You have tons of projects piling up at work, your task list continues to get longer without an end in sight. You are having trouble staying focused, then you begin to lose motivation and you find yourself lost in your thoughts. Before you know it, the workday is over, and it feels as if there aren’t enough hours in the day. So, you go home, you find the house is in a state of disarray, the dishes are not done, and suddenly you realize you forgot to pick up groceries on your way home to make dinner.
Everything seems to be fast-paced and you are struggling to keep up with the demand of it all. You reach a state of going through the motions, but you don’t even remember what you did last.
Maybe you are going through a break-up or just had a fight with your parents. Maybe you are overwhelmed with school assignments or just found out your best friend is upset at you for canceling plans once again. You are stressed, feeling discouraged, devastated and you reached a stage of feeling burned out. So what do you do?
You get on social media and endlessly scroll through your feed although you aren’t exactly present either. Maybe you call friends and go out and you have a great time. Then you get home and watch TV until you fall asleep. The next morning you wake up and all those feelings of stress and feeling overwhelmed resurface—now what?
Everyone has been through one of those moments—one way or another during their lifetime. People tend to deal with emotions by avoiding them and finding means of distraction to temporarily relieve uncomfortable emotions. Although this method seems helpful at the moment, as soon as the distraction ends, those feelings will continue to rush back.
This is why it is important to know the difference between distractions and self-care.
Many clients attempt to avoid discomfort, though find themselves returning to the same unhelpful cycle. This can ultimately lead to feeling hopeless as though nothing will change. That is correct. Without doing something different and navigating through issues, you will continue to experience the same emotions you try so hard to avoid.
What are Distractions?
Distractions provide temporary relief and instant gratification. That is why we tend to lean on them. We wait until we can’t take it anymore and then we want something to make us feel good quickly. What you don’t realize is during those moments, when you need healing the most, distractions are destructive and create a pathway to escape from your emotions.
To be clear, distractions aren’t always negative and immediate relief is sometimes necessary. For instance, an individual may be triggered by something in their environment that leads to panic. In this case, a distraction is a great way to redirect someone’s focus or thoughts about the stressor or trigger to give the individual a chance to recover.
The unhealthy aspect of distractions is when you never learn to navigate or address the stressor or trigger which is not beneficial long-term.
What is Self-care?
Self-care is a key fundamental practice that helps you heal; it helps you understand yourself, care for yourself, and build a strong foundation to foster growth and self-development. There are three motivations for self-care: thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. The three vital components that mirror those motivations are:
Let’s talk about each one in more detail.
Self-maintenance addresses the conscious element of the human being. In other words, the physical reality. These include tasks that you do throughout the day to keep up with functioning. How do you take care of your physical self? Below are a few examples of self-maintenance:
Going to the gym
Taking a shower or bath
Prioritizing healthy sleep patterns
Keeping up with doctor appointments
Self-regulation is the subconscious component of the human being. This is the principle that influences thoughts and drives action. In simpler terms, this is where thought patterns are formed. How we make the decisions we make and what makes us more susceptible to temptation at times more than others.
You might ask, well how do I take care of my subconscious self? To do that you have to be aware of your limits and gain control of your thoughts. This may include, maintaining a healthy work-life balance, setting clear boundaries, learning to say “no,” and speaking up for yourself when necessary. If you are having difficulty in this area, keeping a journal helps monitor your thoughts to improve awareness.
Self-compassion is the unconscious ingredient and can be the most overlooked component of self-care. Think of it as the hub of emotions. If I ask you to name all the things that you love, how long will it take until you name yourself?
Self-compassion is displayed in how you speak and treat yourself in difficult or challenging times. Self-criticism is more likely to take precedence in your thoughts over self-compassion. Are you loving, understanding, accepting, and forgiving of yourself as you would be to a friend or loved one? Often individuals forget to give to themselves what they provide for others.
To practice self-compassion, create an environment that nurtures you. Focus on what is truly important to you and take your time to process your feelings and emotions. When you are suffering, don’t self-criticize and run away from yourself; recognize that your imperfections make you your perfect self. Be gentle, warm, and understanding to yourself. How do you do that?
Practice being mindful. Keep in mind that you can’t show compassion for your pain and ignore it at the same time. What you can do is slow down; be open to observing your feelings and emotions with clarity and mindful awareness. Train your mind to veer away from judgment and denial. Find the strength to adjust your focus to connect with your current state as it is. Once you reach this state of equilibrium, be accepting of your reality and show kindness to yourself. Meditation is a great way to practice mindfulness.
A few examples of self-compassionate affirmations include the following:
I am going to be patient and kind to myself
I accept who I am
I am growing and learning
My body is strong and resilient
How to Turn Distractions into Self-care?
This requires addressing the issue at its core. As a reminder, distractions provide temporary relief—an escape. Self-care is a practice that helps you understand yourself, care for yourself, and build a strong foundation to foster growth and self-development. While distractions may be necessary at times, it is a Band-Aid for something more critical going on beneath the surface.
If you want to end unhealthy cycles and have long-term solutions, you must turn those distractions into self-care.
If you are unsure where to start or how to start this process, reach out for counseling services.
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