Learning how to practice self-care is a personal, individual journey.
A hot bath with scented bath salts, candles and soft, fluffy towels may be wonderful and nurturing one minute, but could be an excuse to avoid something else in the next moment.
How do we know if what we’re choosing for self-care isn’t just avoidance? What’s the difference?
It’s simple. Escape is based in fear, self-care is based in compassion.
Escape and avoidance masked as self-care
Fear isn’t just a feeling of dread or anticipation. Other signs and symptoms of fear may be nervousness, restlessness, shame, numbness, even anger and rage.
If I’m using self-care to escape those feelings, the deadline on my desk, an unpleasant discussion with a friend, or anything else that I don’t want to face, that’s fear-based.
It won’t work for self-care because:
- I’m not really escaping anything. Those situations will still be there when I’m done.
- Chances are the consequences of not dealing with issues right away will make the whole situation even worse when I come back to it.
- And worst of all, the whole time I’m trying to relax in my supposed self-care, I’m plagued by a heavy, looming sense of dread, fear, dismay, obligation, overwhelm, guilt, or just plain yuck.
If it depletes or burdens me, it’s not self-care. It’s escape.
On the other hand, self-care based in compassion is understanding, accepting and kind. It means taking care of myself and my own healthy boundaries.
It means going forward with the intention of:
- Taking a temporary break from the things that are stressing me out
- Returning to them later in a renewed, recharged way
If I’m nurtured, soothed and rejuvenated, that is restorative self-care.
How can you tell if it’s truly self-care or avoidance?
If you answer yes to these questions, you’re practicing self-care:
- Will the self-care that I’m planning replenish me, refill my emotional and spiritual well?
- Am I purposely nurturing myself so that I can show up to my life in a more peaceful, positive, balanced way afterward?
- Will this self-care nurture my spirit, feed my soul, bring harmony within so that I can be more present in the world?
If you answer yes to any of these questions, you’re avoiding and may want to rethink your approach to self-care:
- Am I trying to get away from something?
- Is my intention to divert my attention so I don’t have to look at something I don’t like or want to see?
- Am I trying to get out of doing something that I really don’t want to do? Or not face something that is unpleasant?
Only you will be able to tell if an idea feels like self-care or escape to you in any given moment.
Take some deep breaths. Check in with yourself. Ask yourself those questions.
Listen to your gut. You’ll know.