Self-Care Is Yours To Define
As much as I enjoy using it, Lush’s Mask of Magnaminty won’t stop a panic attack. It’s not a brand problem – Yes To and Formula 10.0.6 are equally as ineffective at this particular function. Nevertheless, face masks and skin care are often key elements of the Self-Care Starter Pack. Throw in yoga classes and some scented candles, and you might be able to completely avoid fear and stress and anxiety, right?
Of course not.
If I reach for a face mask, I know it’s not going to solve all of my problems. It might not even solve clogged pores as well as I would like. But I know that in the 15 minutes I take to do the mask and wash my face, I’ll at least have allowed myself a moment in the week to show some importance to my body. It gives me a small period of time when my only goal is to cleanse and refresh my skin, and it’s a goal that I will definitely succeed in. It gives me a sense of routine, and it gives me a sense of control.
In an age of pop culture pandering and social media savants, we’re often told or shown how to take care of ourselves. We send blanket messages about what a healthy and happy lifestyle should look like and list out relaxation or organizational techniques that are supposed to get us there. And while these self-care tips and tricks are definitely used by a lot of people and have the potential to improve your everyday quality of life, the simple act of suggesting and going through these motions isn’t enough to adequately care for mental health.
Taking care of oneself isn’t only meant for certain people with certain interests either. Self-care practices are often commerialized as “girls’ night” material, playing on stereotypes that are frequently assumed by companies when marketing to women. As a result, media and marketing may send messages that women’s self-care should prioritize beauty and fitness. This trend can also contribute to the societal stigma that surrounds men’s mental health and create the sense that taking care of oneself is somehow emasculating. We need to recognize that every individual, regardless of gender, should feel like self-care is accessible in whatever way they need.
One of the most appealing things about actions branded as self-care is that they’re often simple, indirect ways to overcome overwhelming or complex mind and emotional states. However, in order for these practices to ultimately be effective, they need to be accompanied by an internal dialogue that supports your mind and body.
It’s important to remember that even if you’re partaking in an activity that is marketed as self-care, you aren’t just going through the motions. You’re acting – or choosing not to act – because you deserve to, and because you are able to, and because you’re reminding yourself that your mind and body are yours to take care of.
This understanding is essential to how we think about self-care. There’s no one way to do it. In fact, it may entail the exact opposite action in one situation as opposed to another. Self-care may be getting out of bed or staying in it. It may be going to the gym or skipping today’s workout. It might be starting an essay early, or maybe it’s shutting down your laptop for the day.
So, do a face mask – or don’t. Take a yoga class – or don’t. In the words of Kacey Musgraves, “follow your arrow wherever it goes,” on the way to a happy and healthy you.