Self-Care vs. Self-Soothing

Good example of self-soothing, but sometimes it’s just what the doctor ordered!

I never really thought about the differences between self-care and self-soothing until I heard Kate Horsman speak at UFV where she attended as a panelist during our International Women’s Day presentation. I absolutely thought that when I turned on the Bachelor, poured myself a glass of wine and snuggled up under my favorite blanket on the couch after a long hard day at the office, struggling with my son and his grade 11 calculus homework and folding three loads of laundry, that I was practicing self-care. It was my time to wind down and let go of all the craziness of the day — to just take a deep breath and relax. But I now know that what I was doing was self-soothing — doing something that makes you feel good in the moment but doesn’t necessarily make you well in the long run. It is also important and has great benefits, but if it’s deeper issues you are wanting to resolve, like making big changes in your life, I learned that we need to really be intentional in what we do for our own self-care. It means taking action to target the problem at its source, even if it isn’t very enjoyable or easy – it’s what you need to do for yourself for a happier, healthier life in the long run. It may be that you need to cut off toxic relationships or seek professional help from a therapist or your doctor. I asked Ms. Horsman to share her thoughts on this topic to help us all have a better understanding of the differences between self-care and self-soothing, the benefits of both and how we can achieve a balance.


In a world that seems to encourage us to make “space” and take care, it might also be helpful to know what exactly it is that might support us in doing so, because the truth of it is, we are stressed, tired, and taxed.

You see, it’s important to understand that self care has become a bit of a “hashtag trending” type buzzword, and although it has some healthy connotations and meaning, it might be confusing as to what it actually is that is filling us up or distracting us from what we might need to feel in order to heal.

Might I offer considering looking at this topic instead in two ways? Might we actually separate self care from, what might be more accurately named, self soothing. These two often get lumped into the same group, but are actually two very different in intention and application.

A lot of the yummy and comforting things that we are sharing as self-care, might actually be, what we might classify as self-soothing. You see, it does make us feel better in the moment and that is alright of course, but it also might just be a bit of a band aid to that which we may have been experiencing in wounding or pain. Cue something like the Netflix binge, or maybe something like a spa visit, or the extra serving of cake or glass of wine.

Now self-care may be less enjoyable, or it may still be, you see there is overlap in these both sometimes. But at it’s essence, it is about doing the right thing to nurture our needs and meet them just as they are, not simply to distance ourselves from them. Perhaps this looks like going to bed at a really early time. Or maybe even just saying no, when we feel as though we are being pulled in too many directions and overextended. Self-care may mean having the hard conversations when it is easier not to. But it is also the stuff that helps us lead healthier and more sustainable lives, and that is why it is so important.

Here is the thing, both self-care and self-soothing absolutely do both have a place in our world, and sometimes as mentioned, they do overlap. It is just important to get clear about the intention behind the action so that you can choose a practice and prepare in the moment what it is that is going to support present and future you, not just the desire to get out of the thick of things quick.

Submittted by Guest Blogger, Kate Horsman RHN, Mindfulness Practitioner and Counsellor

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