What is the Self-Care Paradox?
Self-care practices are a great way to create a more compassionate relationship with ourselves. However, as the wellness market grows, it also creates a (paradoxical) pressure to ‘feel well.’
The Wellness Industry is big money. In 2021, the global health and wellness market was estimated at over 4.4. trillion US dollars. These figures are expected to rise even more as the pandemic sparked a newfound appreciation for health and wellbeing.
Most definitions of wellness emphasise the act of practising healthy habits. The idea is that you can shift from a state of just surviving to thriving. However, how we can measure such a shift is notoriously elusive and subjective. As a result, almost anything could count as a wellness or self-care practice. For example, exercise is self-care, but so is taking a day off to rest. Drinking a smoothie counts as self-care, but so does eating chocolate as a treat. The same is true for meditation, mindfulness, yoga, beauty products, reiki healers, life coaches, journaling, watching mindless TV, reading a book, and the list goes on and on.
Of course, some of these practices and products are immensely helpful. At Paracelsus Recovery, we include mindfulness, yoga, and meditation in almost all our treatment programmes because research shows that these activities come with many benefits. But the crux lies in how you are relating to your self-care practices.
The Self-Care Paradox
The wellness industry is mainly directed toward women and bombards us with the question; are you making enough time for yourself? But sometimes, that can feel as though it is saying: if you are not going to yoga, spending time with loved ones, and journaling every evening, you are doing something wrong.
Hence, we start to feel guilty, and therein lies the paradox. For example, most of our clients are highly successful — and therefore extremely busy — individuals. Yes, it is vital to find some time for yourself each day. But, if that time is an hour every evening to mindlessly watch Netflix, that is self-care too. If you feel a sense of pressure to go to that morning yoga class you do not have time for but are afraid of failing, then you could be practising self-punishment and not self-care. This is because you are — at this moment — ignoring your need for rest.
The Instant-Gratification Trap
There is also a form of superficial self-care that focuses more on instant gratification than actual self-investment. For example, sometimes we need to cancel a plan and take time for ourselves, but if this makes you feel more stressed out the next day, it was not done to serve your best interests. Instead, it was born of escapism and a quick-fix mindset.
Self-care, in contrast, is usually less fun. It requires being quite mindful of your needs. To make sure you act out of self-care rather than instant gratification, try to ask yourself; ‘what can I do today that my future self will thank me for?’
Five Ways to Practice Authentic Self-Care
- Skip the To-Do List.
Most of us cram our massive daily duties into sizeable-to-do lists. Adding self-care goals (like yoga and gua sha) to the list only amplifies the stress these lists hold. And we all know that guilt voice at the end of the day, which squeaks, “Oh look, you didn’t finish today’s to-do list either.”
Self-care is not meant to be an improvement tool. The purpose isn’t to follow culturally prescribed ideas about self-care but rather to cultivate a practice so deeply integrated into your daily life that it just becomes you rather than a part of your to-do list.
2. Focus on Your Health.
Your health is an investment, not an expense. Keeping your physical health in check instantly reflects on your mental health. It might not be fun to call for an appointment for a complete health check-up, but there are few moments quite as stress-relieving as hearing that you are physically healthy. It can also help you narrow down what issues require your attention.
For example, do you need to work on your diet? Or perhaps you are missing out on specific vitamins or exercise? Studies also show that taking physical health preventative measures has a highly positive impact on your mental health.
3. Limit Your Options.
Funny enough, although our small daily decisions take less than three minutes, recent studies show that the more decisions we need to make in a day, the more our ability to effectively make those calls deteriorates. As a result, we become more stressed out and exhausted, setting the stage for issues like substance abuse or cardiovascular concerns.
Known as ‘decision fatigue,’ this is especially relevant for C-suite executives whose days usually consist of constant decision making.
To combat this phenomenon, try to make sure you make as many decisions as possible with your team or co-workers. In doing so, you take the pressure off your prefrontal cortex, which helps lighten the load and boost your energy levels.
4. Gratitude, Gratitude, and more Gratitude.
Gratitude is a conscious positive practice aimed at expressing feelings of thankfulness for simple daily activities or events, whether they are tangible or intangible. It takes no extra time and can flip your day 180 degrees. A study has shown that a single act of appreciation leads to an immediate 10% boost in happiness and a 35% reduction in depressive symptoms.
5. Savour the Moment.
Another helpful practice that comes hand in hand with gratefulness is savouring the moment.
Savouring means to try and thoroughly enjoy a moment while it is still happening. You know that feeling of warm nostalgia when you look back at the moment? Why do we not feel the same way while still in the moment? This act scoops you out of reality and allows you to enjoy a moment through a bird’s eye view. It’s like pausing a movie scene and truly celebrating its emotions.
For example, instead of reading the news while you are eating lunch, try to take a deep breath and tune in to your experience of eating. It will also pull you into the present moment, which can decrease stress and concern.
Finally, and above all else, remember that, ultimately, self-care is about nurturing your relationship with yourself. Try to ask yourself; are you showing yourself the same love and compassion you show others, or are you being unkind and forceful? If you keep that question at the heart of your wellness practices, you can move from a place of just surviving to thriving.
At Paracelsus Recovery, our treatment is grounded in our core principles of empathy, pragmatism and care. We design comprehensive treatment programmes tailored to each client’s unique needs.
We work exclusively with UHNW individuals whose mental health challenges often go unnoticed due to the misconception that financial security ensures mental stability. We only treat one client at any time and provide the strictest confidentiality. Our international team of highly qualified professionals will work with you around the clock to assist your recovery, seven days a week.
To know more, please follow us on Twitter or contact us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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