By Megan Sayles,
AFRO Business Writer,

Although reducing stress and promoting well-being go hand in hand for many, it’s easy to confuse the act of “self-soothing” with what is called “self-care.”

The former is typically reactive and occurs when a person engages in an activity to provide instant relief for emotional, mental or physical distress. The latter is a proactive and long-term practice to build resilience and meet your wellness needs. 

Nik Sweeney is the CEO of Amani Nicol Wellness in Pikesville, Md. She explained that self-care is an intentional effort to better your mental, physical and emotional health in the long-term. (Photo Courtesy of Nik Sweeney)

“There’s self-soothing and self-care. Self-soothing is when we naturally feel good doing things, like getting our hair done. Emotionally, it helps us for that moment,” said Nik Sweeney, CEO of Amani Nicol Wellness. “Self-care is an intentional effort to better yourself, whether it’s physically, emotionally or mentally.” 

Much of self-care is being able to step away from life’s responsibilities and take a moment for yourself. Engaging in self-care can look like attending therapy, eating healthy, exercising and wellness treatments.

Its ability to reduce stress furthers positive health outcomes. 

“Stress affects us metabolically, [which can] lead to heart disease, high cholesterol and diabetes,” said Sweeney. “In Black and Brown communities, we face more systemic stressors that keep our bodies in fight or flight all the time. We can only give ourselves permission to enjoy life and thrive by pausing for self-care.” 

While many self-care activities, like walking, mindfulness and breath work are free, some come with a price tag. This makes it critical for people to plan self-care into their budgets. 

Joel Gamble, Baltimore community manager for JPMorgan Chase, said self-care can be a part of a person’s entertainment fund in their budget. 

Joel Gamble is the Baltimore community manager for JPMorgan Chase. He advises people to set aside money for self-care activities as part of their entertainment funds in their monthly budget. (Photo Courtesy of Joel Gamble)

“A lot of times individuals might not have a budget,” said Gamble. “You want to make sure that you’re not just trying to budget in your head but that you’re writing it down on paper or using technology, like an Excel spreadsheet or apps.” 

A budget is simply a strategy for managing your money. But, if it’s not documented, it can be easy to forget or miscalculate certain expenses. Gamble said a budget should be created around a person’s income after taxes. 

Once a person takes account of their monthly expenses, which can include housing, transportation and utilities, they can then set self-care goals and determine how much money they have to spend on them. 

For those who like to travel for self-care, Gamble recommended saving to afford trips rather than using buy-now, pay-later services. He also suggested getting credit cards that have travel rewards, which allow people to rack up points for hotels and flights when using the card. 

If a person stays disciplined and sticks to their budget, Gamble said they shouldn’t feel guilt for spending money on their self-care or entertainment. 

“You have to realize that you worked hard and put your money aside,” said Gamble. “All of your other goals and expenses are taken care of because you’ve actually created a budget for yourself.

Megan Sayles is a Report for America corps member.