Self-care plot twist: it isn’t just baths and massages…

Ahhhh Sweet Relaxation

If you search self-care hashtags on Instagram, you’ll mostly see an array of yoga, baths, facial/massage, and inspirational quote images. It’s really quite impressive! The nice thing about this type of self-care is that the relief you feel from them is basically immediate.

You take a soothing bath after a long day, most of the time you feel relaxed when you get out. If you go get a massage, when your hour is up, you are likely walking out of the spa in a state of bliss. You know what feeling I’m talking about – it’s like everything in your life has taken a minute to let you breathe. It’s lovely!

But here’s the thing… those efforts don’t offer long-lasting results. So that got me thinking… If these activities don’t offer long-lasting sustained self-care relief aka sustained, emotional/stress relief, then what does?

Plot Twist: Long term self-care doesn’t always feel good initially

This may be an unpopular belief BUT I am going to go for it anyway. If the goal of self-care is to provide stress relief, I would like to make the argument that actions like, setting boundaries (and maintaining them), saying no, and having difficult conversations are definitely forms of self-care.

Let’s unpack this from the root of what is causing stress in the first place. I’ll share an example I had to navigate just last week. I had to navigate a conversation with a respected colleague about what constructive feedback looks like. Let me be clear, I didn’t simply have to educate this person on what constructive feedback is but also make it very clear that if conversations didn’t change immediately that the behavior would not be tolerated any longer. I had to give examples. I had to rehash specifics.

Was it uncomfortable? I worried about this conversation for 2 weeks. Did I visibly flush from nerves during the conversation? I looked like a ripe tomato by the end of the conversation. Did I sleep better than I have in weeks that night? YESSSSS, friend, that sleep was glorious.

“But I thought self-care was supposed to feel good…”

There’s no question about whether self-care should relieve stress or not. But I think the detail up for question is when does it feel good? When you take a relaxing bath or get a massage there is immediate relief. But that relief is temporary because the root of your stress hasn’t been addressed. When you have a difficult conversation that established your boundaries, the act itself if often exceedingly uncomfortable, BUT the impact is long terms relief. And that is what makes establishing your boundaries hit differently than taking a bath with some lavender Epsom salts. Both are valid AND they serve different purposes.

So when you think about how you are going to support yourself with self-care, I encourage you to consider what your goal is. A bath is great to take the edge off, but is a challenging conversation really what the doctor ordered? Are you feeling stressed because someone isn’t honoring your boundaries? Think about what is needed for sustainable stress relief and do that!

If you struggle with setting boundaries

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