How to Differentiate Between Surface Self-Care and True Self-Care

This is a guest post by author Amber Trueblood, MFT, MFA. She is the author of Stretch Marks and a mother-of-four.

What is self-care? You’ve probably heard the term thrown about a lot over the last few years, as many people, including celebrities and influencers, have spoken about the importance of building a good self-care regiment. And while self-care has become a bit of a lifestyle “trend,” that doesn’t change the fact that true self-care is a vital part of living a happier, healthier, and less stressful life. And who doesn’t want that?

So to that end, Amber Trueblood provides some tips on differentiating between surface self-care (the stuff that might feel or look like self-care on social media) and true self-care (things you do for yourself that actually improve your mental, physical, and emotional well-being.)

How to Differentiate Between Surface Self-Care and True Self-Care

What Is True Self-Care?

True self-care provides lasting effects, which refuel you emotionally and physically longer than the time you’re actually doing the activity. Take exercise for example. If exercising for an hour a day only improved that one hour of your day, you probably wouldn’t do it at all. But the effects are ultimately cumulative. The more you exercise regularly, the better you feel throughout your day, week, month, and year. The same goes for meditation: The goal is to feel calmer as well as more focused, patient, and centered throughout the day, even when you aren’t meditating. That’s true self-care: Something you do for yourself that continually improves the quality of your life, even when you aren’t physically doing it.

How to Differentiate Between Surface Self-Care and True Self-Care

True self-care creates a deep positive shift when done regularly. This energizes and allows you to feel lighter, more relaxed, flexible, forgiving, appreciative, and empathetic. The goal of self-care is to improve your well-being both day-to-day and long-term. True self-care becomes self-reinforcing very quickly if you practice it regularly.

How to Differentiate Between Surface Self-Care and True Self-Care

True self-care becomes a habit. Like most habits, you may need to practice for a while and ramp up to your desired frequency. But as you start seeing and feeling results, and as your self-care activities become part of your routine, you will want to do them more. So say you start out by taking a walk two times a week. After a few weeks, if you have noticed a positive change in your physical or mental health, you will likely want to start taking a walk three or four times a week. Or even every day. That’s how good habits start! And true self-care is one of the best habits there is.

How to Differentiate Between Surface Self-Care and True Self-Care

How Do You Find the Self-Care Habit That’s Right for You?

Here are some tips on finding the right self-care habits for your life.

  • Ask Yourself: What is something you don’t do regularly (or at all), but when you’ve done it in the past, it made you feel excited, energized, and the minor upsets in life appeared less daunting?
  • Ask Yourself: What is an activity you used to do that you loved, but stopped because of life responsibilities, changes in circumstance, or a “baloney” belief that you shouldn’t be doing it anymore?
How to Differentiate Between Surface Self-Care and True Self-Care

What’s the Difference Between Surface Self-Care and True Self-Care?

If you’re unsure whether your self-care ideas will ultimately be beneficial to you, consider the following factors:

  1. Surface self-care only feels great while you’re doing it. (Note: It can actually lead you to feel less confident and less secure in the long run.) 
  2. Surface self-care may be an activity that is refueling to others, but not to YOU.
  3. Surface self-care can feel more like an obligation than a fun, interesting, or exciting activity.
How to Differentiate Between Surface Self-Care and True Self-Care

Examples of True Self-Care

If you are looking to start a true self-care regiment but aren’t sure where to start, consider some of the following activities. All of these, if practiced regularly, are more likely to improve your self-care efforts and eventually make you feel more relaxed, focused, unstressed, and energetic.

  • Yoga
  • Meditation
  • Surfing
  • Journaling
  • Hiking
  • Breathwork
  • Cooking
  • Walking in nature

So as you revisit your New Year’s resolutions, if better self-care habits are on your list, consider this advice as you figure out a plan that works best for you and your mind and body.

How to Differentiate Between Surface Self-Care and True Self-Care

About Amber Trueblood

Amber Trueblood is an author, retreat-host, and the mother of four sons. She’s an unapologetic bibliophile, having devoured over 250 books on behavior, management, systems, parenting, meditation, and self-development. Her expertise, experience, compassion, and humor result in a unique combination of entertainment and effectiveness with her clients.

Interestingly, Amber wrote Stretch Marks, her debut book, while on a Broadway Tour with her husband and four sons, traversing over 60 cities across the U.S. and Canada. Amber is most passionate about providing mothers simple and realistic tools to guide them toward a happier, calmer parenting life. Her unique approach includes helping clients clarify their values and priorities, then showing them how to use that knowledge to make better discipline decisions, relieve mom-guilt, reduce self-judgment, and become a truly enlightened parent.

[All images via Shutterstock]

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