By Leandra Gunnion
Did you know that there is a whole month dedicated to self-care? Yes, you read that right.
As initiated by the World Health Organisation (WHO), Self-Care Month lasts from 24 June to 24 July, with the last day of celebration (24 July) being International Self-Care Day. By definition, self-care is anything you do for yourself that helps you feel happy or nourished. Despite being a self-explanatory concept, the abundance of self-care-oriented events suggests an attempt to raise awareness about this pertinent aspect of our lives.
Today, self-care is considered a multi-faceted ideology that incorporates trends, consumer psychology, and a multitude of products. More specifically, self-care is an integral pedestal for marketing campaigns and a key sales driver in the nutrition, health, cosmetics, and fitness industries, according to a 2021 report by the Global Wellness Institute. Harnessing the power of social media, brands have successfully attracted many customers by selling what they market as effective self-care routines.
As a result, the self-care industry currently sits at a whopping $450 billion in annual worth, according to data analytics and market research company Information Resources, Inc. This is largely thanks to the countless support of people who faithfully purchase products in a bid to fulfil their self-care goals.
Image Credit: Victor Lim
Although this is amazing news for brands and e-commerce platforms alike, whether such routines truly work for the consumer is often in question. As mentioned earlier, a quick internet search or scroll through social media will yield a variety of frameworks boasting an “ideal” form of self-care, along with a plethora of attractive products to choose from. Considering how enticing social media referrals are, people may ultimately sway towards self-care regimes that are the crowd’s favourite instead of their own. Alas, extinguishing the very essence of self-care.
If the idea of self-care is just used as a tool to boost sales, what is the genuine rationale behind us investing precious time in it? Above all, with so many commitments and expectations, there is rarely time for anything else. Think about the last few weeks of a typical semester. Loaded with endless deadlines and daunting final examinations, everyone’s stress levels were at an all-time high. In similar high-pressure or high-stress situations, a lack of self-care can lead to pent-up stress, anger, anxiety, and a flurry of negative emotions that can take a toll on your well-being and relationship with others.
In line with that, regular self-care serves as a pause to rejuvenate the mind and calm the nerves. This promotes positive mental and physical health such as reduced stress, an improved immune system, and increased productivity.
While there is no singular right way to practice self-care, there exists a unique approach for each individual.
Image Credit: Victor Lim
Let us return to the core of what self-care is. According to literary scholar Edith Hall, the concept of self-care was first introduced by Greek philosopher Aristotle when he encouraged people to practice happiness. At the time, self-care was merely a budding idea, free from the grasp of societal expectations.
With that in mind, a more appropriate approach toward self-care is to consult yourself first. After all, the most indicative word in self-care is ‘self’. Like Marie Kondo’s principle of asking yourself if something sparks joy, devote small pockets of time during the day to activities that bring you joy. If spending money on a vacation or revamping your skincare routine is what makes you glad, then go for it without any reservations.
To effectively select the most ideal self-care activities for yourself, it helps to understand the various categories under the umbrella of self-care. There are two main types: emotional and physical.
Emotional or spiritual self-care involves checking in with yourself regularly and practising mindfulness. Some suggestions include starting the day positively with prayer, meditation, or planning your schedule. Personally, I find that listening to music is another particularly effective way to wind down and reflect. Helping others through regular volunteer work also comes highly recommended owing to its ability to give people a sense of renewal and positivity. Apart from formal volunteering, simple acts of kindness such as helping your family or friends also yield similar effects.
On the other hand, physical self-care concentrates on improving your health through exercise or diet planning. In line with this, getting sufficient sleep, and moving for at least 30 minutes a day are also strongly advantageous forms of self-care.
Furthermore, self-care can be temporary or enduring, based on the merits each provides. For example, sharing a meal with friends allows one to foster social interaction, but such benefits are often short-lived. On the other hand, enduring self-care activities such as daily journaling, meditation, painting, or playing an instrument have a long-lasting effect.
Self-care does not have to be expensive. Nor does it have to be a chore. It can be as simple as cooking a meal, talking to your loved ones, or even listening to music. The possibilities are endless. Instead of feeling obligated to spend a pretty penny on trending self-care products, the secret to successful self-care is to just spend time doing something you enjoy. So, amidst the frequent stresses in life, do yourself a favour and embrace the practice of regular self-care. Rather than following others’ definitions of self-care, focus on yourself and what makes you smile.