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Can self care go too far?

Self care seems like it’s the biggest trend in wellness these days. In case you haven’t heard, self care is simply the idea of taking care of yourself. We’re often pulled in a million different directions, and usually end up prioritizing the needs of our families, careers, friends, significant others, etc. over our own. Since nothing good comes from ignoring our own well being, healthcare providers and wellness experts are (rightfully so) emphasizing the whole idea of “You can’t pour from an empty cup”. Meaning, you need to take care of yourself in order to keep doing all those amazing things you do all day long.

But can it go too far?

Ugh. This is why we can’t have nice things, right? First there’s this great movement encouraging people to take care of themselves and to make sure they’re prioritizing relaxation, down time, and their own health. Now you have people talking about if we’re doing too much.

Like so many other things, self care and treating yourself can be a slippery slope – if you let it. I feel as if I say this all the time, but the key word here is balance. The trick is making sure self care is really caring for yourself, rather than just an excuse to do whatever you want. What’s the difference? It can actually be hard to tell. That line is blurry sometimes – but there are a few ways you can check yourself to make sure your self care practices are actually helpful.

It’s beneficial to your (physical and mental) health.

This doesn’t mean that self care isn’t about eating dessert or having a second glass of wine. Sometimes the best self care is a cookie. There are times when you’re super stressed out, and one of your favorite foods really is the answer because it’s something enjoyable in the middle of a day that is anything but.

Same goes for a much needed happy hour with a friend that lets you vent and agrees with all of your complaints. You know who I’m talking about – the one who decides that she too hates your boss, even though they’ve never met? That’s self care – when those indulgences actually make you feel better afterwards. Not just “I like wine” – but “I had one more drink than I wanted to, but we were having SUCH a good time and I feel way less anxious about life”.

Along the same lines, did that high priced group fitness class completely de-stress you, and now you’re feeling refreshed and ready to deal with your toddler at home who just. will. not. sleep. in. their. own. bed? Then it was totally worth it. But did you splurge on that class, only to leave feeling pretty much the same way as you went in? That might not be a self care activity you want to repeat.

The ends justify the means.

You’ve dedicated your blood, sweat, and tears for weeks on a project for work. You stressed out, you lost sleep, and now it’s finally over and it went SO WELL. You need a reward right? RIGHT! Of course you do. So you go out and buy this amazing pair of shoes that you’ve had your eye on for months. You always thought they were too expensive, but YOLO right? (Do people still say YOLO? Either way. You’ve earned them!).

Except – they really were too expensive and now you’re struggling financially at the end of the month. Your work project is over, but now there’s extra added stress because you’re short on cash. In retrospect, it doesn’t seem like those shoes really provided the self care effect after all.

When choosing a way to “treat yo self” after a big win, make sure you’re not choosing something that’s going to end up making your life harder later on. It kind of defeats the purpose, even if those shoes do look super cute.

It isn’t harmful.

Remember those really beneficial glasses of wine you had with your bestie after a rough day? If you’re doing that every night, and waking up with a hangover every morning, then those after work drinks aren’t really self care. Even though it might feel good in the moment, if it’s harming you in the long term, it’s time to re-think whether or not it’s actually something you should be doing. We all get off track every once in a while, but take a look at your regular routine. Are you de-stressing with activities that aren’t really benefitting you at all? Self care is supposed to improve our well being – and in order for that to happen, our coping skills and what we use to unwind need to be more on the healthier side than not.

It actually works for you.

When you think of self care, a few activities probably come to mind. Yoga, meditation, bubble baths, and sleeping in. That’s what I always think of, whether or not those things would really help me feel better and cope with life. You might see tons of pictures of bubble baths on Instagram posts about self care, but if baths aren’t your thing, then they aren’t going to provide you with all those amazing benefits. Do what works for you. Maybe that’s yoga, and maybe that’s a dance party in your living room. Maybe it’s cooking. Perhaps you can lose yourself in one of those adult coloring books for hours and come out a new person.

Don’t get caught up in what you feel you should be doing, but instead, focus on what actually relaxes and de-stresses you. What makes you happy, even if things aren’t going so well? Do more of that.


Stressed, anxious, or overwhelmed? Need more help with self care? Want to talk about the best songs to dance around your apartment to? Contact us

What do you do for self care? Tell us in the comments!

Author: Rachel

Rachel is a licensed therapist and co-founder of Viva Wellness. She gets most of her inspiration for the blog while on the run, and if you ever need to find her, she’s probably in Central Park. If she’s not running, you’ll find her planning the next time she’s going to eat, exploring all things wellness in NYC, or raising her stress level by watching her sports teams.

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