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The Ambiguous Nature of Self-Care

“Self-care.” What does that word mean to you when you see it? The media has influenced society to perceive self-care as the simple act of putting on face masks, painting your nails, running a hot bath, etc. Moreover, in recent years the definition of self-care has focused more on external features and has continued to perpetuate the idea that completing the self-care activities mentioned will help us eliminate our long-term struggles. However, the issue with these lists of self-care activities is they enforce the idea that maintaining our mental wellbeing simply hinges upon performing superficial relaxation activities.

The process of caring for one’s mental health is not limited to such simple step-by-step regimens. Rather, it should be a process that entails experimentation and versatility when it comes to exploring new and meaningful activities to identify what suits you. Testing out activities such as meditation, journaling, art therapy can be extremely beneficial for you as they help you to understand the thoughts and feelings you are experiencing. Because these seemingly simple activities are underestimated, many overlook how useful it is for developing a growth mindset that will help with other endeavors. Henceforth, as these activities require a great deal of concentration, they urge us to practice introspection, which is defined as the practice of observing one’s own mental and emotional processes.

It may take some time to realize that these activities may be more meaningful when it comes to tackling the root cause of your struggles. Though you may solely enjoy practicing the step-by-step regimens methodically written out for you on internet forums, you must understand that finding activities that challenge your train of thought and/or incorporate your deepest passions will be the activities that build your resilience at times of adversity and fragility. Through this realization, you can discover what not only helps us rejuvenate on the outside, but most importantly heal on the inside.

However, experimentation really takes time. The path to alleviating one’s mental health struggles should not be treated as a sprint but as a marathon. If you speed through the process of trying to identify what works for you, the opposite will happen; you start becoming overwhelmed by this process, experiencing emotions of frustration as you feel that you are not achieving what works best for you. However, if you slow down your pace and process your satisfaction with each activity, I promise that you will eventually seek what is best for you. Much of self-care and looking after your mental wellbeing is dependent on doing what you feel best suits you at that time. Therefore, don’t be surprised when some of the activities you select might not work as well as others for certain situations you may be facing. After all, there is a reason as to why you diversify your activities. Keep in mind that these activities may change over time as you grow older and/or experience changes in your worldview, but it is crucial to find methods that are most true to you at that moment in time.

An activity I adopted that has drastically changed my perception of life is journaling. Journaling has encouraged me to freely express thoughts that occupy my mind, despite those thoughts being positive or negative. Overtime, the accumulation of my journal entries enabled me to effectively dissect my thought patterns, thus helping me not only to understand how I perceive certain situations, but also how I can transform some of these thoughts for the better. This practice has significantly helped me when it comes to tackling my anxiety, as my new understanding about myself allows me to build habits to control these anxious thoughts before they take control of me. Though I prefer the traditional journaling method using pen and paper, utilizing a digital journal can also be helpful if thoughts tend to overwhelm you in a public setting.

Despite all this talk about finding a regimen and adopting what activities work best for you, I must emphasize that I am not against activities like nail painting and face masks nor do I think they should be eliminated from our self-care regimen. Ultimately, they are fun and to an extent vital for helping us regain our external sense of self. However, the notion that mental health struggles can be easily healed through the painting of one’s nails or putting on a face mask is seriously unrealistic and misleading. Moreover, these preconceptions will limit us from expanding our horizon and seeking life-changing activities. To conclude, embarking on a path to improve one’s mental health may include some aspects typically associated with self-care, but they are not limited to just these options. Therefore, doing your research and having a good balance in your self-care routine not only enables you to gain a better understanding of the recurring obstacles you face but also helps you to improve your attitude towards these obstacles that can help shape who you are.

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