CW: This article discusses topics of mental illness which could be distressing to some readers.
I can’t count how many times I’ve had a rubbish day and taken myself to the shops with the intention to buy something because it’ll give me a quick and easy, serotonin boost. Especially with what the whole world has experienced in the last couple of years, it still feels revolutionary to be able to leave the house and buy something in person.
Our society has become materialistic and so often we’re made to believe reaching for our wallets will improve our lives. But what really happens is this new piece of clothing makes us feel guilty when our bank account takes the hit. So, then our mental health decreases, and we want to buy more to feel better about ourselves, but the effects only last an hour at most. An endless cycle.
Social media exacerbates this illusion further. On Instagram we see influencers having a great time in the newest dress and this tells us as consumers that we must have it too as if we will feel better when we’re in possession of yet another bit of fabric.
This notion doesn’t just include clothes, it also can be seen with things like skincare products. When we’re feeling down, it can often be aimed at our appearance. So, when an influencer has flawless looking skin and are listing their expensive products, it’s only natural that we reach for our credit cards.
Companies also leach off the idea of treating yourself and use it as a marketing technique. They’ve made the concept into a toxic and romanticised narrative that pressures us to constantly improve ourselves. It’s fuelled by internet culture and they paint it as a ritual that involves buying things that will make us better people. We’re told by our capitalist society that if you slap on a face mask that’s job done. We need to reframe our perspectives of what self-care really is.
Self-care is actually focusing on what we already have and how we can nurture it to be sustainable to us. It could look like attending therapy or turning off your phone for a day to catch up on much needed sleep. It could include having a spa day to yourself, but not needing the most expensive products on the shelves. Self-care can look like catching up with a friend or calling a relative. It could look like making your favourite meal, or equally ordering your favourite takeaway. Listening to music you enjoy or journaling to get feelings out onto paper can also be beneficial. Self-care should be about listening to what you and your body want, not about what social media and magazines are saying you should buy next.
“There’s a whole spectrum of self-care needs: from the most basic, like making sure you’re eating healthy food, cleaning, and making your bed, to more advanced self-care, like practicing mindful movement, skipping the latest fitness trend for a lower impact workout that suits you”- Antonia Harman, founder of Divine Empowerment.
We live in a fast paced society and sometimes the idea of practicing self-care might be the last thing on our minds, maybe even viewing it as another chore. But self-care can also be something that already exists in your daily routine. For example, having your morning cup of coffee. Self-care can be the focus on being kind to yourself rather than critiquing yourself, especially in the harsh world we live in. This also means that if you’re having a rubbish day don't be mean to yourself because we’re only human and this is bound to happen. There’s always tomorrow to try again.
The main key to practicing self-care is to not put it off and to do small things every day. You don’t want to leave it too long and have a moment where you snap. The goal is to avoid that and keep yourself running smoothly. You could think of it like charging your phone battery. You’re much better off charging your phone often when you can, than letting it drain and drain until it’s dead. Don’t let yourself burnout.
After reading this, take a moment to yourself to self-reflect on any negative self-care actions you already do. Think about whether these boost your mental health or whether you could replace them with something more beneficial. Small changes can make big impacts.