Part 2 of the What Does This Have To Do With Wellness? series
Self-care is the buzzword of the wellness world, and lately it has become the hot-topic that everyone is talking about. I have both positive and negative opinions about self-care and want to share with you what I think self-care reveals to us about our wellness. The answer just might surprise you.
The Good Side of Self-Care
I love the concept of self-care. The idea of taking time and activities dedicated to caring for yourself: your body, your mind, and your spirit. I do think it is a very important part of wellness and mental health.
The idea of prioritizing your needs, health, and intentionally taking time to perform actions that make you feel good and allow you to rest is something that has been and is still lacking in people’s lives. Our modern routines are packed to the brim with responsibilities and stress, and self-care is a way of de-stressing, nurturing ourselves, and coping with those heavy burdens.
It can also give us opportunities to better know and explore ourselves, our wants and desires, and think about the kind of life we want to live.
There are a multitude of different ways to do self-care and it really depends on what your particular preferences and needs are. What works for one person won’t necessarily work for someone else, and so it might take some time to figure out what nurtures you best.
Some examples of self-care might be: quiet time alone, meditation, exercise, coloring, bathing and other personal hygiene activities, going to therapy, sleep, or time spent in nature. It can also mean setting aside time for the hobbies that you enjoy. But there are so many more. The most important part of self-care is that it meets your needs and makes you feel nurtured, not how you do it.
I try to take time every week, ideally every day to perform even small acts of self-care and it is hugely beneficial to how I feel and how much energy I have to conquer my daily struggles. I would recommend regularly implementing it for everyone, we all need more time to take care of ourselves so that we can feel good and also help us to better support others.
The Not So Good Side of Self-Care
So, self-care, all good right? Well, not quite.
I think it’s important to ask, why do we need self-care in the first place? What is causing our constant need for decompressing, de-stressing, and replenishing? It’s clear from how much it’s being talked about that this is something on a lot of people’s minds. People must feel that they aren’t getting enough time to care for themselves. But why?
My simple answer: the society we live in and the make-up of our every day lives isn’t caring for us adequately.
Our capitalistic society’s obsession with productivity has become an excuse to push workers to the breaking point instead of prioritizing a healthy work-life balance. This obsession feeds into the narrative that caring for employees is too expensive for companies, who of course need to maximize profits, and so the cost of care falls onto the shoulders of individual employees.
This system also tells workers that if they cannot maintain this level of productivity, it is somehow their fault, because they are not taking care of themselves, not because they have unjust working conditions or impossible expectations imposed upon them. This creates shame and stigma around needing care that further impedes people from asking for social support.
This is the yucky side to self-care that I don’t love and try not to participate in; the self-care industry that encourages consumerism and preys on our fears of not being able to keep up. To read more of my thoughts on productivity check-out, The Pressure to Produce: Talking About Productivity.
The self-care industry has become one of the most profitable industries in the world and unfortunately because of this, it has become about making money instead of caring for people’s wellness. The industry’s often good intentions are being exploited to further increase private profits and obfuscate the need for government social supports (i.e. public health and mental health care).
In this money making machine, self-care is used to convince consumers to buy products and services that they don’t need, and that are often very overpriced. You are told over and over again, “You need to buy this product for your self-care!”, the self-care that you’ve already got isn’t good enough.
Of course products can help us to spend time on ourselves, encourage relaxation etc. which is helpful in supporting our mental health & wellness. But, you don’t need to spend a lot of money to have good mental health and wellness, despite what consumerism would have you think.
In theory, if wellness and self-care was just a luxury and not something that people needed, this profit model wouldn’t be so bad. But it is a need, not a luxury, and the industry is profiting off of that need.
Imagine a society where our governments and employers cared for us. For example, by allowing us to take breaks and not work to the point of complete burn-out, letting us take paid time to heal when we are sick or injured, giving us good wages to reduce poverty related stresses, or paying for our physical and mental health care. Then we wouldn’t have as much of a need for self-care.
All in all, I do like self-care and it is important for mental health and wellness.
But, it’s also essential that we stay grounded in what it is really about, that is attending to our needs, loving ourselves, and resting, and not get swept up in what society makes it about.
Self-care needs to come from a desire to get to know ourselves, show ourselves compassion, commit to our wellbeing, and ultimately motivate us to change our lives to mean that we don’t need as much self-care. It should be a part of breaking a harmful life cycle, not reinforcing one.
It is my firm belief that private businesses should not prey on people’s pain and that the burden of care should not just be on individuals. Real self-care comes down to much more than buying products that make us temporarily feel good. You can’t buy your wellness!
Self-care is necessary in the world that we live in but it should serve as a reminder of the things we can and need to change so that it isn’t craved so desperately. We can’t let ourselves get lost in the niceness of the idea of self-care, with its fancy scented candles, bubble baths, and costly pedicures, and forget about the pain and exhaustion that makes it so necessary in the first place. We will always need to care for ourselves, spa days aren’t going to disappear, but maybe we won’t have to care for ourselves quite so much in a better, fairer, more just society that cares for everyone a lot more.
Do you practice self-care? What are your thoughts? Comment below.
Stay tuned for part 3 next week! To read part 1 of the series, click here.