Self-care vs self-soothing strategies… what are the differences and why does that matter when improving your wellbeing? Selfcare is an essential part of your wellbeing. It’s more than just ‘treating yourself’ or ‘doing what feels good’ and quite often, these ideas aren’t always in line with what self-care is really about… because sometimes, people confuse self-care and self-soothing.

What is self-care?self care

Selfcare is about taking care of yourself not just for now, but for the future too. It’s about making you feel rejuvenated, to help you keep going. ‘Filling your cup’ as some people say. It also focuses on addressing basic needs and setting realistic goals. It can even involve creating or changing habits that may not feel comfortable in the moment but are followed with long-term benefits in our lives.

Stress can occur any day and self-care practices are all about tools that help you build up your resilience during tough times, helping you create positive habits.

Here are some examples of self-care practices:

  • Long term strategy
  • Get health checks and filling your prescriptions
  • Eating nourishing foods
  • Staying hydrated
  • Going to therapy
  • Prioritising sleep
  • Setting up a budget

What is self-soothing?

However, there are times when we have so much stress, that we go into survival mode… and self-soothing skills can help you get through these moments. Self-soothing helps you to resist negative thoughts and urges in the moment…. It helps distract us from feelings or impulses that are very difficult to tolerate. You may not realise you’ve developed some daily habits.

You can make both self-care and self-soothing part of your wellbeing practices, but make sure you’re using them in the right context and not substituting one for the other.

Here are some examples of self-soothing behaviours:

  • Gets you through the moment
  • Binge-watching TV
  • Eating your favourite food
  • Treating yourself to a fancy coffee
  • Retail therapy
  • Cuddling up under a cozy blanket
  • Listening to music on the way to work
  • Having a bath

These are some that cross over both of those lists:

  • Making time for friends and family
  • Exercising or movement
  • Practising meditation or mindfulness regularly

As you can see, sometimes actions can be self-care and sometimes, it’s self-soothing.

What you should be asking yourself is: are you doing this to feel better right or, or doing it to contribute to feeling good in the future?

This is something you should be mindful about – and if what’s feeling good right now is impacting your self-care practices, you should think twice about how to approach the situation. It can be easy to fall into self-soothing, feeling better in the moment, without trying to do something to contribute to feeling better in the future… so keep that in mind! If you need some help, here are 5 simple says to practice self care everyday.

Jessica Reid