The Difference Between Instant Self-Care and Long Term Self-Care

A while back I was asked to talk about the difference between long term self-care and instant self-care and differences between the two. Let's dive in!

A while back I was asked to talk about the difference between long term self-care (the kind of self-care that considers our future selves) and instant self-care (that instant-gratification/right now self-care) and differences between the two. Let’s dive in!

Instant Self-Care

Instant self-care includes the things that make you feel good right now versus things that invest in your long term future.


Rest is a long-term essential as well. But for the purpose of explantation here, I’m sticking it into short-term because it’s something we need to pay attention to on a day to day basis. There’s a fine line between pushing yourself too hard and downright not taking time to do the things that are essential to your overall feeling good (many things play into this).

For your long term health, moving your body is important. Seeing your friends is important. Doing fun things is important. But you know those days where you don’t feel motivation to do anything? But at the same time… you know you haven’t done anything all week and it would probably feel really good to get out of the house? That’s the fine line…

Sometimes it feels really good to say “heck with it” and rest. Skip the gym, cancel a dinner plan, plop down on the couch and indulge in an evening in with nothing to do (it can be a breathe of fresh air). However, if you do that every time you intended to move your body, see a friend, or go to Church to get spiritually filled, what might that add up to? That’s a question for you to answer.

For example, I know I need to move my body most days in order to feel good. Whether it’s a long walk, lifting weights, swimming, having an active day with friends (hiking, paddle boarding, etc…) I usually need something. I also know the feeling of “I want to move my body but I also don’t want to.” This comes down to prioritizing too much of everything else and not enough of myself.

For example… 10 hours of work, making food for Marco and I, taking care of Abby, picking up around the house, and leaving no time for me. Every once in a while, this is fine. But do this everyday and add that up over a whole year? No bueno. That would = a very non-feeling-good me.

I also know the feeling of needing to be around other humans (when you need to get out of the house) but not having the motivation to get out and see people. Not good for me. I need my alone time, but I also need my people. It’s okay to short term take time for me, but I need to make sure I’m balancing that out with community.

So pay attention. Pay attention to your motivation to rest.

Rest is absolutely essential to your health and should be prioritized. But don’t leave other essentials out of the picture. We all have unique needs and *you know you* best. Be honest with yourself here. (Also know that if you’ve just come out of a go-go-go season, more rest may be needed and that’s okay.)

Saying “NO”

Saying “no” can be instantly gratifying. However, we want to make sure we’re being intentional with our yes and our no. I love the way this Bible verse says it: “Let your yes mean yes, and your no mean no.” (Matthew 5:37) Essentially, this verse is saying just say yes or no. Anything more is not necessary.

I read Shauna Niequist’s book “Bittersweet” a while back and what stuck out to me more than anything else was knowing your home team. Here’s how she describes it:

“Everybody has a home team: It’s the people you call when you get a flat tire or when something terrible happens. It’s the people who, near or far, know everything that’s wrong with you and love you anyways. These are the ones who tell you their secrets, who get themselves a glass of water without asking when they’re at your house. These are the people who cry when you cry. These are your people, your middle-of-the-night, no-matter-what people.”

She talks about saying YES to your home team and NO to your, well… not home team. Otherwise, you’re probably saying yes so much outside of your home team that you’re not able to say yes to your home team. As I just moved and am building life in a new place I used this idea of a “home team” as inspiration and made a mental list of the people I want to say yes to in this life season:

  1. Marco, Abby and God (they’re a package deal!)
  2. Immediate family
  3. Reno community (including Church)
  4. A few trusted friends outside of Reno
  5. My clients

If I didn’t have this list right now I would be spread thin. I would not know where to say yes or no. You know what happens when I feel unable to say no to countless invitations and requests?

  • My husband says things like “Paige, you cannot say yes to everything. You have to be able to pick and choose.” (So true and I’m in a season of learning this!)
  • I feel completely overwhelmed
  • My attention runs wild (like where’d it go and who stole my focus?)
  • I feel high anxiety
  • I resent when anyone asks anything of me (relate?)

