Self-care is an idea that has become increasingly popular in recent years. It is widely promoted as a way to improve your mental wellbeing and reduce personal stress that can lead to, or further worsen, mental health conditions. However, it seems that the current version of self-care being promoted in the media, is very narrow and perhaps
excludes certain individuals. Often self-care is associated with practises such as lighting candles, putting on a face mask, and painting your nails. This not only has the potential to exclude certain men who may not be able to relate to such things, but can also exclude women who may not conform to the stereotypical ‘girly’ image.
For those who don’t know me, outside of doing my masters work, I spend most of my time in an industrial unit throwing around weights and getting sweaty. I’m a CrossFit lover and about as far away from a ‘girly girl’ as you can get. So when I was told that I needed to practise self-care to improve my mental health, I really struggled to understand how to do this in a way that helped me personally. I found that although using a bath bomb or face mask was a nice experience, it didn’t really do anything for my mental health long term. Then I realised, through doing these ‘classic’ practises of self-care, I was missing the point entirely. Self-care is focused on you and no-one else. So in reality doing what other people find relaxing might not be right for me, I needed to dig a bit deeper and focus on doing things that helped me personally, rather than doing what other people told me I should do.
Now, when I feel that I need to take some time out to take care of myself I do a CrossFit session with a friend, go for a walk, take time to cook a nice meal or listen to my favourite songs. These things help me to unwind much more than painting my nails ever has. So if you struggle to relate to the forms of self-care promoted on social media, it doesn’t mean that self-care isn’t for you. It just means that those particular forms of self-care aren’t what you need, but don’t give up on the idea entirely. Instead focus on finding the things that you love and that help you to feel better. Self-care is individual, only you can decide what helps you.