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Positive vs. Negative Self-Care

Self-care seems obviously positive. However, sometimes in the journey of grief, we care for ourselves in a variety of ways and some of those can be downright negative, or at least steps on a slippery slope toward harmful.

One of the things that those of us who deal in grief and loss practice is a non-judgmental approach. Each person has their own path to follow and their own journey to explore in their own time and way. However, we would like to propose that people take time to examine the steps they are taking and look out for any pitfalls that seem like taking care of yourself, but really end up being destructive and harmful in the end.

There is enough harm already walking through our lives, it could be beneficial to make sure we try to bring in positive self-care and avoid the steps that lead to more harm.

Positive “self-care”:

  • walking or jogging
  • massages and facials
  • manicures and pedicures
  • your own time: go see a movie, take a bubble bath, out for coffee

Negative “self-care”:

  • Physical activity to the point of exhaustion and possible bodily harm: we are often encouraged to exercise to help release positive endorphins and chemicals into our body and for all of the health benefits. But be careful to avoid making it such a demanding physical strain that you are actually hurting your body – pounding in so many miles or so much weight being lifted that you create stress fractures, muscle strains, and unhealthy weight loss. At this point, you may need to ask yourself if you are replacing the emotional pain with physical pain as a way of coping.
  • Drowning in drink: How often do our friends and family encourage us to drink when things get bad? For that matter, it is a societal norm to lift a glass of something when tough times roll in. While it may seem normal, it is important to make sure to watch the intake amount and remember that a temporary fix will not help in the long term. Try letting others raise their glass with their drink of choice, while you opt to raise yours with soda water, tea, coffee, or a virgin variety of any cocktail. You can be more present and in the moment with less of a fuzzy head this way.
  • Substance abuse (other than alcohol): It’s an easy step from alcohol to something more. It’s not hard to move from pain medication prescribed by a doctor, to taking it daily so we can “let go” of the pain for a while and not feel anything – physically or emotionally. It’s easy to justify taking this or that pill to help with this or that ache, or just until this bottle runs out, or just until . . . and then it becomes a habit.