We Millennials get a lot of smack for talking about “self-care” and its importance, while spending money on face masks, Netflix, yoga, crystals and candles that will promise to heal our souls. This NPR post recently described the Internet obsession with self-care, with increased Google searches in the past year.
I say, bravo. Because not only has the self-care trend increased the understanding of mental health, but it also gives us permission to take time for self awareness and happiness (not that we should even need it in the first place). In a world where we’re constantly under pressure to work our butts off while looking perfect on social media, we feel guilty for putting our lives on pause to watch TV at home and eat Chinese takeout, when it’s a super normal thing to do. We feel ashamed for doing something selfish, doing something that makes us happy. Why are we so upset over doing what makes us happy?! Since when is it a bad thing to do what we want?
Unfortunately, the flip side of a trend is that there are a lot of BS self-care tips and products out there, so it’s important to understand how to apply it to your life without getting duped into thinking a magical(ly expensive) body oil will do the trick. After lots of research, experimentation, and digging through my Instagram feed to figure out the difference between brands that actually care and products that have nothing to do with my well-being, I came up with my own version of no-BS self-care tips:
Self-care can be as simple or as complicated as you want it to be.
Practicing self-care doesn’t necessarily mean doing yoga every ten minutes and eating spinach for every meal. You don’t have to adopt a whole new lifestyle– but you can, if that’s what you need.
Try new things to see what works.
It might take some trial and error to understand what you benefit from. Going to a concert or getting drinks with a big group would definitely count as self-care if you’re extroverted and you need more of those times in your life. If you’re more on the introverted side, maybe you need to try spending an extra hour on yourself. If you’re active, a new fun workout class could be it. If you’re a workaholic like me and want a way to relax “productively,” watch Ted Talks or listen to podcasts.
Or maybe none of these help and what you really need are cupcakes. Point is, you won’t know until you try it. Good excuse to eat cupcakes.
There’s a difference between indulging and over-indulging.
“Self-care” doesn’t equal “not doing my dishes.” Even if you think math problems are detrimental to your mental health, your algebra professor will probably not enjoy “I was practicing self-care!” as an explanation for “I didn’t do the homework assignment.” Self-care habits should be productive to your mindset, instead of an excuse for procrastinating on things you just don’t want to do. **ALSO: Self-care is not a replacement for seeking professional help if you need it!**
Don’t get marketed to.
Speaking as a PR professional, I totally get why brands are jumping on the health/wellness/self-care trend…if they’re relevant and could actually help someone. But I don’t believe in trying to make a buck off someone’s well-being if you’re just trying to get Instagram likes and not being truly beneficial. Think before buying the overpriced oil. Is it your thing? Does it fulfill a need? Does the brand seem like it actually cares? Don’t let self-care lose its meaning by buying into an ideal, as this article reminds us.
When it comes to spending money, though, don’t be afraid to spend a little on yourself.
Buy yourself flowers for once. Or Lollapalooza tickets, in my case.
Make it personalized.
Don’t just take self-care tips at face value from BuzzFeed, or even this post. What might make some people happy might not work for others, and you need to try different things before you see what’s best for you. I personally have no use for “be one with nature” during allergy season, but “try yoga once a week” has actually worked wonders in clearing my mind and giving me positive energy. As dumb as that sounds.
Long story short: If you think crystals are New-Age nutso, ditch them for a face mask and call it a night. You do you.
What does your version of self-care look like?
My version of self-care looks a little like this:
- Go to as many concerts as financially possible
- Find an excuse to get dressed up for something
- Play video games and drink beer with my guy friends
- Watch rom-coms and drink wine with my girl friends
- Sit in a hot tub
- Buy a coffee instead of making it at home (shocker)
- Embrace my inner nerd and do homework on a Saturday without feeling like a loser, because getting homework done relieves my stress during the busy week
- Grab Panda Express for dinner, because even though it isn’t the healthiest thing, it makes me a lot happier than it should. And that’s okay.
- Put in 20 minutes on the yoga mat by watching a Yoga With Adrienne video
- Catch up with someone I haven’t talked to in a while
- Stop by an Ulta Beauty and buy a fun new lip gloss or highlighter
- Use a minute to think about all the positives happening in my life, because it’s easy for me to get dragged down by small things
- Take the world’s longest, hottest shower, and then wear a face mask while watching really terrible videos on YouTube
Honestly, sounds amazing right now. I think I’ll go get Panda Express, buy new mascara, and watch Sex and the City while wearing a face mask.