Healthy Self-Care vs. Toxic Self-Care

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Self-care is more than just a buzzword or a marketing tool. It’s something you should do every day to add balance to your life — and in 2020, self-care became more important than ever. As the COVID-19 pandemic impacted nearly everyone’s lives, taking care of yourself became a necessity to deal with the uncertainty going on in the world.


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That’s a good thing, and you shouldn’t second guess the ways you care for yourself. You also shouldn’t underestimate how effective it can be for different areas of your life. Some people practice self-care to get ahead in their careers by managing their time and reducing stress. Others need it to decompress and find time for themselves if they’re taking care of kids, or even a loved one who is sick.

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But, it’s important to find a balance with self-care. Sometimes, forms of self-care can become toxic if you let them take over. You can turn something as simple as caring for yourself into something you depend on, and that can do more harm than good.

So, why is healthy self-care so important, what is toxic self-care, and how can you strike that balance?

The Importance of Taking Care of Yourself

There are so many benefits of self-care, including:

  • It can improve your physical health
  • It can boost your emotional health
  • It’s a great way to relieve stress
  • It can help you to better care for others
  • It offers you some alone time

Self-care looks different to everyone. What brings you comfort might not be the same for someone else, which is why it’s a good idea to try different forms of self-care. It starts with the basics. For example, something as simple as practicing good hygiene can be a form of self-care. You can take that to the next level by using products that make you feel good, or even ones that help the environment.

Self-care is also about taking care of both your mind and body. For some people, that means going for a run each morning. For others, it means practicing meditation or focusing on deep breathing exercises.

Even just a few minutes each day of doing something you love can make a big difference in how you feel. It can completely change your outlook on the day, and even on life, in general. So, while there is no one way to practice self-care, consider trying different things to find contentment and feel more relaxed each day. Doing so can also help you learn new things and even expand your interests.

What is Toxic Self-Care?

With all the benefits that self-care brings, how could it possibly be bad? Although some may believe that there’s no such thing as too much of a good thing, that’s not necessarily true when it comes to self-care, especially when you let something “good” start to take over your life as a coping mechanism. Self-care shouldn’t be a way to avoid your problems — but unfortunately, some people treat it that way.

If you’re not sure what toxic self-care looks like, think about any ways in which you might be caring for yourself that feel like they’re going too far. Some common examples include:

  • Drinking
  • Substance abuse
  • Over-eating
  • Over-exercising
  • Avoiding others

In these cases, self-care becomes less of a way to promote health and wellness, and more of a way to cope with issues you aren’t directly facing. Self-care isn’t meant to be a substitute for something like therapy, or fix everything that may be “wrong” in your life. When you start to see yourself slipping into these habits, it’s important to change your course or find another form of self-care that doesn’t cause you to become dependent.

Breaking Away from Bad Habits

Striking a balance in caring for yourself is important. Doing it the right way can help you to care for your emotional and mental wellbeing while doing it the wrong way can cause a slew of additional problems. You should always be the one in control of what you’re doing. Self-care is something you can (and should) do every day. But it isn’t something that you should depend on just to get by.

If you’ve found that you have developed some bad habits in your self-care journey, redirecting yourself can bring you back to a better state of mental health. That might mean that you have to make some lifestyle changes, including things like modifying your diet, avoiding alcohol, changing your sleeping habits, or quitting smoking.

Instead of focusing on “things” that can help you to feel better, try to focus on self-care activities that help you to find stability. Be more mindful each day when it comes to what brings you the most joy, and be grateful for those moments, rather than depending on them.

When you’re able to strike that balance, you can practice healthy self-care every single day, resulting in less stress, more fulfillment, and a happier outlook on life.

Photo Credit

Photo by bruce mars on Unsplash

Guest Author Bio
Jori Hamilton

Jori Hamilton is a writer and journalist from the Pacific Northwest who covers social justice issues, healthcare, and politics. You can follow her work on twitter @HamiltonJori, and through her portfolio at Writer Jori Hamilton.





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