The differences between self-care and self-soothing


What are healthy ways to unwind and relax?

Taylor Maerz

A bubble bath, a glass of wine and a face mask can be a peaceful remedy to a stressful week of work or classes. Some may call it “self-care,” but are we missing the mark for the real definition of this practice? What are the long-term benefits of this little bit of “you time,” and is there a different category that time to yourself falls under?


Taking care of your mind, body and soul is one of the most important things you can do for yourself. Known as self-care, this practice goes beyond pampering yourself for 15 minutes a day. Self-care is a long-term process that builds confidence within yourself and allows you to make changes in your life to see yourself thrive. 

Self-care focuses on helping your future self and taking actions to benefit yourself days, months and even years after you accomplish well-being tasks. This can be as simple as making small changes in your daily routine, such as waking up 30 minutes earlier to get your day started, or going to therapy once a week.

Practicing self-care isn’t always easy. It can take time to build these habits, and at first, it can be uncomfortable or challenging, especially if you aren’t used to taking care of yourself in these ways.

Practicing self-care doesn’t happen overnight. Supporting your well-being is not a one-and-done type deal, and these tasks require motivation to turn into an ongoing routine. These habits and practices will take a while before you can notice their effects. Making your personal wellness a priority will make you feel more driven and motivated to accomplish your goals. 

The goal of self-care is to achieve a deeper level of self-acceptance. Being at peace with yourself is not something that comes naturally and it is a struggle for many people in their young adult lives. Not only does practicing self-care help you keep yourself in check, but it also helps maintain your relationships with those around you.

Here are some ways to start practicing self-care in your everyday life:

  • Journaling every night

  • Going to therapy once a week

  • Meditation

  • Exercising and working out

  • Teaching yourself a new skill

  • Nourishing your body with healthy foods and plenty of water


Self-care is often used in place of the term “self-soothing.” Self-soothing is a short-term fix to a stressor. Blanketed under the action of self-care, a lot of people try to use short-term fixes to replace their personal well-being practices. While it is refreshing to engage in these quick remedies, they should not take priority over your own self-journey and care. 

Because self-soothing practices are short term, they most often are tangible items that don’t last forever. Things you can buy at the store, like snacks or candles, are marketed to consumers to be stress relievers. However, these items can become expensive and they only provide a distraction to your stressors, not to mention they can become an unhealthy coping mechanism if your spending or indulgence gets out of hand.

However, making self-soothing a part of your day in moderation can be recognized as self-care; there is nothing wrong with giving yourself some time to destress and relax! 

Here are some ways to integrate self-soothing into your everyday life:

  • Splurging on your favorite dinner

  • Doing a face mask

  • Going out with friends for a drink

  • Watching a movie in bed

  • Clocking out on homework for the night

  • Online shopping

  • Lighting a candle

  • Relaxing to music while burning a candle, incense or using an oil diffuser

These are all practices that can be a great way to destress as long as these are practiced in moderation and you recognize what a healthy way to self-soothe is and what isn’t. Giving yourself a night off from studying once in a while is harmless, but missing class and calling it “self-care” or canceling plans last minute might not be beneficial to you in the long run.

Ultimately, it is important to use both self-care and self-soothing strategies to take care of your mind, body and spirit. Finding a balance and keeping your habits well-rounded are important steps to take on the journey to self-acceptance and love.