Last year I wrote a long list of self-care tips/ideas. I still stand by my list of 48 practical ideas for self-care, and I still try to do as many of them as I can. If you want to change up your routine I’d still recommend giving it a read. But since that post, the world has changed and I have changed, and so there are some more thoughts I’d like to add, because now that I know more I’m not sure if that was the best approach to the topic, although it was perhaps a good approach to blogging.
Self-care begins with looking after yourself in the most basic way, and that doesn’t just mean home spas and long walks. It doesn’t have to mean a fancy gym subscription. Self-care includes the tiny things too, it can mean taking a shower, putting on your comfiest clothes or dressing up a little for the first time in a few days, it can mean taking time off even if it’s only 10 minutes. A lot of what’s called self-care at the minute can be a real luxury.
In my opinion, looking after yourself becoming an aspirational idea is really dangerous. The more I see people writing about self-care the more I see it being commodified and used as a way to sell more, mainly to young women. It’s a $400billion industry now, rather than just a practice. That industry is fulfilling a desire, if not a need, and there’s nothing necessarily wrong with that. However, when something like self-care becomes commodified we need to be more careful about how we talk about it. Should the basic act of looking after yourself be used to sell bubble bath and nail varnish?
I am by no means saying that taking a bath and painting your nails are bad things or frivolous things. They’re things I love. And when you can, taking that extra time, or spending that extra bit of money on looking after yourself is wonderful. But I think that we need to be more inclusive with how we talk about self-care. Self-care is for everyone because it’s something we all have to do in order to get through the day.
As I’ve become more pressed over the last year I’ve come to realise that when I have no time what self-care means to me is completely different to what it means when I have all the time in the world to blog about it. I’ve also started to realise that I feel under pressure to look after myself in a certain way. If I haven’t put a face mask on this week am I not looking after myself? If I haven’t taken a screen-free afternoon am I becoming a robot? If I haven’t taken the time to cook for myself and just reheated meals I’ve pre-frozen am I not taking enough care of my mental and physical health? On the one hand, these reminders are probably leading me to a more positive place. But on the other hand looking after myself shouldn’t be a stressful experience.
And I if I am stressed, if I am unhappy that doesn’t necessarily mean I’m failing. It doesn’t mean I just have to do more self-care. The more we’re given these self-care practices, the more responsibilty is put on us to fix all of our problems on our own. That falling apart is failing. Falling apart isn’t fun, but it isn’t your fault.
This post hasn’t had a clear argument I know, but that’s because I don’t have one as of yet. Instead, I’m trying to interrogate my own thinking. I’d love to know your thoughts on self-care, and the self-care industry. Where do you stand on self-care? What do you do to look after yourself?
*I promise this will be the last post revisit style piece for a while, just once I got started it was hard to stop!