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Treat Yourself or Heal Yourself?

Updated: Jun 27, 2023

Self-soothing isn’t always the same as self-care. Understanding the difference can help you increase wellbeing for yourself and your employees.

During the past months, we’ve seen all kinds of information and tactics for self-care. The intentions to support people’s wellbeing here are fantastic. But we want to do a little bit of myth-busting about the difference between self-care and self-soothing.

What if what’s been marketed to you as self-care is actually undermining your overall wellbeing? Learn how to tell self-care from self-soothing, then check our 5 tips below for how you can focus on self-care for your work.

Self-Care vs Self-Soothing

There are some important distinctions to make between self-soothing and self-care. Take a look at our graphic below to see some of the key differences between self-care and self-soothing.

Once you dig into these differences, you’ll start noticing that lots of the self-care guidance out there right now isn’t so much about increasing your wellbeing, but more about feeling better in the moment.

Sometimes, feeling better in the short-term can lead to improved overall wellbeing in the long run. Mindfulness is a great example of an activity that can provide relief in the moment and also long-term wellbeing benefits. But some self-soothing behaviors that are actually detrimental to self-care are still tolerated or even celebrated in our current “treat yo’self” culture. That shopping spree or tub of ice cream in the name of self-care? Probably not boosting your financial bottom line or supporting your optimal health.

So how can you tell if you’re choosing to treat yourself by self-soothing, or to heal yourself through self-care? Check in with your intentions. Is your intention to prioritize your wellbeing in the long run, or to feel better in the short-term? Maybe you’re looking for activities that will accomplish both.

Self-care and self-soothing each have a role to play in supporting wellbeing. But it’s important to recognize whether you’re giving yourself permission to prioritize your wellbeing (self-care), or to feel better in the moment (self-soothing). Becoming aware of this difference can help you to be more mindful about your choices.

Promote Self-Care vs Self-Soothing for Work

The distinction between self-care and self-soothing is especially important for work, where individual employees and organizational culture reinforce all kinds of viewpoints on what wellbeing means. Here are some ways you can actively support self-care vs self-soothing for your own work and for your company.

  • Understand and share out the difference between self-care and self-soothing. This is a popular misconception in our current wellbeing culture, and lots of resources frame self-soothing as self-care — even company-sponsored benefits materials. Educating people on this difference helps them make sense of the information available and make the best choices between self-care and self-soothing.

  • Be empathetic in your language and thinking around self-care. If you or an employee are struggling with self-care, consider that there may not be easy access to the information, equipment, or resources needed for some activities that are currently popularized as self-care. Make it your goal to truly listen without any assumptions, and to connect with good resources for self-care that can work for individual situations.

  • Get familiar with what resources are available. Check for your organization’s benefits and resources around wellness and mental health. Look for things like benefits guides, Employee Assistance Programs, or wellbeing classes. Use them yourself, or encourage your teams to take advantage.

  • Support flexibility to prioritize self-care actions. Encourage using employee benefits, taking time for personal appointments, and incorporating wellness opportunities into the workday. To the extent that you can, give yourself and employees the flexibility to make their self-care needs a priority.

  • Become an advocate for self-care at work. If your company or team structure doesn’t currently allow for flexibility or offer benefits to support self-care, speak up. Request additional support to fulfill self-care tasks. Advocate for a holistic benefits package that addresses mental, physical, emotional, and financial needs. Reviewing company resources to differentiate between self-care vs self-soothing can also play a critical role in setting the tone for wellbeing.

Using Mindfulness to Support Self-Care

Mindfulness can be a win for both self-care and self-soothing, helping you to feel better in the moment and contributing to overall wellbeing. At WorkMinded, we have some services that can help you use mindfulness to support self-care. Reach out to us at for details!


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