The Struggle of Toxic Self-Care Habits

Words: Izzy Stokes - @isabellarosemari

Lately, things have seemed very lacklustre in life. A mixture of bad days, unexplained bouts of depression, on top of the explained bouts of depression have eventually averaged as the days go on, leaving me with feelings of mass emptiness and cluelessness in regards to how I should go about fixing it.

This is where my trusted “self care” comes in. I try and bounce back from a weeks worth of self neglect, I take my multivitamins all in one go, I make breakfast bowls and smoothies found on pinterest, I use the Headspace app. Not to mention the crystals I obsessively start taking everywhere with me, as well as the countless baths filled to the brim with salts, bath bombs, bath oils, and whatever else is able to dissolve in water, to create my consumerist temple of Zen.


But then the feelings of complete desolation return, so I take higher measures, I spend more money, I fill my existence with trinkets because I want to feel ‘normal’ again. This week alone I bought five self help books in one day, while spending £80 on the Forever 21 website, in a harsh (and useless) bid to feel like a functioning person again. Meanwhile I completely neglect rational needs such as hunger, instead “treating” myself to a Frappuccino from Starbucks, instead of cooking a nutritious meal.

Of course, when the shopping rush, or protein powder rush, or even the temporary calm from my bath wears off, I am back in the exact same mind space, questioning why everything simply feels so desolate. You can bet that I haven’t written anything, done any personal admin, or even worked too often during this time; instead I choose to distract myself with long naps, Netflix, and general self-sabotaging behaviours, disguised as “self care”.

To be clear, it is important to reward yourself with guilty pleasures, and it is indeed a part of self-care, but self-care is not self-indulgence, something I am slowly beginning to understand.

Self-care has slowly become a movement that is exploited by companies, as the “treat yourself” mentality has started to overshadow the true meaning of the word.

It’s difficult because there is not always an instant relief with self care, sometimes you have to work hard to ground yourself, and that can take a shedload of willpower, something that feels miles away when you’re suffering. But if you take away the commercialism of self – care, you can begin to create healthy foundations for yourself. So instead of staying up late and binge watching your favourite series (guilty), you could try getting to bed an hour or so earlier than usual, maybe even treat yourself to a book to read with this newly discovered time.

Positive self-care can be a wide range of things, as it comes in to every aspect of life. Sometimes it may mean pulling your adult boots on, by phoning someone you were meant to call a week back, or opening your dreaded inbox, or even going to the dentist. Although none of those things provide instant gratification, they are pushing you in the right direction. You might have to say no to a big night out, or wait an extra few weeks to pay for a trip away, but by taking care of your necessities first and foremost, you take away feelings of stress and guilt when you spend money you don’t have, or when you’re prolonging an important work deadline.  

There will still be days where you just want to stay in bed watching movies and eating your favourite foods, which is more than okay. As long as you’re slowly breaking away from old toxic forms of self care, by accepting healthier, happier ones in to your life, ones that don’t bankrupt you, isolate you, or damage your wellbeing in any sense, then you are already growing in to the best version of yourself.  

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