The Problem With Self-Care
The hot topic in the wellness world these days? Self-care.
Self-care is any action taken by a person to take care of their own mental, emotional, or physical needs. Regularly given suggestions for self-care practices include bubble baths, meditation, social media breaks and de-cluttering. While these suggestions are fantastic, I always seem to find myself a little frustrated by the end of an article on self-care.
I believe this frustration stems from a larger problem I have with the way our society talks about wellness.
Very often, content that is shared online concerning wellness is, sometimes unknowingly, based on a framework of individualism. This is is undoubtedly linked to our larger societal emphasis on individualism. In the United States, we want to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps without anybody’s help. There is a certain amount of pride that we place on doing something by ourselves, whether it’s buying a house or completing a project. As a society we lift up the work of individuals, from actors to activists to politicians.
No one goes it alone.
But that’s not really how life works, is it? Anyone who is alive knows that no one truly completes things by themselves. We need the realtor to help us the buy the house, we need our friends to help us push our projects forward, we need our loved ones to support us as we pursue a life of acting, activism or politics. No one’s success is completely their own. And this is something to be celebrated — not something to be hidden or ashamed of.
How does this all relate to self-care? Well, if our success in life is predicated on the help we receive from those around us, why wouldn’t our healing be? If you know you need support to get through law school, why wouldn’t you need support in healing your trauma? Or managing insomnia? Or learning to live with depression and anxiety?
Is it my job to heal myself?
We need to be careful that when we talk about self-care, we aren’t putting the enormous burden of healing ourselves on ourselves. Yes, when we struggle with mental illness, bubble baths can help sometimes. But sometimes what you really need to is unload your fears to a beloved friend. Other times you need to consult with a doctor about the symptoms you’re experiencing. Or perhaps you need help from a community of people who have the same illness as yourself.
Not to mention, not everyone lives in a house with a bath. Not everyone has the time or emotional capability to start meditation on their own. Not everyone’s anxiety has to do with the clutter in their house. In fact, some of us don’t even have a house to be cluttered.
Mental illness, as everything else in life, shouldn’t be faced alone. Nor should it be approached with blanket suggestions that only apply to a small sect our society’s lifestyles.
Moving forward, together and apart.
Finding what you need to be mentally well is, paradoxically, a very personal and collaborative journey. Through asking for help, which can be in the form of therapy, peer support groups, medication, hospital stays, online forums, and much more, we are able to discover what methods of support we personally require to begin the process of healing.
So take the bath, if you can. Clean your space. Listen to a meditation tape. But ask for help, too. Talk about what you are going through. Seek out and utilize the mental health resources that are available to you. There may be more accessible and affordable options in your area than you realize.
Remember that you are human, and that humans do best when we work together — no matter what the goal is.