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Self-Care: Breaking Down The Buzzword

Going beyond social media trends, and crafting a self-care practice to suit our individual needs.

Believe it or not, ‘self-care’ was something I only discovered this year in 2022. I got a little concerned after my therapist asked me what I had done for myself over the weekend. Usually quick to rattle off a list of thoughts, I found myself dumbfounded, citing that I had one too many social commitments to find time for myself. “You know, sometimes, it’s okay to say no”, she replied. And that was my first foray into thinking about self-care.

The idea of ‘self-care’ today stems from what started in the 70s as a method of avoiding emotional burnout by mental health professionals, who were overburdened by the nature of their work and worried they would get desensitised should they not prioritise self-compassion and care. But the message is still the same: self-care is simply about self-preservation and understanding your own needs.

Distressed in more ways than one, our generation fully embraced self-care during the pandemic, catapulting it from a niche idea to a viral social media sensation. From cooking our own meals, to limiting screen-time, to exercising our minds and bodies and even some me-time with a trusty massager… self-care took many forms. Unfortunately, where the zeitgeist goes, capitalism and hashtags follow. Garbed under masterful marketing, self-care is not as simple as it once was. 

Rather than focusing on preservation, self-care became an aspirational idea, almost reserved for the privileged few who have cash to burn on ‘holistic retreats’ and pricey products. Sheena Dabholkar, founder of  self-care and wellbeing education platform Mindful and Body, believes skincare routines and expensive spa weekends don’t hold the answer to healing and recovery. On the podcast Marbles Lost And Found, Sheena said these types of activities are akin to “putting a band-aid on a much bigger wound.” We couldn’t agree more. “Anything that adds value to the quality of your life and supports your wellbeing is a form of self care.” So while spa days can be a great mood booster, there is no one-size fits all route to self-care and healing. 

Self-care, reimagined in 2022

Self-care can’t always be IG-worthy: it can often mean making the harder, or less glamorous choice.  It’s making a spreadsheet to track your expenses, and setting budgets for yourself. Or enforcing a morning routine when all you want to do is hit snooze on your alarm for the fifth time. It can mean jolting yourself out of toxic relationships, and blocking your ex on Instagram.

Finding solace in a weekly manicure or massage, or exercising and eating ‘clean’ is not wrong either, — for many, these habits fit the time and space they need. But time and space are the operative words when it comes to self-care. Self-care needs to be built into your life, because a random workshop here or some quick purchases there are not going to do the trick. The breadth of self-care practices is far and wide to choose from. Commit to the practice that works for you, before you find yourself burnt out like the therapists in the 70s.

Also read: Relieve Stress With A Massage After A Hectic Day

Boundary Setting

Setting boundaries is one of the healthiest things you could do for yourself. This one is a biggie and won’t hurt your wallet. Whether it’s clearly asking for what you need or declining an invitation to yet another party, prioritising yourself within a situation can be refreshing. Realising life isn’t governed by FOMO or a need to please those around us is where the fruits of boundary setting lie. We’re naturally inclined to say yes to those we love even if we want to say no because it’s easier to avoid conflict than to stand our ground. But as the saying goes, you are not required to set yourself on fire to make people warm, and it's empowering to walk away from something that isn’t serving you, even from the people closest to you.

Beware of bargaining

Self-care is a complex notion. Think of it like a perfectly tailored suit. It has to be individualised to each person’s needs or it’s just something you bought and forced yourself to put on. Don’t let self-care become one more thing you have to do. Prioritise what makes you feel good: A little masturbation, kick-boxing or a Nutella sea-salt cookie if you fancy. Just be wary of bargaining with yourself to “deserve” self-care, whether it is about food or your worth. You have intrinsic worth that does not require earning the right to care for yourself! This goes for everyone, whether it’s related to food, medical care, or just saying no. You deserve to take care of yourself. In fact, you’re the only one that CAN do it!

Also read: The Low-Down on Masturbation During Periods

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