Mental Health Monday: Soothing and Tending

In my own self-care practice, I’ve started differentiating two types of self-care. Things I do for now and things I do for later. I call now, “self-soothing,” and later, “self-tending.”

Self-Soothing

Self-soothing are the things I do to feel better now. Usually, I rely on them when I get overwhelmed by anxiety or depression. For example:

  • Brushing my skin with soft bristles
  • Drinking hot chocolate
  • Playing Tetris or Bejeweled on my phone (It really helps, there’s studies!)
  • Resting with a weighted blanket or heating pad
  • Watching funny YouTube videos

Self-Tending

Self-tending is how I create a foundation that helps me feel balanced in the future. I tend to myself as I would tend to a garden, a pet, or a child. That means hydration, nourishment, rest, and love. Some things are directly related to my body and some are related to the space around me.

  • Follow a Morning and Bedtime routine
  • Go to bed early
  • Set doctor appointments
  • Tidy up the home

Crossover

Some things can fall into both categories. In fact, I bet you could argue that any action in self-care can be in either category depending on how you use it. If you do it to feel better now, that’s self-soothing. If you do it to feel better later and for longer, that’s self-tending.

These things for me have both an immediate soothing effect as well as a longer-term tending cause.

  • Take a shower
  • Plan a vacation
  • Practice a musical instrument
  • Journal
  • Help someone else

Question

What is your most important self-care action? Is that action for self-soothing or self-tending or both?

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