resource. Visit nami.org or call their helpline: 800-950-NAMI. SAMHSA is another free resource and hotline.
BetterHelp.com is an online counseling service that matches you with a therapist based on your specific needs. If you or someone you know is in a crisis, these resources can provide immediate help.
All included information is not intended to treat or diagnose. The views expressed are those of the author and should be attributed solely to the author. For medical questions, please consult your healthcare provider.
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