Multiple times a week, I find myself taking a bath instead of a shower. I’ll take a book with me, and they’ll easily last upwards of four hours. Sometimes I use a few bath bombs from my favorite seller. Sometimes I’ll get an iced coffee beforehand.
This is how I do self-care. Self-care is important (more on that later) and everyone has at least one thing they do in its name. It varies depending on the person. Some people have very tame methods, such as taking some time to journal. Others have a little more wild ways, like doing parkour around their city.
In today’s world, especially on Twitter, self-care has almost lost its original meaning. OxfordLanguages em the dictionary that Google gets its definitions from em defines it as “the practice of taking action to preserve or improve one's own health.” I’m going to take this to include mental health as well.
With that in mind, ask yourself what your self-care habits are. Then look at the definition again. Are you practicing self-care, or are you falling victim to the “Treat Yo’ Self” mindset? Because yes, there’s a difference. I’ve never watched “Parks and Recreation,” but I’ve seen the clips of Donna and Tom spending ridiculous amounts of money on things they don’t actually need. For them, it’s a yearly tradition.
I’ve seen a lot of people buy or do things they don’t need and then justify it with, “I was treating myself.” That’s okay in theory, but when you end up treating yourself too often, it can have lasting effects.
The difference between treating yourself and self-care is whether or not you’re creating good habits or bad habits.
It’s pretty basic psychology. If you do something that makes you happy every time you’re sad, such as buying a coffee, you are training yourself to associate being sad with buying a coffee. You’re creating a habit. Eventually, you’ll automatically buy a coffee when you’re sad without thinking about whether or not you truly need one.
Buying a coffee seems harmless enough. But how often do you get sad enough to do it?
In today’s world, social media provides us with a 24/7 view of the news, good and bad. Most of the time, the bad news greatly outweighs the good news. This leads to people being sad more often. Not to mention quarantine, loved ones getting sick, financial troubles, and even the simple stress of doing online school. A lot of people are sad right now. A lot of people are getting sad more often than usual.
Let’s look at my coffee routine when I’m sad. I always go to my favorite coffee shop and order the biggest iced vanilla latte I can. I usually tell them I want one the size of my head, which translates to an “extra-large” at that particular shop. The coffee usually costs around $8. I give them a $10 tip. On a single coffee, I have managed to spend nearly $20. And that’s okay, every once in a while. I like giving larger tips than necessary because it always makes the baristas happy, and they do a lot of work, so they’ve definitely earned it.
The problem comes in when I’m sad more often. Maybe I’m having a bad week, and I buy two coffees. Maybe it’s an exceptionally bad week, and I buy three. If I buy three coffees, that’s $60. If I do that every time I get sad, that can become a bad habit. It’s financially risky, not to mention, having a coffee the size of my head isn’t particularly healthy.
Other examples I’ve seen online are dyeing your hair, eating junk food, going shopping and even drinking alcohol. Self-care should not cause you financial or physical harm.
So, what’s a good self-care habit?
Taking a bath is good because it means you’re getting clean, and you’re able to relax and take some time to yourself. Reading, visiting friends and playing video games are other examples. They aren’t going to break your bank, and they aren’t affecting your health negatively. They aren’t bad habits to have in most cases.
There’s this idea today that self-care isn’t necessary. Some people think that they don’t deserve self-care because others have to go without it. They think that if they don’t spend every moment working, they’re wasting their time. That’s just not true. Self-care is important because it makes you happy and it gives you a break from anything stressful like work or school. It might not seem productive in the moment, but it’s helpful in the long run because it motivates you to keep going and prevents burnout.
Take some time out of your week for self-care. Future you will appreciate it.