Types of “self care” that can be harmful

Self care has become a popular concept over the past few years, especially on social media with hashtags like #treatyourself and #selfcaresunday. 

The idea behind self care is that although we spend a large proportion of our time being productive and tending to other people’s needs, giving ourselves love, rest, and attention is just as important. In fact, if we neglect our own needs, we become less able to care for others or to efficiently carry out our daily tasks.

Nearly any activity that provides rest, relaxation or healing can be considered self care. However, there are also some harmful habits that could be, and sometimes are, lumped under this label. When these activities are incorrectly categorized as self care, it can make them harder to identify or stop, leading to some negative consequences.

Here are three activities that can be misidentified as “self care.”

Pity Parties. Self-compassion is a valuable tool that allows us to empathize with ourselves and our situation instead of judging or criticizing ourselves. However, self-compassion can sometimes slide into pity and victimization. The victim mindset is an addictive cycle that is often disempowering and puts blame and judgement on others in a way that detracts from positive, productive action. 

Substance Abuse. Drinking a glass of wine in the bath is a common self care strategy. While there is nothing wrong with taking the edge off and enjoying an adult beverage, “self care” is not an excuse to engage in substance abuse. Over-consuming alcohol and other substances can lead to long-term mental and physical health issues. 

Isolation. Alone time can be rejuvenating, relaxing, and healing. In our busy lives, it can be a rare treat to spend an evening alone or enjoy a solo activity such as hiking or watching a movie. However, isolation and pulling away from friends and family can be a sign of depression or anxiety as opposed to healthy self care. One important question to ask is whether your alone time feels like an avoidant activity as opposed to a proactive way of enjoying your own company. 

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