The Difference Between Easy and Hard Self-Care and Why Both Matter

“Sometimes you’ve got to look straight into the tired eyes of the woman staring back at you in the mirror and tell her that she deserves the best kind of love, the best kind of life, and devote yourself to giving it to her all over again.” ~S.C. Lourie

Self-care. It is a popular concept. It is important to understand what it means. The answer… that depends on you. Google can provide you with lists, articles, or suggestions for self care tasks. These can be helpful as inspiration, but self-care is something that’s unique to you.

It is suicide prevention, and I promote mental health. A lot of my conversations revolve around self-care. It is important for me to encourage my fellow workers to practice self-care. They are encouraged to make self-care lists that reflect their values. You’d imagine I’d be an expert in self-care. Do I really?  No. But I’m working on it. And I’m way better than I used to be.

What did you do to get better? The hard work of self-care began.

What’s the difference between easy and hard self-care?

A hot shower or bath is easy self-care. On weekends, I go hiking with my family. Texting my sister to discuss daily problems. Baking sourdough. Meditation.

Self-care can be as simple as doing what fills your bucket.

When I felt burnt out, this was the first form of self-care that I focused on. Most of my twenties consisted of my working several jobs at a time, filling my unpaid time with volunteer work and seeing friends, going out, staying so busy that I didn’t realize I was worn out. I was known to use the mantra “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.”

The mantra became too real for me in my thirties.

At thirty, I had my first baby and at three-four my second. My go-go-go lifestyle was starting to catch up. Volunteering, working full-time, making new friends, not saying no and being busy with two children, plus a partner who was on shifts, are all things I enjoy.

I was tired—all the time. The kind of tired that sleep doesn’t touch. The kind of tired that had me sobbing at the dinner table because I didn’t know where I’d find the energy to do the bedtime routine. That kind of tired that made me beg my doctor to run tests on me and wish he could find the problem so I can fix it.

Every other month, I had strep throat. It was making my stomach ache. It was exhausting and I didn’t feel well.  I would be so exhausted that I didn’t have energy for my kids at the end of the workday. That kind of tired that nothing could fix, even hot showers and meditation.

After explaining my symptoms to the doctor many times over eight years, I was told that my children were young and I shouldn’t expect to be fatigued.

This was something I realized wasn’t acceptable. So I made 2019 my year for health and scheduled an appointment to see a Naturopath. My first visit was with a naturopath. She had me rate how energetic I felt each day on a scale of 1-10.

She told me that my average energy level was a two. But sometimes, I’d be three.

She looked at me in shock and clarified: “You are a two on average, on a daily basis?”

I said, “Yes.”

She told me, “Honey, this is not normal.”

My tears broke out. I felt validated. I was not being ignored. Fast forward to a few rounds of bloodwork, and I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, which explained many of the symptoms I had been struggling with, including the crushing fatigue that left me in tears most days.

Here is when hard self-care really kicks in. Hot baths, meditation, baking sourdough—all things that continue to fill my bucket and that help me to feel better were important. But the self-care I needed to feel better in the long run, to have energy for my family, to live life instead of getting through life—the hard stuff—this is where I shifted.

The knowledge that I could change how I took care of my body was an empowering feeling. It was the first time I could take control of my feelings. This was possible by changing my mindset to view it as part of self-care. It helped me prioritize the difficult stuff.

Advocating to my healthcare providers, changing my diet and how I exercise, changing how I rest and recharge my body, setting boundaries, choosing what I use my energy for—these are necessary choices to alter my symptoms and help me to feel better, but they do not come easily for me. They are part of self-care. If I wanted to feel well, I needed to start doing these things—and continue to do them if I wanted to continue feeling better.

It does make me feel much better. Now I’m on thyroid medication. It is known that I feel terrible when dairy is present. I can now feel when I’m going into a Hashimoto’s flare, and I know when I need to rest more.

Exercise is good for me. I also know which exercises make me unhappy.

My partner is honest when I ask him for help so that I can relax.

It is easy to recognize the differences in my body’s response when I feel tired or fatigued and take steps to alleviate them.

The hard work I put into self-care the past three years was worth it for the overall feeling of my life.  

The hard self-care will likely always be something that I’m working on. As I have practiced them, some of the most difficult things became much more manageable.

I’m much more likely to advocate for my health with my doctor than I was three years ago. It is easier for me to establish boundaries in my work hours and what my capabilities are. Listening to my body is much easier and I can accept the need for rest.

I still have internal arguments with myself in terms of pushing myself to be productive (my trick is writing “rest” on my to-do list—it helps me reframe rest as productive instead of lazy!But, where I am today is very different than where I was only a few years back.

When I talk to others about self-care, I encourage them to think about the self-care that’s easy for them, and to also consider the harder self-care. Both are necessary and important in order to honor yourself.


Begin today.

1. One simple self-care activity you can take right now or today that will fill your bucket and help you feel better in the present moment.

2. Consider one important task you’d like to do for your self-care. It could be something like making an appointment you’ve been putting off or considering how to set a boundary that’s been difficult for you. It could even be something like drinking more water—that can be so difficult for some people, while it sounds easy.

3. Take care of yourself. Know that everyone’s journey is different. What’s hard for you might be easy for others, and vice versa. Individuals have different priorities and each person has the right to choose how they prioritize their self-care.

While it may not seem easy, once you start to put your priorities in place you will see that things are possible to improve.

About Stephanie Hicks

Stephanie Hicks, a mental health advocate who focuses on suicide prevention, is Stephanie Hicks. Her passion for self-care is rooted in the fact that she witnessed firsthand how much it can improve lives when people are able to prioritize their own well-being. Self-care can be a key part of caring for ourselves, our families, and the rest of the world.

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Tiny Buddha published the post The Difference Between Hard and Easy Self-Care: Why Both Matter originally.

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