What Self-Care Isn’t

Cut through the self-care myths and trends to focus on what really matters: your own wellbeing.

What is self-care, anyway?

It’s one of those phrases that is thrown around so often that the definition has become a little fuzzy. Think about how many “all-natural,” “fat-burning,” “super-foods” there are on the market now. As an author and blogger, this is both amusing and frustrating to me. But as a certified health and wellness coach, it’s my J-O-B to give clear, informed advice about healthy living. There’s so much information out there (even I write about it!) that maybe the best way to define self-care is to first talk about what it isn’t. Let the myth-busting begin!

MYTH: “Self-care is… sneaking snacks from your no-no list, because “you deserve it”! Venti double-shot nonfat caramel macchiato, coming up! Was it a stressful day? Add a chocolate chunk cookie, please!”

The Truth: When it comes to self-care, treating yourself means treating yourself well, not with foods that make you feel sick and sluggish and leave you feeling guilty. Treating yourself at the end of a day is not eating three-too-many gluten dairy and sugar-bombed cookies. It may feel good in the moment but you probably won’t feel good in the morning. Am I right? I’m not suggesting anyone deny themselves life’s sweet little indulgences! But they shouldn’t be in the same category as your multi-vitamin or an epsom salt bath.

MYTH: “Self-care is… tackling the problem head-on. Break out the arsenal! You’ve got a vitamin for every symptom under the sun, from A to Zinc, and even Chinese ones you can’t pronounce. If 1,000mg of Vitamin C is good for you, 2,000 must be twice as good!”

The Truth: When you need all fingers and toes to count the number of remedies you’re putting into your system, you might want to consider cutting back. How can you tell how effective a single treatment is if you’re combining it with a hundred other things? In my experience, when it comes to your health, throwing spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks isn’t just ineffective, it can be downright dangerous, too. When you introduce something new into your routine, pay special attention to how your body reacts, and whether you actually feel better as a result. Listen to what your body is telling you! PS – The best way to get your vitamins is to eat them in the form of a healthy diet of whole, nutrient-dense foods.

MYTH: “Self-care is… a little retail therapy when you’ve had a bad day… regardless of your glaring credit card bill. Money comes and goes, right?”

The Truth: Retail therapy has nothing to do with your actual wellbeing; using it as a band-aid for stress might actually have the opposite effect, especially if you’re worried about money or security. Self-care isn’t just a physical thing; it’s about your mental, emotional, and financial wellbeing too.

MYTH: “Self-care is… self preservation! Sticking up for myself when I’ve been wronged, whether in a romantic relationship, a friendship, at work, or with family. I have every right to be furious! Screw him/her/them!”

The Truth: Feelings of resentment and defensiveness, whether justified or not, are still crappy feelings. Holding onto them has a negative effect on your body and mind. Flip the script and rewrite the ending so that you feel calm, compassionate, and empowered. Your thoughts create a sense of wellbeing, so don’t hold onto negative ones, no matter how egregious the crime. There is also something to be said for letting go and making space for other people, being open to true connection, and allowing yourself to be vulnerable.

Still with me? Hold on tight and get ready for the biggest myth of all…

MYTH: “Self-care is… turmeric, ginger, lemon, echinacea, acupuncture, hypnosis, goji berries, sound baths, personal trainers, the Paleo diet, aromatherapy, yoga, raw foods, crystals, incense, barre class, those funny frog shoes with all the toes… and a partridge in a pear tree.”

The Truth: With all the amazing, holistic options we have to choose from today, self-care can feel a lot like trying to keep up with the Joneses. The vitamin aisle at Whole Foods feels like it’s a mile long, and so is the list of things you could be doing to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Throwing everything but the kitchen sink into your routine isn’t just expensive and time-consuming, it’s downright exhausting. Keep perspective and do what’s right for you. Remember the importance of slowing down, tuning into yourself, and asking yourself what feels right for you.

I know, I’ve basically up-ended the whole notion of self-care. But I won’t leave you hanging. Let’s set the record straight.

What Is Self-Care, Anyway?

Self-care is a way of practicing personal rituals of self-soothing techniques so they pay dividends when it comes to the rest of your life. Self-care is always being there for ourselves, treating ourselves like we would someone we love, and making choices that increase our long-term emotional and physical health and sense of wellbeing. It’s choosing to exercise, eating healthy foods, getting enough sleep, practicing relaxation techniques, spending time in nature, taking long walks, and engaging in and enjoying a variety of creative pursuits. It begins by creating the space for you to take care of you. Because when you make that space, you allow your “self” to grow, heal, flourish, and rock the world. And that’s something all of us deserve.

Amy KurtzAmy Kurtz is the author of the book Kicking Sick, and an AADP Holistic Health Coach, wellness advisor, detox expert, speaker, and a Wanderlust Wellness Mentor. Having experienced a variety of chronic health issues from a young age, Amy realized that the only way she was going to recover was to become an active participant in her own wellbeing. Amy deeply believes in the power of self-care and it is her mission to teach people how to truly take care of themselves. Amy coaches clients who strive to get healthier while also helping those with chronic health conditions thrive. She coaches people how to become advocates for their own wellbeing and provides a framework to find harmony between their mind, body, and soul. To join her wellness revolution head on over to amykurtz.com, and follow her on Twitter,  Instagram, and Facebook  for daily tips, inspiration, and motivation.