But when I can say “no” and “yes” clearly with the things that are in line with my list (for THIS season — it ebbs, flows and changes throughout life) it’s so much easier for me to recognize “for now, this is a ‘no’ thing” or “yes, it’s important for me to show up here.”

Here’s what I want you to take away here…

Know where you need to say “YES” so you can feel confident about your “NO.” Figure out your yes first. 

Remember this: All too often we leave the people who will be with us forever for last. Why? Because they’ll “always” be there. Not so fast my friends (I’m talking to myself too). In my opinion, I’m learning that those are the very people who need to be first. Those are the people who I want to spend the most of my time with. Those are the people who I want to give my greatest commitments to.

So if you’re in a habit of saying “no” to the people you love the most (the ones who will be with you forever) because you’re struggling with the instant gratification of NOT saying no to everyone else (it saves us from momentary discomfort)… check-in. Your “no” can be a very good form of self-care if you let it.


Painting your nails, doing your hair, getting dressed up… these are instant gratification sources. Sure, you could argue that if they make you overall happier then they add to your long term mental wellbeing. I’d agree. But for the purpose of what we’re talking about today, these are things that can give you that instant dose of feeling good (short-term self-care).

They are not necessary for you to stay alive, but they make you feel good. So indulge yourself in them. Have fun with them. Let them add joy to your life — but do not let them rule. For example, wear all the makeup you want. Enjoy it! Fancy yourself up. But be okay when your best friend comes over and you have not an ounce of makeup on, your hair is fresh out of the shower, and your cheeks are red from hot water (I just described myself).

Your value is FAR bigger than your beauty. Your beauty is a gem, but it is not you.


Sometimes impulse is good. We all need a little impulse. Without it, we’ll likely burn out and get bored. However, too much impulse — impulse that completely takes over and controls us — needs to be reigned in. Indulge yourself regularly (whatever that looks like for you) with little give-in’s to impulse. But before you do, take note of impulses that are healthy and good for you. What is good for you may not be good for someone else, so you’ll need to check in with yourself on this list.

To give you an example, here are a few impulse choices I made lately:

  • an unplanned haircut while I was out running errands
  • filling an online shopping cart with $600 worth of clothing and not buying any of it (haha!)
  • spontaneously choosing to work from a coffee shop mid-day when I got tired
  • randomly getting ready when I didn’t need to
  • saying yes to chocolate milkshakes after a boat ride in Lake Almanor this week
  • buying myself a mug that made me so happy whenever I saw it

All of these impulse choices were perfectly healthy and acceptable. None of them caused harm in my life, rather, they gave me a jolt of joy. Think of your own list… Look for the things that feel impulsive, fun and special… but also leave you feeling good. They don’t leave you bankrupt, sick or hurt. They’re healthy and they’re fun.

Long Term Self-Care


Back to movement. When we look at long-term health I want you to ZOOM OUT of your life. I want you to zoom out from a million miles away. Look at the timeline of your life from the time you were born until you’re 90 years old (or older!). You want to do things that invest in the health and wellbeing of your future, right? I do!

Movement is one of those things.

When I say healthy movement I’m thinking of things that you can sustain. Things that build you up, not tear you down. Things that make your body function better; not things that hurt you and leave you injured. Have you ever heard that saying “a body in motion stays in motion”? That’s what we’re aiming for. Motion.

This breaks my heart to talk about… but a very sad statistic is that people often get sick or die shortly after they retire (ugh). I can’t help but wonder why… but I have to guess that it’s because they stop doing things. The people I know who are healthiest and live the longest (even after they retire) keep doing the things that they love. They walk with friends, they eat awesome/tasty high-quality food, they plan trips, they love big, tell stories, laugh… they keep the momentum in their lives.

Which makes me think… movement isn’t just about moving your physical body. It’s also about creating movement in your day to day life. Trying new things, having fun, discovering new things in your relationships, etc… What do you think? I’d love to hear!

Healthy Food

Again, we’re thinking long-term 1,000,000 miles away. Healthy food is important. However, if we’ve fallen into disordered eating then short term, we need to find ways to get out of that. Obsessing over our food or restricting ourselves from food groups that may be essential or important is not healthy. 

