Birch: Why ‘self-care’ practices don’t care for ourselves and how to change that

Illustration by Christina Staprans

The term ‘self-care’ gets thrown around a lot this time of year. Many resolutions may be centered around practicing self-care or just taking more ‘me time.’ While some may be doing so in a useful way, many practice self-care in a manner closer resembling a fad than an actual healthy habit.

Self-care is often used as a band-aid to cover up bad habits or the fact that we are running ourselves into the ground. When we feel tired or stressed, we do a face mask or watch a Netflix show as if that will magically fix our worries and restore our mind and body to a relaxed place. Then the next week’s stress gets to us all over again, and we do the same things though nothing has ever truly improved.

This form of ‘self-care’ is not a productive one and doesn’t really care for your mind and body long-term. Real self-care is taking the time to turn unhealthy habits into productive ones that will serve you in the long run.

Letting yourself sleep in on the weekend to catch up on the hours you’ve missed won’t actually make you less tired or give your body the rest it needs. A long-term solution would be to build a good sleep schedule so you feel rested and energized more consistently.

Another shortcoming with the self-care fad is not giving yourself a break when you actually need it. Our lives have become so busy and fast-paced that we often don’t have time for anything to derail us from our plans or to-do lists. Even when our bodies or minds desperately need a break, we are reluctant to take one and become stressed when we have to stop. Guilt can eat away at us for our inability to be productive so often we just carry on painfully and slowly with our work, even when we don’t have the energy, and schedule in a break later. 

When you do feel sick or tired and in need of a nap, that is when it is important to give in to your body’s needs and take a break. Instead of ignoring it and doing less quality work with twice as much effort, put your tasks on hold for when you can complete them better. If you self-care when you feel you need it and work when you feel able, both will be more effective. 

For all the criticism that trends like self-care can get, it is a very important thing to practice, and it can make a huge difference in one's life. If self-care is one of your 2020 goals, think about how you will practice it so it actually improves your life and remember: It takes more than a face mask.