Self Care. What a broad, all-encompassing term. Most of us have heard it from friends and professionals, read it on the internet, and possibly even tried to incorporate it into our daily lives. And whether self care means putting on a face mask and sitting in a massage chair, or engaging in a relaxation breathing exercise, the most important thing is that you are actually caring for yourself. Peer Educator, Aditi tackles the issue of ever-growing commodified self care, and gives some of her own ideas about how to return to its roots and relax for free!
SELF CARE THAT’S NOT COMMODIFIED
By Aditi Sheth
As America ushers itself into a new era with a new Presidential administration, many activists and politically engaged people across the country are attempting to switch courses. An administration that will no doubt be deeply unreceptive and unresponsive to activist energy and deep opposition requires a new mental health, “self-care” framework from which to operate.
I’ve always found the concept of “self-care” puzzling. It feels like someone is trying to impose on you very specific ways to look after yourself, and some people might not have the luxuries to take long bubble baths and have time to set aside to watch The Bachelor, which are the kind of things often suggested in Buzzfeed listicles, demonstrating a commodified form of self-care. However, in this new political climate, many things in these listicles and also in my life suddenly feel extremely frivolous, but extremely necessary. Scrolling through your news feed, attempting to gather the amount of energy necessary to engage, resist the noise, and maintain sanity requires copious amounts of energy. Where does one get that energy from? And what sources feel correct?
I can’t answer that for you. I don’t think anyone can…which is the overarching problem with these proliferating listicles. Political oppression is nothing new, and many people have been experiencing it and resisting it, before this new administration. I can only offer a framework through which I think about it, and how to connect political opposition to self care.
Buzzfeed recently published a listicle called 16 Acts of Self Care to Get You Through 2017. Some of the suggested actions include turning off your phone, drinking warm drinks, getting a good night’s sleep, and of course, doing something that makes you feel “silky and pampered,” and example of the commodified sort of self care that results in scented face masks and goose down pillows being advertised as genuine political resistance.
However, these “silky, pampering,” things are all examples of things that we all agree feel good in the traditional sense, but are only really self care if you can see them as things that help you reaffirm your sense of self. Self care, in my mind, is all about remembering your sense of humanity. It is easy to say that face masks make you feel good, because they are inherently associated with relaxation. But beyond the face masks, we must remember what things we can do, or think, or even buy, that help us affirm that we are human beings, important and worthy of living. To me, this is where mental health self care is paramount.
Mantras, positive thoughts, and self love, are things that are free, and things that we all have the capacity to give ourselves in some way. We go over the many stress relieving benefits of these acts of self care in our Stress Less Presentation. Though not all of us are at the same level of neurotypicality, to me, mental health self care via self affirmation, unplugging, etc. are the most accessible types of self care, as their ultimate goal is not to sell you anything, but to affirm your sense of humanity. This is important not just in these unsettling times, but must be remembered all the time.