The other evening, in the name of self-care, I decided to draw myself a bath with a gratuitous amount of Epsom salts. It had been a long week and my mind and body both needed a break. While my body started to loosen up and relax my mind was naturally racing, as it does, and I started wondering when this fairly recent self-care movement started.
If you log in to Twitter or Instagram, you’ll notice there is no shortage of self-care memes, some of which suggest self-deprecating and reckless behavior in the name of humor.
These are all in good fun but draw a clear line between two very different groups of people: Those of us who see the importance of self-care and those who see it as nothing more than a whiny millennial obsession.
Here are the benefits of self care
My curiosity led me into a very thorough Google search where I discovered that the original term was actually coined in the 1950s by the medical community as a way for patients who were usually diagnosed mentally ill to practice healthy daily habits. Soon thereafter the practice was extended to healthcare workers as a way to cope and combat the stress and trauma that came with the job.
A decade later and well into the 1970s, the term had been reclaimed by women and civil rights groups to grapple with oppression and inequality. In fact, the term became so selfless and more about helping build others up and elevating the community. Fast forward to today and the term has evolved to represent a $10 billion dollar industry that pushes advice like buying crystals, rubbing yourself down with essential oils, and saging your house of toxic and negative energy.
With more and more health and wellness products being marketed every year the term will no doubt continue to evolve and the physical practice will look different for everyone. But before you buy into the popular Instagram trend and spend money on serums or teas that promise to cleanse you of impurities, be mindful of how you’re practicing and why you’re practicing.
To start, make sure to check in with yourself every single day. Be mindful of how you’re feeling. Ask yourself what brings you joy and identify the things that cause you emotional pain.
Once you’re self-aware, your self-love journey can begin. That’s where self-care grows from.
For me, personally, self-care looks like waking up at 5:30 in the morning to enjoy my first few hours of the day alone and undisturbed. This includes longer cuddle sessions with my dog, an hour to exercise, a moment to sip and enjoy my coffee without being bothered by calls or emails, and a designated amount of time to study a foreign language I want to be fluent in. I don’t start every morning like this because sometimes life has other plans but when I do I know I’m being kind to myself and I carry that energy with me throughout the day.
But self-care doesn’t start and end there. Maybe it looks like saying no to opportunities that don’t spark a fire inside you. Maybe it looks like distancing yourself or completely cutting people off who continuously prove to be toxic. Maybe it’s forgiving someone, in silence, and moving on with your life without any closure, no announcements, bells, or whistles. Maybe it’s simply admitting to yourself that you deserve to take time for yourself.
For me, personally, as well as for many of my friends, there is a guilt that comes with doing things for yourself and I have to continuously remind myself every day to brush off that feeling.
Millennials get a bad rap for being “entitled” and expecting everything handed to them but they’re also one of the hardest working generations and complete workaholics so it comes as no surprise that we push self-care in an attempt to find balance and peace.
Self-care maybe even more critical for millennials and younger generations as our accessibility to the world and local news has become instant and our need for digital connection has brought on a delusion between reality and expectation. There is so much to absorb every day and while the internet can be a wonderful place it can also lead us down some very dark rabbit holes.
You don’t have to buy the crystals or force yourself to meditate. You don’t need to have a gratitude journal or put yourself on a low-carb diet. What you do need to do is take time for yourself and identify the things that bring you the most joy. Practice in the morning, afternoon, or night. Switch up your routine and surprise yourself throughout the day. Just get started.