Self care vs. self soothing. I’ve been thinking about these terms recently and am finding that for me, there’s some nuance to them.
The term ‘self care’ is used so much lately, most often in the context of setting aside a chunk of time in which to take care of your own needs. Time to relax, time to pamper yourself, time to meditate or do yoga or go for a walk. Whereas ‘self soothing’ I hear most often in the context of babies and children, a skill they have or don’t (or should develop) by which they comfort themselves when they are distressed, or handle difficult or uncomfortable emotions without relying on things outside themselves.
Self soothing speaks more of an in-the-moment act, taking a deep breath and calming oneself internally, without doing anything special or planned. It’s the ability to extend kindness to yourself when your instinct might be to self criticize or pile on. Self soothing is quiet and subtle, and therefore, I think, often overlooked.
My feeling is that these two things, while distinct, shouldn’t be thought of so separately -- learning to self sooth IS self care, and practicing self care shouldn’t be limited to planned ‘me time.’
If we practice mindfulness only when we meditate, we won’t reap the full benefits of mindfulness in our day to day lives. If we only practice gratitude when we cozy up with our journals in bed, we won’t learn to find gratitude in situations that challenge us. If we only practice self care when the candles are lit and the bath is drawn, we won't know how to find that calm within ourselves, regardless of our environment. Both are wonderful and necessary pieces that make a complete practice.
Personally, I do a lot of ‘self care’, but I'm not all that great at ‘self soothing’ — so it’s something I’ve noticed and want to make a conscious effort to do more of. Feelings of anxiety or irritation can be a swift current carrying me in a direction I don’t want to go. Self soothing is having the presence of mind to not panic, and instead find ways of swimming to calmer waters. Simply having a better awareness in those situations has an empowering quality to it… it’s reassuring to know that I am in control and looking out for my own mental and emotional well being.
What are your thoughts? Do ‘self care’ and ‘self soothing’ mean different things to you? How do you practice them? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!
Hi, I’m Willow, and you’ve just read an entry from my Journal Entry series — these articles are actual entries from my journal (either completely unedited or modified slightly for clarity). Some are written with the knowledge they will be shared, others are not. Reading another’s journal is an intimate act of exploring our shared humanity, peering through another persons eyes into the world, and is something I’ve always been curious to explore. If you’d like you can use this as a prompt or jumping off point for your own journaling, or share your thoughts in the comments below. If you’d like to share your own journal entry with me, you can email it to firstname.lastname@example.org.