When we’re sick, aching, or in physical pain we go to the doctor. We get assessed and are provided a remedy. But what about when we have mental health issues that aren’t so easy tangible to diagnose and heal? That’s where the importance of self-care comes in. When life gets crazy, the first thing people tend to do is put their own well-being on the backburner. In a society where we’re all trying to keep up with everything, jump-start careers, and maintain some semblance of a social life, it’s not surprising that millennials are constantly stressed out!
Millennials aren’t some whiny generation — we’re just the most stressed, depressed, and unimpressed by the world. A study reports that millennials are twice as likely to suffer from stress than the generation before them. Another study reports that millennials are more likely to suffer from depression than baby boomers or generation Z! We’re spending more money on education with fewer job prospects in an ever-changing world. Combine that with everyday political stresses, an unforgiving internet culture, and less of a positive outlook than the previous generation had, it’s no surprise that self-care is becoming increasingly important!
What exactly is self-care?
It’s easy to preach about self-care, but what does that actually mean? Well, it’s pretty simple — as Meriam-Webster defines it, it literally means care for oneself. It’s as easy as that. But it’s something that can be so hard to do in practice. But it can be seen as more difficult than it really is. While many websites, memes, and tweets will categorize self-care as yoga, reading, or a cup of tea it can be anything. There are no set parameters for what self-care should be. It can be online shopping when you’re bored, or watching Lost clips on YouTube until you sob. My personal favorite? Saying “no” when I actually don’t want to do something! There is no set way to take care of yourself! Anything that makes you feel good about yourself or more comfortable applies. There is no right way to take care of yourself. And realizing that is the first step to incorporating more self-care specific things into your life.
Taking care of yourself is not self-indulgent
One of the hardest things for people to recognize is how self-care is beneficial, not some selfish act. When you’re someone who is so used to taking care of others around you or taking charge at work, it may feel a little wrong to spend time all to yourself with the sole purpose of making yourself feel good. Well, it’s not! It’s a necessity. Sometimes when you’re in a bad mental state, whether it be from stress or mental illness, it’s hard to see your own self as a priority. And it’s hard to feel you’re deserving of the time it takes to invest in yourself and your well-being. But here’s the crazy thing — when you start taking the time to respect yourself and do things that make you feel good, you’re going to feel better about yourself overall. You’ll feel more deserving of the little moments you afford, and in turn, be able to give yourself more of them. You’re the person you go through your entire life with, it’s so worth it to fall in love with the person you are.
Self-Care is For Everyone
“Self-care” is often synonymous with mental health issues, but it’s not a practice solely for those suffering from known issues. Everyday stresses, from work to relationships, can leave such a strain that self-care goes out the window. Even when you’re not feeling any distress, it’s important to be in tune with how you’re feeling and give yourself a little lovin’.
The other crux here is that self-care is often synonymous with high-cost (“travel your blues away!”) or with women. When, in reality, it’s for every damn person on the planet and can include a range of activities or rituals. The implication is that women are too busy taking care of others to take care of themselves and that affluence can afford you money and time to “indulge” in your own little bubble of self-care. But caring about yourself doesn’t have to cost a damn thing. I suggested earlier that online shopping can be considered a stress-reliever, but that doesn’t mean you have to buy anything! Sometimes just adding things to your cart can help you reimagine your own closet or plan outfits in your head. All while pulling you away from negative thoughts. Sometimes a one dollar face mask can do the trick or a five-minute longer shower. It’s the little things, and those little things are for everyone.
Learn to say “no”
Here’s a secret: one of the biggest things you can do for your mental health as an adult is learning to say “no” to people. It’s something so difficult, yet so satisfying for your mind, body, and soul. We’re conditioned to be “yes” people in this society. Always be up for plans with friends, always be up for anything at work that could lead to a promotion, and always try to appease other people. It can be utterly exhausting. Like I said earlier, one of the most feel-good things I do for myself is to try and say “no” when I legitimately don’t want to do something. It prevents a loop of awkward emotions as I engage in something that bores or frustrates me just to be nice. Learning to say no, despite the guilt you may feel from doing it, frees you from burnout and mental exhaustion. When we try to do too many things at once, we lose time to ourselves and ultimately feel like we’re running on empty. If you’re not required to do it and just plain don’t feel like it, go ahead, say no!
Self-Care is an every day thing
And it’s not always fun. It’s not always binge-watching your fave show (though it can be!), it’s also doing little things like making sure your laundry is done so you have clean clothes for work or clean linens to sleep on. It’s eating well when all you want is that pint of Chunky Monkey. And it’s getting out of bed to start the day when it feels impossible. Sometimes self-care doesn’t feel so great at the moment but it benefits you mentally, physically, and emotionally in the long-term. It’s not just sitting down and reading a book. It’s getting yourself together and doing the damn thing. Whether you want to or not.
Taking care of ourselves is a full-time job and one you can’t call out sick too. Even when it feels impossible, it’s important to remember your worth, and remember you’re worthy of self-love. Not only will you feel better but the attention you’re giving yourself will radiate outwards. You’ll be a better friend, lover, co-worker, and family member. All because you spent time on the most important person in your life: you!