This is where intuitive eating comes in. Intuitive eating trains us to get out of the cycle of relying on food rules. 

Once we’re out of that and we have a calm, subtle relationship with food… we can begin to intentionally incorporate high quality foods. My view of healthy foods is this: foods that I can smell, foods that grow from the ground, foods that didn’t take a man to process the crap out of… those are allll “healthy” foods.

I’m allowed to eat ANY food. However, when I’m choosing my meals for the week, I’m planning what to nourish myself with, I want to include foods that nourish me. This all comes from a place of love and having a healthy relationship with food, which I didn’t always have. There was absolutely a time where I had to let go of eating healthy food and just eat. 

Know where you are and be honest with yourself about what you need at this time and consider your longterm health.

Mental Well Being

One of the most important pieces of all of this is keeping our mental health up. This means doing things that reduce anxiety, that make us feel happy, and that investment in our long term health.

For example… as many of you know I’ve just enrolled in a Financial Coach Training Program. Well, in it there was a story of a family who started out with $45,000 of student loans. After not being able to make proper payments over a few years the loan increased (not decreased — even though they did pay some toward the loan!) to $60,000.

Student loans never die. Do you think this person feels mentally healthy with this debt hanging over their head, knowing they can never get out of it? Knowing that if they don’t make their payments the Federal Government could garnish their wages or take away their home? NO. This person is living in fear.

Therefore, this person needs to make some big changes that short term, might feel hard. But long term, are absolutely investing in their mental, emotional, and financial well being. They need to work toward getting that debt monkey off their back so they can experience freedom.

Perhaps you have something big like that in your life. An addiction, an abusive relationship, a debt, an eating disorder, etc… something that might not feel good/easy to work on short term (not instantly gratifying) but long term is incredibly important.

Think about this: one day, your long term is going to be your short term. Meaning, if when you think “long term” you think “30 years” one day it’s going to be 30 years from now. You want to also care for that version of yourself. Consider your mental health. What might need to change in the short term in order for you to experience long term health in this area?

Sustainable Habits

Next up, sustainable habits are a long-term form of self-care.

I shared the example with a client the other day of a friend of mine who used to ask me to go for runs with him. Every single time he would start the run SPRINTING. I’d start with a slow and steady jog. At first, I was behind. But every time, at a certain point I’d catch up to him and he’d be bent over with his hands on his knees, complaining about how he hates running and he’s just not having a good running day and that we should stop.

I never understood why he wouldn’t just pace himself and enjoy the full thing. I mean… we were running along a beautiful beach with so much scenery to take in. Why couldn’t he just enjoy it? Short answer: he wouldn’t let himself take the moderate route. If he was running, he felt he had to RUN. And every single time (literally) it left him upset.

So go your own pace and enjoy it. Think about what result you want to create long term and aim for that. I like to call the space between all and nothing “the middle.” Live a little more in the middle — it’ll last a whole lot longer.


Remember a couple paragraphs ago when I talked about the short term goals and making sure you’re saying yes and no in the right areas? Let’s build off that… I want you to take inventory of your relationships right now. List them out.

  • Go back over that list and circle the relationships where you feel completely yourself in
  • Now the ones who you truly love (and are healthy)
  • Next, circle the ones who you feel you can trust. The ones you feel safe with
  • Finally, circle the ones who you could talk to for hours and never get old of being with them

Those are the people who you *love* spending your time with. Of the energy you have to give to others, give these people a great amount of your energy. Love on them, check on them, and nurture these relationships. These are the people who you see yourself spending forever with.

Likewise, the ones you didn’t circle yet, what’s up with that? What’s going on in these relationships? Do you feel obligated to stay in them? Are there boundary issues there? Check-in with yourself. In your relationships let your yes mean yes and your no mean no. Meaning, go the extra mile for those who matter to you and don’t, for those who don’t.

Let’s wrap it up

Share your thoughts with me below in the comments. I would love to hear what you thought of this post. Could you relate? What did you relate to most? Leave a comment. 🙂

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