Lifestyle, Mind/Body/Spirit, Motherhood

5 Ways That Your Self Care May Be A Toxic Coping Mechanism

When you become a parent, especially a mother, self-care is one of the most common topics you will hear from veteran parents. In all honesty, self-care is vital for new mothers because it is a deliberate act meant to address mental, spiritual, emotional and physical health.

In my early 20’s, my favorite areas of self-care were increasing my credit score, enjoying my place of peace and being vulnerable about where I needed to grow as a young woman. After experiencing a passionate love and my first spiritual awakening, my favorite areas evolved into actively being in nature, honoring my ancestors and overhauling my diet (into a lifestyle).

A few months before the conception of Biggie Smalls (my son), I experienced my second spiritual awakening. I allowed myself to be stripped of worldly, material attachments. It was physically humbling and spiritually liberating! Once again, my perspective of self-care broadened.

If we’re being honest, sometimes people use self-care when they don’t feel like having to deal with shit head on.

  • Do you have a pressing issue with a friend or family member, but don’t want to deal with the confrontation? Cut them off, avoid the issue and call it self-care.
  • Do you want to be healthier, but tired of the discipline it requires? Order the fried food and call it self-care.
  • Do you have a life event or event to attend that’s for a friend/family member, but they didn’t show up to your last life event/event? Don’t show up out of spite without telling them how you feel and call it self-care.

What has to be understood is that self-care is a complex multidimensional construct. It isn’t just going shopping, a beauty appointment and avoiding toxic people/situations. When does self-care become a toxic coping mechanism?

1. Avoiding The Issue/Problem

Avoiding a person and calling it self-care is toxic. There, I said it. Let’s be clear, if you have expressed how this person makes you feel and the behavior hasn’t changed, then yes remove yourself. However, not confronting the problem is called anxious avoidance, which is a very common toxic coping strategy. If you’re telling everyone else about how you feel a person treated you and not confronting that person, then you’re hurting yourself and the relationship not them. If you need to take a breather from them before confrontation, then do so. However, take it from me, don’t vent to anyone else about your removal.

What if the issue isn’t a person, but avoiding a situation altogether? It’s still toxic no matter how you slice it. There is a fine line between self-care and selfishness. If you purposefully avoid a situation or person because of resentment, then that’s not self-care. That’s just straight up selfishness.

2. Compulsive Spending

And that leads me into my next topic: spending money to relieve stress. If you have to resort to extreme measures to shop, then you probably shouldn’t be doing it. There are endless commercials and ads praying that you browse their products to fill that emptiness you might be feeling at the time.

Let’s be clear, I’m all about YOLO! 🙂

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So, yes you should enjoy the fruits of your labor. However, if you’re spending money for emotional relief, then chances are that you will have to keep spending to maintain that relief.

Create a budget and track every penny! Yes, every penny! Check your monthly bank/credit card statements as well. Ask yourself why before you make a purchase.

3. Excessive Venting

Let’s be clear, venting is healthy when it’s done with a confidant to process your feelings. However, excessively relying on venting can be detrimental to your emotional health and growth. If you don’t know how to process your feelings and arrive to a conclusion on your own, then your actions may be a reflection of someone else. Furthermore, it cultivates a negative state of mind about handling a situation. 

Instead of wanting to immediately call someone, write a letter. Use this letter to vent your true feelings no matter how ugly! Allowing yourself to feel your emotions is important! Hold on to this letter in a safe place for a few days, then rip it up. The letter will help you to process your feelings and be clear about what you want from the situation. If the issue still bothers you, then call someone to vent. It’s okay to confide in someone about your feelings!

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4. Social Withdrawal

If anyone can talk about this topic, it’s me! Removing yourself from family and friends for an extended amount of time is toxic.

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Again, let’s be clear, if you need time to understand and process your feelings to gain a new perspective, then yes take a step back. If people don’t appreciate what you do, then yes love them from a distance. If it is an ambivalent friendship, yes remove yourself. However, being around people that love and care for you will instantly put you into a better mood because they know you best. Isolating yourself as a coping mechanism can negatively impact your mental and emotional health. It will reinforce the belief that you are alone and without those that love you. If you don’t really want to talk, find activities that require silence like a movie or a spa date. What about those who are a distance away from you. Find time to contact them at least once a week to give them an update and bond with them.

5. Staying Busy

Staying busy and burying yourself in work doesn’t truly provide relief either. Yes, you will see the physical fruits of your labor, but this will impact you on a spiritual and emotional level. It’s perfectly okay to take a break! Engulfing yourself in work to avoid your life’s issues can actually impact your health. People have worked themselves into dehydration, panic attacks, strokes and high blood pressure to name a few. It is okay to take a step back to gather yourself mentally, spiritually and emotionally. What is meant for you will always be for you. Therefore, your health is much more important!

Afterthought

Self-care is about making a conscious effort to create and nurture the best version of yourself. Yet, self-care isn’t just about being the best you for you. It’s about creating that better version of yourself, so that you can engage with and deal with other human beings and your life in a healthy capacity.

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Your self-care should not only address your physical and basic needs, but your spiritual, emotional and mental needs as well. Sometimes the best self-care you can give yourself is to be honest about your own toxic shit. Those that truly care for you and love you will understand and appreciate your honesty.

This isn’t to tell you how to manage your self-care or to wag my pointer finger like I am better than anyone. This is to reveal to you that proper self-care shouldn’t involve you compromising yourself or the relationship that you have with others. In order to check your self-care, pay close attention to your intention behind the action and communication (with yourself and others).

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Cover Photo by Jacob Prose from Pexels

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