In the past couple of years, there has been a proliferation of “well being” practices in the name of self-care and spirituality.
Those practices are the usual suspects, some of them you’ve probably dabbled in at some point – visualisation, vision boards, morning pages, cold showers, yoga, meditation, journaling, gratitude lists, breath work and most recently, connecting with tarot and oracle cards. It’s like everyone has become a tarot expert overnight 😉
All these practices are fantastic. Really they are. I love journaling, I love pulling tarot cards even if it’s not for a client reading and occasionally do up my gratitude lists. But guess what?
I don’t do most of the things on that list. Even if I do, I will dabble in it occasionally and then stop. And I don’t feel worse off for it. I don’t feel like my day has been significantly worse if I didn’t have time to journal.
The sentiment in alot of the well-being, self-care, personal growth spaces seem to be around making these practices an absolute must and that if you don’t do least one daily, life will be bad.
But this sort of sentiments only lead to unnecessary comparisons and judgment (yourself and others), anxiety and stress. It also leads to one using these tools as a means to an end – whatever your end may be.
And the irony is that you started on these self-care practices to ease your stresses and to better connect with yourself, but instead these practices are adding to your stress!
Let’s explore all of that a little bit more.
Self-care isn’t caring if you are constantly judging and blaming yourself
I would sometimes have clients who have built up a steady routine of self-care. Yoga in the morning, make a healthy breakfast, morning pages and then later in the evening, a calm bath before bed and a gratitude list.
One of them came to me for an emergency session once, because she felt racked with guilt that she wasn’t keeping up with her gratitude lists.
She felt that because she wasn’t doing it consistently, it was akin to sending messages to the Universe that she wasn’t grateful and it was slowing down her manifestations. She constantly beat up on herself about it and felt guilty.
Now, if there is anything that I’ve learnt from integrating these practices into my life, it is that – they are supposed to make you feel better. Not worse. They are supposed to support you on your journey in self-care, in feelin better about yourself. They aren’t supposed to add to your stresses and make you feel bad for not indulging in them.
It absolutely does not matter if you’ve missed a day, a week or a month. If anything, my own self-care journey has taught me that you don’t HAVE TO do any of these things if you don’t want to.
There are what I call, seasons for these practices. There have been days where I’ve journaled everyday, days where I hold my crystals and mediate before bed. Days where I just didn’t feel like doing any of the above.
Self-care isn’t about packing in your routines, or forcing yourself to engage in a self-care practice everyday. Self-care is also about listening to you and your body and honouring what it is feeling in the moment. If you are not feeling up to something, don’t do it. Remember, there is nothing you need to do, this is not a KPI ticking exercise at work!
Self-care practices are simply tools, if you are relying on them too much, it becomes a crutch
Yes, all of the above mentioned practices, no matter how amazing they are – are just tools at the end of the day. Support tools to help you in your self care journey, to make you feel better. That’s the key – they should make you feel good.
If you are relying on them too much and feel like you NEED to meditate or have a cold shower or something in order to feel like your life is right, then your practice has become a crutch, something that you are now heavily dependent on in order to have a smooth day.
Self-care practices are there to support and help you, to aid you. But it shouldn’t be a case where you absolutely need it to function. Because that usually means that there is something deeper that needs healing and looking at.
Which brings me to my next point.
Self-care tools aren’t emotional band-aids
This is the issue that I see with many people who are into different things – be it personal growth, healing, wellness, spirituality, self-care etc etc – is that there is a tendency to think, well, since I’m into this journey at the moment, it means that my life should be good.
And when it doesn’t, you start to panick and wonder if these practices or transformational tools are just hogwash. They aren’t. There is something you need to keep in mind:
It does not mean that your life will automatically get better once you start integrating these practices into your life. Because practicing self-care or being into personal growth etc does not mean that your deeper, underlying issues have healed or disappeared. If you are using self-care practices and whatever else as a band-air to slap on your emotional wounds to feel good for abit, that isn’t genuine transformation. That’s just – faux feel-good things that you rely on to make it seem like the underlying stuff is gone.
It isn’t. It’s still there, lying beneath all the yoga practices, breathwork, vision boards and so on.
It’s the number one reason why people can spend years doing all the transformative personal stuff but still find that there is no behavioural change or feel like they are perpetually at “square one” with no growth.
Self-care practices won’t help very much if the deeper and more complex emotional issues haven’t been untangled, reflected on and healed. Life has a way of reminding us when things are not dealt with – the issues will keep popping up in your life.
You will find that the same toxic situations at work keep happening, or that the things you absolutely hate in your exes keep appearing in new dates.
So yes, integrate those practices but at the same time, make sure that you are doing the deeper work to heal and to effect change in your life.
Question I always ask – how has your self-care practice or your perception towards it held you back in some way?
Is your self-care practice holding you back by making you feel worse or just as stressed as before? It’s time to re-evaluate your approach and mindset towards self-care. And if you are using self-care practices as some band-aid for even deeper issues, it’s time to rethink its true purpose and perhaps take some time to work on healing those deep-rooted issues.