Toward An Inclusive Approach to Self-Care:
When I use the term “self-care,” I do not mean the concept popularized by the mainstream media and online social media platforms. In my mind, self care is not “taking a bubble bath by candle light while drinking wine and eating chocolate.” Self care is the intentional daily maintenance of your health and wellness in all of the domains of your life.
There is resurgent interest in the concept and practice of self-care as a means to improve the health, wellness and wellbeing of individuals, and as an avenue to mitigate financial pressures and growing demands on health and social care systems worldwide. An ongoing challenge has been the lack of clarity on the specific nature and entire scope of self-care, coupled to a lack of a universal or widely accepted framework that could support the conceptualisation and study of self-care in its totality, in all settings and from different perspectives (El-Osta, et al 2019).
One of the very first barriers people experience when even just considering starting a new daily routine, is TIME! Time may be our most preciousDe resource. Any discussion of insititutional and systemic barriers also shoud include a conversation about how much time you will demand of yourself. I visualize the concept of making time for self-care as an equation or accounting balance sheet. Meaning, whatever time you add in to your day for routine practices, you have to remove from other daily activities. Many people will just choose to get less sleep, and sleep is an important part of your health and wellness. I propose two ideas, 1. conduct a thorough time management analysis to determine how much time you spend on your daily activities in order to inform the prioritization of self-care, and 2. when you are thinking about self-care, “taking time to care for yourself,” think of it as self-compassion and call it developing a health and wellness plan.
Self-care promotes overall well-being by attending to physical, mental, and emotional needs. It reduces stress, enhances resilience, and fosters self-awareness and self-compassion. Engaging in self-care activities can improve productivity, focus, and overall quality of life. Self-care can help to reduce stress levels by providing a way to relax and de-stress. This can be done through activities such as yoga, meditation, or simply taking some time for yourself to do something you enjoy. Self-care can also help to improve mood by providing a way to boost endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. This can be done through activities such as spending time in nature, listening to music, or spending time with loved ones. Self-care can also help to increase energy levels by providing a way to rest and recharge. This can be done through activities such as getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet, or exercising regularly. Self-care can also help to improve physical health by providing a way to prevent illness and promote healing. This can be done through activities such as eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and getting enough sleep. Self-care can help to manage chronic health conditions by providing coping mechanisms and helping to reduce stress. Activities such as following a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and getting enough sleep can all help to manage chronic health conditions.
One limitation is that it can be difficult to find the time and energy to engage in self-care activities. Another limitation is that self-care is not a cure-all for mental and physical health problems. In some cases, self-care may not be enough to address a serious health issue. Self-care can become superficial or consumer-driven, focusing more on material indulgence rather than genuine self-nurturing. Individualistic approaches to self-care may neglect the importance of social connections and collective well-being. Limited access to resources, time constraints, and societal expectations may act as barriers to practicing comprehensive self-care.
Not Woke Enough or Inclusive Enough
Some people argue that the concept of self-care is not woke enough or inclusive enough. They point out that many self-care practices, such as going to the spa or getting a massage, are inaccessible to people who are marginalized or underrepresented. They also argue that the focus on self-care can be individualistic and neglect the importance of social justice. The conversation around self-care has grown significantly in recent years, particularly with the rise of wellness culture. However, not all self-care advice is accessible or inclusive. Here are some ways in which self-care practices might be seen as exclusionary or discriminatory:
Many promoted self-care activities involve some financial cost, which might not be feasible for people with lower incomes. Things like spa days, yoga classes, healthy eating with organic food, retreats, therapy sessions, and even gym memberships can be unaffordable for many. This creates a classist bias in which self-care seems accessible only to those who have the means to pay for such activities.
A lot of self-care advice revolves around physical activities, such as yoga, exercise, or even meditation practices that might require a certain level of physical ability or mental focus. This can exclude or marginalize those with physical disabilities or neurodivergent individuals who might not be able to engage in these activities as suggested. For example, a person with a physical disability may not be able to engage in martial arts, and a person with Autism may not be able to engage in meditation and mindfulness.
Racism and Cultural Appropriation:
Some self-care practices appropriate elements from different cultures without acknowledging their origins or respecting their significance. This is not only disrespectful, but it can also alienate individuals from these cultures. Additionally, the wellness industry often centers whiteness and overlooks the unique stressors faced by racial and ethnic minorities, such as systemic and institutional racism.
Gender Stereotypes and Sexism:
Many self-care recommendations are heavily gendered, often targeting women and reinforcing stereotypical ideas of femininity. For example, self-care is often marketed with images of women in bubble baths, getting facials, or doing yoga. This not only excludes men, who also need self-care, but can reinforce harmful gender stereotypes.
Exclusion of LGBTQ+ Individuals:
Self-care advice often assumes a heteronormative perspective, excluding or overlooking the unique experiences and needs of LGBTQ+ individuals. These individuals might face unique stressors related to stigma, discrimination, and identity that are not addressed in mainstream self-care advice.
Some self-care practices are tied to the idea of exclusivity, promoting high-end experiences or products that not everyone can access. The emphasis on unique, often expensive, products or services can create a sense of elitism.
The self-care, self-improvement, and self-help movement within the health and wellness industry offer individuals various tools and practices to enhance their well-being and personal growth. Life coaching, tarot readings, manifesting, energy work, and oracle readings can provide individuals with valuable insights and motivation. However, it is important to exercise critical thinking and approach these practices with a discerning mindset, acknowledging their limitations and potential pitfalls. By combining the benefits of positive psychology techniques with a balanced perspective on negative emotions, individuals can cultivate a holistic approach to personal development within the framework of the self-care and self-help movement.
To combat these issues, it’s essential to broaden the definition of self-care and to emphasize that it’s a highly individual and diverse concept. Self-care should be inclusive, recognizing and addressing the needs of individuals across different races, classes, genders, abilities, and sexual orientations. It’s also critical to challenge and deconstruct harmful stereotypes and biases that may be present in mainstream self-care advice. Perhaps we can practice compassion, patience, understanding, and empathy with and toward ourselves and others.