Through my Reddit adventure, I stumbled upon an alarming amount of people dismissing self-care practices. The common perspective amongst these specific people was that some self-care practices are selfish and self-indulgent. They only considered self-care to be physical self-care. While physical self-care is important for our mental health, it does not make mental self-care irrelevant for our general health. This distinction between our physical health and our mental health, I believe, is one of the main factors that contributes to this way of thinking. Have a conversation with any health professional like I’ve done on multiple occasions due to my healthy obsession with the topic and they’ll agree with it. Exercise, good hygiene practices and balanced diet can significantly affect our moods. During these weeks of quarantine, I am sure everybody has to some extent noticed how much their mood improves when they practice physical self-care. In the same way, when we are stressed, depressed, sad, anxious, etc. for prolonged periods, our sleep cycle gets affected, our muscles get tense, we get headaches, it can trigger psoriasis and increase our risks of getting a coronary heart disease. As you can see, this distinction between the two is an important part of mental health that I am very interested in. I intend to increase people’s value of self-care particularly on the practices that are seen as self-indulgent.
As a preteen, I read a book by Sean Covey that talked about “sharpening the saw” as an analogy to self-care. As I have developed certain manual crafts, it clicks in my head better than it did back then. As makers, our work is only as good as our tools. Cutting wood with a dull blade will produce a jagged edge and take at least twice as much effort to do the job of a freshly sharpened blade. That is if the blade doesn’t snap which is quite common with dull blades due to the increase in friction to get the job done.
As I tried to understand why exactly people found mental self-care to be indulgent, I noticed a recurring word popping up in their posts. People felt the need to be productive. They seemed to define productivity as accomplishing their responsibilities; if it didn’t, it would be a waste of time. Instead of productive, how about we look at it as a meaningful time. That should be the goal. What is meaningful is subjective but there is value and meaning in practices like a long bath, a walk in the outdoors, doing a puzzle, etc.
The waste of time feeling reminds me of the complaint of chores being too time-consuming. Not just chores but we complain about time-consumption whenever something feels daunting and long. Why? What do we want to do with this instead? Seems that most of us just end up using it for other work, sleeping, or glued to a screen. Sleep and digital entertainment are the ones that don’t have to do with our responsibilities. While talking with a mental health expert about this, we analyzed the purpose of these outlets, our conclusion was wanting to have an escape from our responsibilities and reaching for the quickest and most available to us. The main problem with this comes when we feel guilty during or afterwards. If we are aware of our accomplishments we can change our guilt into a sense of “I earned some time off”. When we deliberately plan our free time, it actually ends up being a productive use of our time. We can actually relax and enjoy our earned reward rather than continue stressing out about what is left to do.