for an article about self-care, woman holding a cup of coffee and an open book on her lap
Treating yourself with a study break or a dessert are valid forms of self-care, but these behaviors can become an unhealthy pattern if you don't remain aware of it. (Photo by Anthony Tran from Unsplash)

Overindulgent Self-Care Can Be Detrimental to Your Health

Treating oneself regularly can be detrimental, and it is important to be aware of the line between taking necessary time for oneself and creating bad habits.

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for an article about self-care, woman holding a cup of coffee and an open book on her lap

Treating oneself regularly can be detrimental, and it is important to be aware of the line between taking necessary time for oneself and creating bad habits.

Self-care is not just a reward. It’s about maintaining psychological and physical well-being. However, indulging in too many self-care practices can worsen your health. In other words, there are consequences for giving in to too many self-indulgent moments. Maintaining a balance of self-care activities is necessary to have a healthy lifestyle.

But how can people prevent themselves from falling into the trap of self-indulgence? The first step is to realize it’s okay to take care of oneself because maintaining good health is vital for the soul and the body. If someone fails or makes a mistake at work or school, they shouldn’t be too hard on themselves and choose to believe that they don’t deserve self-care. It is also important to note everyone handles self-care differently. One person’s self-care routine might not be a fit for others’ goals, which is okay. People should find what specifically works best for them. However, it is essential for people to know their limitations when practicing self-care, which can present the greatest challenge for many.

Self-Care

According to Lifehacker, “Self-care helps prevent burnout, reduces the negative psychological and physical effects of stress, and helps you refocus on what is true and important.” In other words, it means to deliberately take care of one’s well-being through restorative activities that reflect a person’s needs.

The process includes tuning into one’s own needs and taking action to rebalance and self-regulate. As a result, the person creates safety and the ability to grow. From this growth, caring for others becomes possible. Some forms of self-care may not seem enjoyable but are still beneficial. For instance, choosing a salad over a burger can be hard, but doing so is healthier; finishing the healthier meal can make a person feel better because they’re working more closely toward long-term goals, like weight loss or improved overall health.

Therefore, self-care increases resilience, motivation, growth and the ability to cope with stress. Without it, individuals experience burnout, emotional and physical exhaustion, malnutrition, impatience and compassion fatigue. It takes patience and perseverance to form a habit of self-care.

Here are some healthy self-care activities:

  1. Consume nourishing foods
  2. Practice meditation
  3. Authentically communicate needs to partner
  4. Spend time in nature and/or play a sport
  5. Exercise
  6. Get a massage
  7. Practice self-expression & compassion
  8. Walk or dance for a minimum of 30 minutes, five days a week
  9. Write in a daily self-reflection journal
  10. Connect with faith in religion
  11. Spend quality time with loved ones
  12. Pursue invigorating work you enjoy

Self-Indulgence

On the other hand, self-indulgence is the practice of overdoing self-care for the temporary pleasure it brings, which can deplete rather than nourish a person. Although people think overdoing self-care activities is beneficial, the gratification won’t last long. As a result, they end up feeling worse than before the indulgent fix. A common instance of self-indulgence can be seen when someone is full and still decides to have a dessert.

When a student is stressed and miserable with homework, taking a break to watch a single episode of their favorite show can be incorporated into their daily routine. However, after they finish the episode, the ease of watching “just one more” can trap them. Consequently, a 40-minute break becomes a two or three-hour break. The student then realizes they have less time to study and stresses more than when they started their work. Therefore, binge-watching shows could count as self-indulgence.

Another example is when someone decides to play videogames with a friend. At first, they agree to only play for two hours at 8 p.m. because they both need to wake up early the next day. However, after the initial two hours pass, they choose to play more because they don’t want the entertainment to end. Thus, two more hours pass, and it has become midnight. Although they had fun playing videogames, they both have become exhausted from staying up late and won’t sleep well.

Here are some other self-indulgent practices:

  1. Staying in bed for too long
  2. Working around the clock and not taking any time for oneself
  3. Spending too much money on materialistic things

The Problem With Self-Indulgence

People who splurge on self-indulgent practices are usually not aware of their long-term negative effects: bad habits. Since the effects of the pleasure wear off within a few minutes, people will grasp at anything that offers it again. It becomes a never-ending cycle, which can get extremely frustrating. When people deplete their energy, they become distressed, which causes stagnation and an inability to support others, leading to more self-indulgence. Therefore, it’s essential to catch unhealthy psychological habits and change them.

How To Battle Self-Indulgence

To stop self-indulgence, one must practice self-discipline. According to author Samuel Thomas Davies, “Self-discipline is about leaning into resistance. Taking action in spite of how you feel. Living a life by design, not by default. But most importantly, it’s acting in accordance with your thoughts — not your feelings.” Therefore, one must discipline themselves from self-indulging to have a healthy lifestyle.

Once someone recognizes it is essential to take care of themselves properly and accepts changes to improve, they are more willing to practice healthy habits. In Robert B. Cialdini’s book “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion,” he writes, “Once we have made a choice or taken a stand, we will encounter personal and interpersonal pressures to behave consistently with that commitment. Those pressures will cause us to respond in ways that justify our earlier decision.” To prevent oneself from self-indulging, they should start envisioning the behavior of the identity they want to embody.

But how can one succeed in self-discipline? YouTuber Thomas Frank says there are six ways to master self-control. In short, they are to focus on one’s own identity, create reminders, “embrace the suck,” target proper rest and nutrition, practice meditation and slowly build new habits.

When someone reminds themselves why they need to stop self-indulging, they are more likely to persevere through their goals. By repeating the reason they started to improve themselves and focusing on the end goal, they are more able to fight off temptations.

Embrace the suck means embracing the discomfort and resistance one feels toward disciplined self-care. Self-discipline is like a muscle that can become stronger over time. Appreciating the journey to the finish line is worthwhile due to the results. By embracing the difficulties in avoiding self-indulgence, one’s strength against temptation grows.

One should first focus on resting and their eating habits to have a solid foundation to build on. Including meditation in the mix can not only clear one’s mind but can aid in the process of building new habits. Once people integrate these steps into their lives, self-care can become a routine that keeps them not just healthy, but functioning at their best.

After learning self-restraint, one can form a self-care action plan and learn techniques to help prevent and battle self-indulgence. Emma Hogg, psychotherapist and founder of A Life I Choose self-development agency, suggests people should write down all the nourishing activities they do on one side of a paper and all the depleting activities on the other. She says doing so can make one more aware and stay away from self-indulgent practices.

Here are some mobile apps to help keep focused:

  1. Headspace
  2. Fabulous
  3. MindDoc
  4. Reflectly
  5. Daylio

Final Reminders About Healthy Self-Care

One of the key steps to prevent self-indulgence is to ask oneself these questions: “How do I want to feel after I do this activity? Is it going to hurt and negatively affect me later? Is it really worth it?”

It is crucial to not over-indulge. Once one stays focused on an ultimate goal, they can think more clearly before giving in to a detrimental action.

Writer Profile

Sophie N. Munoz

University of Texas at San Antonio
English Major, concentration in Creative Writing

She/Her ~ {6w5} ~ INTJ ~ Introvert

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