This is not the first time I’ve talked about this subject, and as always with my mental health posts, I am not a mental health professional. However, I wanted to discuss the glamorized version of self-care we often see on the internet and why it’s not always self-care.
One of the great things with the internet and mental health is that it’s helped us to see that we aren’t all alone. A lot of people get online and publicly talk about their struggles, and this helps us to realize that there are others that feel the way we do.
One of the worst things is the glamorization and misrepresentation of various mental health issues.
I find this frequently when people discuss “self-care.”
Self-care is often classified as laying in bed all day with your favorite snacks and binge watching a show. I am not going to say this is never self-care, just that it’s usually not.
Self-care is often the act of forcing yourself to do things that are needed for your health that you have neglected.
Things like taking a shower. Cleaning your house. Doing yard work that you have put off. Going for a long walk. Getting exercise. Cooking healthy foods for yourself. Shutting off social media and your favorite show to do something that requires your mind to be more active. Going to therapy. Volunteering. Finishing a project that you’ve been avoiding.
They are often things that will help you either physically or mentally (or more often than not, both) but aren’t exactly the fun things to do.
With depression, for instance, laying in bed just watching something is usually not self-care for me because it’s frequently what I will do in low points. I won’t actually “watch” whatever I put on, but I will lay in bed like a lump for as long as I allow myself, sinking lower and lower with each passing hour (or sometimes day).
What I need in those moments is forcing myself out of bed, to do stuff around the house to make my environment cleaner, to make myself cleaner, to do something that gets the blood flowing. To force myself to stop avoiding my writing and actually work, so I feel I am accomplishing something. To make myself get out of the house and tackle my anxiety.
And the truth is self-care can sometimes be hard. No one likes to talk about it, but it’s true. It is much easier just to give in and never move than it is to force myself to take the dogs for a walk or go to the gym. It’s much easier just to give up than it is to force myself to work on my writing and breakthrough.
But self-care shouldn’t always be about what is easy. Or what you want. It’s about what you need.
Do you sometimes need a chill day where you do nothing but watch TV? Of course. We all need that personal relaxing time. But we far too frequently paint this as the picture of self-care. When in reality it’s sometimes extremely damaging to give in to those urges.
I think we have a responsibility to ourselves and to other people that are suffering to reclaim ideas like “self-care” and make sure we are painting them in a realistic and helpful light. Talk about the harsh truth that sometimes we go too long without taking a shower (either from mental health or overworking). Talk about doing things like getting out of bed and being as productive as we can. Talk about how often we go without getting outside and making ourselves be active. Talk about the benefits of going to the gym (and again I am not an exercise cures depression person). Talk about emergency therapy sessions. Talk about how helping others can be good for the soul. Talk about how eating easy, but non-nutritional foods is bad for us. Talk about how it depends on what we are going through personally to determine what self-care is to us at that moment.
Talk about how self-care is not only not always fun, but sometimes rather challenging.
We should talk about all the different types of self-care days, and the ways we take care of ourselves.
It will help us, and it will hopefully help other people out there.