self-care…you may have heard of it,
you may have an idea of what it is, you may even practice it (and you should!).
Though self-care is ultimately a subjective experience, its collective meaning has transformed over time to align with the political climate and current trends.
Self-care could be defined as a preventative measure to protect mental well-being and an active intervention during periods of stress.
Self-care is essential to our mental health, but it can seem like there are several barriers to practicing it, such as not having enough time and energy or feeling guilty and undeserving. The reality is, self-care is not selfish and instead provides us with fuel to continue with our lives. Today we are going to touch on the evolution of self-care and what engagement really looks like.
- Reduced stress and anxiety
- Improved physical health and emotional well-being
- Greater self-compassion and self-awareness
- Enhanced productivity
- Builds resiliency
- Better ability to be present and available for others
Self-Serving vs. Self-Care
Some sources cite that in the late 19th – early 20th centuries, the term self-care was used to represent status and superiority. The European standards of clothing, hygiene, gender, diet, etc. were thought to be better, therefore imposed by Western colonists on immigrants and Indigenous populations, on the racist basis that they were unable to care for themselves.
From the 1960’s and on, self-care was reclaimed by a number of demographics, including social workers and people in professions of intense stress, to combat burnout, women’s rights groups (particularly of colour), and activists in the civil rights movement (particularly the Black Panther Party) who saw self-care as a radical and political act to empower themselves against the treatment they experienced in the mainstream medical system which was influenced by colonists. In response, they set up programs to provide food, medical, dental, and other services to the community through non-profit organizations and cooperatives. Moving forward, other marginalized groups (2SLGBTQI, people with disabilities, people with mental illness) were able to speak to self-care and shared their advice with the broader society.
Self-maintenance vs. Self-care
Basic care is one aspect of self-care but it is not the be-all or end-all. However, physical activity, balanced eating, sleep hygiene are vital to our overall health and well-being! If you make regular medical appointments, get your body moving each day, incorporate nutritious foods into your diet, wash your hands, brush your teeth, get 7-8 hours of sleep every night, use sunscreen, practice safe sex, limit alcohol consumption, and wear a seatbelt, you are taking care of yourself!
Sometimes it is the thing we want to do the least, such as turning off Netflix when you want to keep watching in order to get some sleep, waking up early to exercise so you can fit it into your workday, and flossing so you don’t have extra dental visits and expenses. This extends beyond physical practices and involves nurturing our minds and emotions as well like journaling your feelings, talking about your issues to someone you trust, reading a book, learning a new hobby, or meditating.
Photo Source: https://isfglobal.org/what-is-self-care/
Self-Indulgence vs. Self-Care
In recent years, we have seen the ‘wellness industry’ boom, making billions of dollars a year in Canada and being valued at trillions of dollars globally. This industry will use the term self-care in an effort to market their brand effectively, conveying the message that if you buy their product, you will be able to partake in an act of self-care. Items that fit into this category include candles, blankets, skin-care products, essential oils and diffusers, and even alcoholic drinks/accessories. It is often associated with ideas of investing in something luxurious to pamper yourself which will achieve self-care. If you do a google search of ‘self-care products’ you will get 2-3 billion results!
There is something wrong with treating yourself every once in a while, especially when you find a great product, but it is important to understand that expensiveor branded accessories are not required to engage in self-care. Such indulgences typically only provide short-term relief and do not get the root or even cover the basics of self-care. It is possible to take part in self-care through combining immediate gratifications with habitual practices. Just don’t let corporate greed get the best of you and support businesses you feel good about if you can.
Several forms of media have convoluted the meaning of genuine self-care. We can tell you what it is not. It is not going grocery shopping without your kids. It is not eating comfort food and drinking wine to unwind at the end of each day. It is not indulging in ‘retail therapy’ without having regard for your budget. Real self-care requires some active planning and effort. It is something that usually needs to be scheduled into you day to prevent it from ending up on the back burner. It isn’t glamourous and it is hard work to pay off long-term. Ultimately, it is consciously creating a life that you don’t have to regularly escape from!
- Setting healthy boundaries in your relationships so you don’t overextend yourself
- Forgiving yourself when you make a mistake instead of beating yourself up
- Apologizing when you’ve done something wrong even if you’re too proud
- Spending time with people who encourage you and make you want to be your best self
- Occasionally treating yourself because you deserve something nice
- Practicing self-compassion and kindness because you are worthy
- Reaching out for support
- Accepting help when you need it
- Presenting yourself in a way that makes you feel good
- Doing a pleasurable activity each day for your well-being
- Taking time to complete a task like yard work so you can feel relaxed afterwards
- Detoxing from your phone and social media for periods of time to be present
- Not making excuses for stopping yourself from unlocking your potential
- Ending an unhealthy relationship because you owe yourself better