February 19, 2021
Over the last 11 months, how many times have you heard or read the words self-care? For us in the mental health field, this term has inundated our world. We talk about its importance relentlessly to clients and colleagues, friends, and family.
But for some, the notion of self-care has become worthless.
Self-care can be extremely beneficial. Taking time for oneself is important and necessary. However, in the last year, it seems as though self-care lost its original purpose. Instead of promoting improved mental health for all, self-care has become another stigmatized venture that you can get “wrong.”
How many times a day do you come across some picture of an outlandish self-care act? The sheer influx of posts from people exploiting their efforts to take care of themselves can leave a bitter taste in your mouth. Psychologist Dr. Perpetua Neo writes that “Self-care is fetishized and has become Instagrammable.”
My, how far we’ve strayed from the promised land.
If you find yourself stressing over the perfect way to self-care, it’s time to take a step back and reevaluate why you started doing it in the first place. What was the goal? Is that what is happening? Comparing your self-care to another person’s is counterproductive.
It can create tension, anxiety, and unnecessary stress.
Hear this; there is no idyllic self-care plan available. Instead, you’re more likely to be successful if you remove outside influence. Understand that self-care is effective because it supports taking a moment to yourself.
Simply put, it’s more about doing something than the something that you do.
For many people going to a spa, taking a bubble bath, or exercising doesn’t create a sense of increased peace or calmness. Some of these things can be expensive, anxiety-provoking, or downright uncomfortable. Honestly, are the few minutes of a bath before the water turns cold really that soothing? Not to me.
The point is that what works for some, doesn’t apply to all. “Your self-care doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s.” (Dr. Neo) And there is no standard measurement for successfully “self-caring.” The whole goal is to lessen the intensity that life has on the body and mind.
Here’s the suggestion: identify for yourself what your self-care will be when the moment presents itself.
If it is watching 20 minutes of TV, do that. If it’s a shower, do that. If it’s going hiking in the middle of nowhere for 3 hours, do that. If it is deleting Facebook, do that!
Let’s return to the idea that you know yourself best. While advice and recommendations can certainly help, you still get to choose what you actually need. A little confidence in your gut instinct does wonders.
Spectrum Health has several self-care options that may interest you. Our Community of Caring offers free virtual opportunities for fun activities like yoga, dance, mindfulness, crafts, and chat sessions. Find more information on our website at https://community-of-caring.shswny.org/.
Also, the Springville counseling team is always here for you if you need a little more help. To schedule an intake appointment, contact our Central Intake team at 716-539-5500.
Wash your hands. Wear a mask. We’re getting through this.
By Jessica Okoniewski, LMHC, NCC
Director of Clinical Operations Springville Counseling Center
Spectrum Health and Human Services