strive for better health

Beware Self-Care Overindulgences

Based on social media hashtags, it seems like just about anything you enjoy can be considered “self-care,” whether that’s a spa day, a streaming binge, a favorite dessert, or a drink with friends. But while the occasional indulgence can give you a temporary mood boost, it’s not always the best long-term choice for your health.

With both Stress Awareness Month and Alcohol Awareness Month occurring in April, here’s some information that can empower you to make healthy self-care decisions:

  • The fight-or-flight response is an involuntary response left over from when humans were likely to run into significant danger on any given day. Stress triggers this response, and being in fight-or-flight mode too often increases your risk for serious mental and physical health problems.
  • Nervous system dysregulation is when your autonomic (involuntary) nervous system gets “stuck” in an activated state. Getting “stuck” in fight-or-flight mode due to chronic stress is an example of nervous system dysregulation.
  • Nervous system regulation means returning your nervous system to its normal state. There are both healthy and unhealthy ways to achieve this.
  • Self-care is often how people refer to the ways in which they regulate their nervous systems. More accurately, self-care is how people manage their own health, ideally by eating nutritious foods, getting enough movement and sleep, and managing their stress.
  • Alcohol is a sedative and depressant that affects your central nervous system. It also increases the release of dopamine in the “reward center” of your brain. This provides a temporary feeling of nervous system regulation. However, the way alcohol interacts with neurotransmitters in your brain can increase the amount of the stress hormone cortisol in your body and worsen your responses to stress.
  • Unhealthy coping mechanisms are often the result of not having access to healthier ways of dealing with stress.
  • Shame and stigma surrounding alcohol abuse can make it hard to recognize when you or a loved one is struggling with unhealthy alcohol use. Practicing empathy and compassion for people who use unhealthy comping mechanisms is one way to reduce such shame and stigma.

When it comes to managing stress, there are lots of healthy ways you can cope. Don’t beat yourself up if you engage in the occasional indulgence—no one makes perfect choices 100% of the time. But be realistic about how healthy your self-care choices are, and do your best to choose healthy self-care as often as possible. Need ideas? Check out this month’s Top Health/Personal Best newsletter!

Remember: Self-care is about looking after your own health with the knowledge and information available to you.


Top Health

The monthly health promotion and well-being newsletter

Personal Best

Motivating lifestyle choices that promote good health and safety