The Two Types of Self Care

Often when we imagine self-care, we think of spa days spent blissfully half-awake, of pampering and mud-masks, of massages and hot stones. Or we think of long hours indulging our emotions, really feeling our feelings.

That is one half of the equation, one type of self care.  But there’s another type of self-care that’s just as vital, just as replenishing, and feels just as good:  and that is pushing yourself to achieve, to physical limits, towards your goals.

Let’s call the first form of self-care passive, and the second form active, for the sake of simplicity.

If one spends the weekdays in an office, a weekend of the first type of self-care, the indulgent passive type, is not actually what is needed.  Instead, you need the polar opposite of office work: trying hard sweating in the sun, or sweating while shivering in the cold.

However, if you spend the week working as an arborist or construction worker or professional athlete, the likelihood is that days off should be spent in the passive form of self-care.

There’s a duality to how we can use our bodies, and a duality to how we can use our minds. Recognizing both is essential, and balancing both optimally leads to better outcomes.

Passive Active
Soft + Gentle Strenuous + Gritty
Cake + Chocolate Eat your veggies
Steam baths Ten Mile Hikes
Mani-pedi Callouses from physical work
Sleeping in Alpine Starts
Moderation Intensives
Being told the answer Figuring it out
Rote learning Creative Trial + Error

Because of the realities of working a modern-computer-focused lifestyle, I often find myself yearning for strain and grit, and never the opposite. While on a mountainside I never once have missed my computer, though while at the keyboard the inverse has certainly occurred. My life, like many modern lives, needs much more of the strain and grit, active form of self-care than the spa-day passive type.

Moreover: the active form of self-care is the type that leads to success.  The metaphor learned at the mountainside can be reapplied to mental mastery, to professional achievement at high levels, to exerting personal discipline and willpower towards attaining one’s goals.

Self-indulgence is all too often viewed as the right of the feminine creature. What the feminine actually craves is not to be coddled; is not the chance to languish in self-indulgence. But rather to assertively harness the innate discipline, persistence, and strength that are also aspects of femininity, and are occasionally forgotten.

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