Is this self-care or avoidance?
The following is a guest article, contributed by Amanda Xavier:
Recently, I upgraded my mental health adventure level by completely revising all the habits and coping skills I had acquired for the past 27 years. I had some healthy habits that were pretty helpful such as reading, journaling, and playing video games.
I also had some unhealthy avoidance tactics to escape from the stress of everyday life such as reading, journaling, and playing video games.
Yes, they’re the same activities.
How can they be both healthy and unhealthy then?
Well, the only difference is the intent behind them.
Reflecting on your intent
Here is some context, I am an avid procrastinator. I procrastinate because I’m afraid to put in my best efforts to potentially be judged as just “okay”. This realisation came about after therapy and lots of self-reflection, but that’s a story for another time.
If my intention was to avoid the uncomfortable feelings of procrastinating, my lovely helpful activities become unhealthy avoidance. I am now avoiding work or my fears by whiling away time reading, or spending an hour curating an art collage for my journal, or playing Borderlands for 4 hours straight.
It is hard to differentiate between the two intentions if you had not allowed yourself to be open and vulnerable with your flaws. To know when I was using my favourite habits as self-care versus as an unhealthy avoidance, I had to upgrade my self-reflection.
I started by reflecting on what I could be avoiding by my habits. I found that I usually feel like “escaping” when I had an unfinished project, chores, or big decisions to make. I avoided them because I was scared that I couldn’t do a good job, anxious at the amount of chores I hadn’t done, and worried about making the wrong choice.
Then, the hardest part: I had to acknowledge it.
Making a decision to be mindful, each time
I had to accept that my avoidance was unhealthy, and it just made things even worse. I looked up techniques and methods to help with scheduling and reducing procrastination, and I tried everything from setting reminders (on my phone, or asking a buddy to help) to drawing out a schedule of each hour of my day. Honestly, I still wasn’t there yet.
But a month ago, when I was in a work meeting, someone suggested a Ted Talk about achieving your goals.
Not only did it help me shift my perspective on my procrastination, but it helped me decide to change and make that decision every single day.
Everytime I feel like doing a self-care activity, I take a second to think about what I’m avoiding.
Sometimes, you can hear me actually asking myself out loud, “Enjoy now and suffer later, or finish work and enjoy later?”. Basically, I’m asking myself if it’s really self-care or just avoidance.
Self-care provides way more relief when you don’t have something you’re actively avoiding. It’s a win-win!
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