Self-destruction is a rather alarming trait to see in other people. Like when you watch a person drink way too much at a party and pass out in the corner after getting into an intense argument with a stranger. Or the friend you have who always wants to use drugs when everyone else just wants to sit around and watch movies. Or that mildly toxic person in your life who gets so upset that they punch walls. These overt types of self abuse are so in-your-face that they’re scary and worrisome, but there are other destructive behaviors that are more common, less obvious or dramatic, that can be equally damaging over the long haul.
What follows are a few self-destructive habits that may seem harmless, but over time, can cause real harm to your emotional and physical well-being. So, while you shouldn’t be worried if you go one day without having downtime, you should recognize a pattern of denying yourself the things that help keep you healthy. I’ve certainly been guilty of every single one of these—learning to take care of my body and mind has been a long and arduous process, and some days I still struggle with some of them. But seriously, let this be a reminder that there’s no excuse to not take care of yourself. You deserve it!
1. Forgetting to eat until dinner
You know how it is—you wake up late and rush out the door, you are slammed at your job and work through lunch to try and keep up while shoving a stale Nutri-grain bar into your mouth hole, and so you don’t end up having an actual meal until work is over. By the time you eat, you are cranky and you satiate yourself by shoving whatever junk you can find fast into your mouth while standing over the sink. This is not what self-care looks like. If you’re consistently not able to eat until dinner, it’s time to start waking up ten minutes early so that you have time to sit and eat cereal or toast before rushing out the door.
2. Keeping friends who treat you poorly
Maybe they’re old friends you’ve had since high school, or maybe they’re the work friends you cling to because you haven’t made any other friends in a new city yet. They might belittle you in front of others, manipulate you, not respect your boundaries, or show little consideration of your feelings. As much as you might want to blame them for being bad friends, keeping bad friends in your life is only hurting you, and it is your responsibility to remove yourself from the situation. Anyone who makes you feel small is not worth your time.
3. Getting into Twitter fights
Come on, we’re all guilty of this, right? Some days you just can’t help yourself, at least I can’t. Some days I stalk Twitter, wishing someone would say something homophobic so that I have permission to lay into them. But I noticed that I wasn’t actually feeling any better after winning Twitter fights, and I certainly wasn’t changing anyone’s mind. I was just feeling crappy about myself and wanting to spread it around.
4. Not sleeping
I truly believed, at one point in my life, that I didn’t deserve sleep. I had a career I poured myself into and I felt that it was my job to give everything I had to that career. After becoming sick and having to miss a lot of work, I realized that I wasn’t actually good at my job if I couldn’t keep myself well enough to do my job.
There’s a quote at the beginning of a song from a band called Stars that goes, “When there is nothing left to burn, you have to set yourself on fire.” This is a fine quote, but I took it as the most meaningful, important thing I’d ever heard—I was going to get this tattooed on my arm.
5. Hate-following people on social media
A few months ago I went and cleared out all of the people that I was following for the these purposes: a) To revel in how insanely ridiculous their online personas were; b) To continue to be irrationally jealous of them; or c) Because a squirmy part of me loved watching them self destruct from afar. But then I realized that following people who don’t bring me joy (and not that gross pitying kind of joy) was taking up more of my time than was healthy for me. The same goes for following exes on social media: There is not one single advantage to doing it.
6. Putting other people’s needs ahead of your own
This is a pretty classic Mom thing: she makes sure that everyone has their lunch packed and their nose blown before even stopping to take a sip of coffee. Watching her while growing up, you thought, “There’s no way I’ll be like that!” But how often have you driven your roommate to the airport, taken a 20-minute phone call from your mom, and wrapped up some last minute work stuff—all while needing to pee? You may think you’re being a saint, but it’s slightly masochistic to address other people’s issues instead of your own. This doesn’t give you permission to be selfish, but rather, to just be as considerate of yourself as you are to others.
7. Going multiple days without doing. . . nothing
Downtime is when your brain resets itself, and if you’re going without it, you’re hurting yourself. My downtime involves playing video games, reading celebrity gossip blogs, staring at the bird feeder I set up in my yard, or reading a book that has nothing to do with work. (I prefer corny horror books.) I’m not talking about an all-day vacation, but aiming for 30 minutes of do-nothing downtime a day is a good goal.
8. Not exercising
This is an extremely important one. For years, I didn’t exercise because I believed (foolishly) that exercising would be acknowledging that while I didn’t conform to traditional beauty standards, I desperately wanted to. You don’t have to exercise to lose weight, but you do have to exercise because your body needs you to move in order to keep itself healthy. I punished myself and called it social activism. Don’t do the same.
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