Why Mainstream Self Care Doesn't Always Work

In recent years, in the wake of a new wave of humanism in the form self actualization and self empowerment, the concept of validating and encouraging self-care has become very prevalent in our society. Instead of demonizing the bad times, people are coming out to remind you that everyone feels that way sometimes and there are ways in which you can make the blows less damaging. Most commonly found on media platforms such as Tumblr and Pinterest, hundreds (if not thousands) of cute graphics, lists of encouraging reminders and ways to make you, your day and your life just a little bit better are circulating the web, always available for when you are in need of some comfort or an action plan.


The availability of these resources, the availability of this community, is something that helped me through many a bad day and helped me to know how to help out friends who were struggling themselves. Who doesn’t love compilations of fun things to do when you’re sad and lists of reasons why you’re still worth it no matter what?



However, through my experiences I noticed something missing in all of these self care efforts. I noticed that, despite their wonderful intentions, ultimately they are non-inclusive. And they are non-inclusive on a variety of fronts.

In terms of gender bias, the majority of self care tips and words of encouragement trend towards cutesy gender-normed “girlish” things like endless jasmine bubble baths and bright nail polish colors and things worded with gender-binary sentiments. Another major exclusionary factor pertains to socioeconomic class. Some, if not most, people do not have the time or resources to go out and buy all natural ingredients to cook up a homemade organic energy smoothie or to craft a candle with hand-picked wax from the specialty store. And while the (unintentionally) exclusionary nature of these things are obviously problematic, the biggest problem that I noticed with all of these self care tips and trends is that there are little to no provisions for those in need of intense self care.




It may appear that expending the amount of energy towards some of these self care practices should result in a kind of intensive and effective self care result; however, that is not always the case. You see, mainstream self care doesn’t take into account those people who are struggling to get out of bed, to turn on the lights, to walk outside of their bedrooms to the kitchen or to the bathroom to eat or clean up. Self care takes into account those who are struggling to persevere; it does not take into account those who are struggling to exist. While those people might be struggling with more serious or severe issues, that doesn’t mean that self care practices shouldn’t extend to their states of being.

Here are 5 self care tips that extend past flowers and fun music and address the times where a different kind of self care is necessary:

  1. Brush your teeth.

    1. The process of getting out of bed and going through the motions of cleaning up can be hard when you feel like there isn’t a point to anything anyway. That’s why I’m not suggesting a bath or a shower or putting on makeup that makes you feel good about yourself. You will get to that point in time. Brushing your teeth is a relatively quick and easy fix for feeling gross, and

  2. Open the blinds.

    1. Darkness when you’re in a bad emotional state is never a good thing. The absence of light can result in more intense depression and is the cause of a very real mental illness.

  3. Know when alone time and isolation is and isn’t working to your advantage.

    1. Isolation can be detrimental to your mental state in many situations, but learning how to identify when it is best to cancel those plans or skip that class for that extra hour of sleep or mental preparation for life. Sometimes alone time is what you need, and sometimes the presence of or a hug from a friend is what it takes to help fix what’s wrong.

  4. Eat well.

    1. This doesn’t mean that you have to go out and get all organic food or puree a spinach smoothie. It simply means that you need to eat, and eat consistently. Refrain from binging, refrain from restricting. Consistently nourish your body with some kind of sustenance and do not ever forget to drink water.

  5. Make your bed.

    1. This may seem like another one of those daunting tasks, but when you’re low, you’re low, and when you’re at that point, a lot of time is spent in bed. Doing anything to fix up your bed from re-tightening the sheets, switching out a blanket, flipping the mattress, to brushing out the crumbs and fluffing the pillows will make you feel a little fresher, a little more secure and way more comfortable.

Remember, there is no wrong way to practice self care, and there is nothing wrong with the wave of normalizing self care or the suggestions that are provided. You just have to remember that not all self care works for everyone, and sometimes, doing those basic things is what is going to help you the most. Stay well.