Self-care vs Self-soothe: Do You Know the Difference?

I was today years old when I found out that there is a such thing as “self-soothe” and that it’s vastly different from what we all know as self-care. If you didn’t know either, don’t worry because I’ve got you covered.

Self-soothe 101

When you practice self-soothing, you are practicing ways to decrease your stress levels in the current moment. As a matter of fact, you’re probably already practicing these techniques daily without even realizing it. For example, have you ever been overwhelmed at work and your boss gives you yet another task or two to add to your plate? You could’ve thrown a 40 oz. Stanley tumbler at their head or ripped your monitor off your desk and chucked it at them, but most likely, you didn’t. Maybe you went outside for a walk around the block to get your thoughts together, or perhaps you went to YouTube or Spotify to listen to your favorite song that always puts you in a good mood. These actions that prevented you from raging and encouraged you to do something to calm your mental and emotional well-being are considered acts of self-soothing.

You can self-soothe with anything, really — even things that are bad for you like overeating and drinking alcohol. Typically, you self-soothe with whatever you need to lift your mood during a stressful moment. Self-soothing allows you to center yourself emotionally and control your thoughts and emotions without feeling like you’re going to explode. Now, you may be thinking, “Well, all that just sounds like self-care to me.” That’s what I thought at first, but let’s break that down together.

Self-care 101

Self-care is not as straightforward as self-soothing because many people have different definitions for it. I like to think of self-care as a preventative investment in your future. Allow me to explain. To set my week off in a healthy and productive way, I have a Sunday routine that I follow each week. Staying consistent with this weekly self-care routine ensures that I’m keeping my mind healthy before heading into the unpredictable work week.

Self-care is preventative and is the perfect way to armor your mental health to deal with whatever craziness may come your way. If you don’t practice self-care, you leave yourself defenseless, and you are more likely to need to practice self-soothing.

Final Thoughts

I know the difference between the two can be confusing, but I like to think of self-care as something you do before things get crazy, while self-soothe is what you do when things are already hectic.

To make things even more confusing (sorry!), an action that you do for self-soothing can also be done for self-care. Vice versa. Self-care and self-soothe will look different for everyone, so it’s up to you to determine your own definition and routine for each one. I hope this helps you use both terms correctly in the future, as it definitely will help me use the correct language. Happy self-soothing and self-caring, LFT fam!

“When you can’t find your purpose in a day, make it to look after yourself.”

– Dodie Clark

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