Self care is a complicated but crucial part of our lives, but we are often without the resources or knowledge to care for ourselves effectively. The idea of “self care” grew and continues to grow in popularity amongst people of every generation.
Caring for ourselves seems simple but holds many challenges for many of us, especially disadvantaged populations.
Not all of the advice available about self care is realistic. Self care can be entirely different for two people, as there’s no “right” answer to self care. It may seem obvious, but it is all about you. Very specific self care routines online may not work at all for you and that is okay.
The self care playing field is not equal. Lower-income families are less likely to have paid time off or the means to take time off from work, and vacation is well-studied to have incredibly positive, stress-relieving effects.
Lower-wage workers are more likely to experience work-related stressors, but work stress can affect those at any kind of job. The factors often associated with work stress are mandatory or voluntary overtime, the physical and psychological demands of workload, and the work atmosphere. As many of our waking hours are spent at work, a stressful environment makes it much harder to find time for self care.
Taking a break and getting space from a stressful job is very beneficial for your stress level and health, but many workers struggle to find the time to take a significant break. Taking vacation days can help your work-life balance and remove some stresses and pressures. In terms of self care, vacations are very beneficial but not available to everyone.
Even many fundamentals of self care — eating healthily, exercising and getting enough sleep — take a combination of time and money. Nutritious foods are expensive, and lower-income families often cannot dedicate that much money to eating well. Unhealthy eating can lead to worse moods as well as poorer physical health.
Exercise is a well known way to keep up both physical and mental health, but in a job with a lot of hours or a lot of responsibilities at home it is hard to work exercise into your routine.
Similarly to exercise, it can be difficult to get enough sleep when faced with a lot of stress.
One day, one of your best friends may try out this new routine where they relax for fifteen minutes before bed and say it helps them fall asleep, stay asleep, and feel better about their day.
The next day you settle down and try it and — nothing. Hearing about something that is working for people you know or people online that does not work for you can be disheartening, but remember that everyone approaches self care differently. There is no right answer, and sometimes it takes some trial and error.
The sheer volume of tips, tricks, and advice online surrounding the topic of self care can be beneficial but may seem overwhelming and disheartening if what you find does not work for you. There are many techniques and routines to boost your mental and physical health and finding the right one can be a challenging, time consuming effort.
If time is a premium, consider searching for low-cost self care tactics and see how they work for you.
Similar to the previous section, make sure you do not get caught up in a routine you do not enjoy just because it is popular. Find something that makes you happier, or energized and ready to take on your next task. There are many different self care routines and activities to choose from and finding one that you can follow consistently is the foundation for longer-term goals.
As important as self care is, it is important to make sure you are not using it as an excuse to overindulge in your routine. Taking a 15 minute break to go on a walk can clear your head, help you focus, and is a little exercise but taking an extra 15 or 30 minutes afterwards scrolling through social media or otherwise becomes overindulgent.
Sometimes the smallest and easiest methods of self care yield the most results. Self care can be as simple as playing your favorite song or drinking your favorite kind of tea. Social media is often inundated with the “best” and biggest self care activities, but most people do not have the money to match what they see online.
There is nothing wrong with having a comfort meal or watching your favorite show over and over again. If it makes you happy and prepared for the rest of the day it is perfect!
A common misconception with self care is that of overindulgence. Self care is not an excuse for you to spend all your money on clothing, drinks, or something similar after a hard day. Purchases like these will give you instant gratification, but are not really self care.
Self care is where you create some breathing room for yourself to come back to your work and responsibilities with a little more energy.
Speaking of self care, the difference between it and overindulgence is important. Just as it is common to overindulge and think it is self care, the opposite is also true. It is common to feel that any sort of self care is selfish or overindulgent. That is not true!
It is important to take time for yourself, especially when you are under a lot of stress.
Self care comes in all shapes and sizes. Unfortunately, it is not a level playing field for everyone but it is important to find what you can do to help your physical and mental well being. There are many paths to self care, and figuring out what works best for you is your best bet for starting a self care routine that helps you in the short and long term.