One Simple Question to Ask Yourself When Doing Acts of Self-Care - South Eastern Therapy Clinic


Some of you who follow this blog may have realised that I recently took a couple of months away from it.

This was for a number of reasons, but put it this way – life just got in the way. I became busy with my studies, busy with work and let’s face it, a little overwhelmed. This in turn meant that for a little while, there were certain things that had to be pushed down to the bottom of the priority list.

A few weeks in to university holidays though, I’m feeling rested, clear headed and ready to go again. However, it got me thinking about something pretty important and that is the topic of self-care.

You see, I tend to be the sort of person who throws herself in to things, all guns blazing. That troublesome perfectionist within rears her ugly head (a whole article, or in fact a whole book within itself!) and I become exhausted, burnt out.

This is exactly what happened during the first half of this year as I was putting more and more pressure on myself to be perfect at everything. To get HD marks on all of my assignments, to run a satisfying and viable business which serves my clients as well as myself, to keep the house spotless, to maintain all of my social relationships and make sure that everyone was ok etc. etc. You get my point.

But where was the balance in all of this?

I recently read this wonderful article on self-care which got me thinking about the ways in which I could start to bring proper self-care in to my life and create a bit more balance in my life year round, rather than this ‘all or nothing’ mentality which leads to burn out.

This article made a great point about using the ‘what would I do for a toddler?’ question as a barometer in determining whether or not what you are doing is actually self-care

So for example, you come home at the end of a long day at work. You’re tired and grumpy and just feeling like a bit of ‘me-time’. Do you grab a big packet of chips and tub of ice-cream and zone out whilst you stare at the TV for the next three hours? No, you don’t do that, because that is not how you would look after a toddler who was tired and grumpy. Instead, you might consider having a bath and getting an early night. Or making a decent meal and having a chat with a friend on the phone before going to bed.

In other words, consciously deciding to carry out an act of self-care rather than an act of escapism, or worse, self-harm.

I thought that this was a great way of contextualising the difference between self-care and self-harm. Now some of you might be questioning my use of the term, ‘self-harm’ here as being a bit dramatic or extreme. So don’t get me wrong – it is normal to have the occasional pig out or to occasionally find yourself lost in to the latest series on Netflix, to suddenly realise that five hours has passed and you don’t remember quite how.

The problem is when it becomes the normal. The every night. The habit. Whilst it may feel ‘good’ in the moment; night after night, what it amounts to is a denial of your feelings. A denial of the things that you actually need, to feel physically, mentally and emotionally healthy and well-balanced.

Think of it this way. If your toddler came to you night after night saying that they were feeling tired, bored, unhappy or unloved and night after night, you ignored what they were saying and just gave them something they could escape those feelings with, would you consider this good parenting? Would you consider it to be caring and loving? Or would you consider it to be neglectful and perhaps even downright harmful? I’m guessing the latter.

So all of this got me thinking about a concept that I was introduced to a little while ago which always stuck with me.

Make your decisions based on a presence of positives rather than an absence of negatives

This goes for most things in life, but I think it is particularly apt when considering legitimate acts of self-care in our routines.

If you are doing something because it simply removes a negative experience – for example, eating a tub of ice-cream because it eliminates boredom; consider what you could do instead which might add a positive in to your life rather than just remove a negative.

Maybe you enjoy something creative which at the end gives you something to feel proud of? Or maybe it’s time to call that friend that you haven’t spoken to for a while to re-establish that connection? Or perhaps a walk around the local park will help put you back in touch with yourself and with nature, helping you to feel rejuvenated and refreshed.

Whatever it is, when it comes to self-care, try to keep in the forefront of your mind this question,

Am I doing this because it brings a presence of positive or an absence of negative in my life?