The Ugly Side of Self Care

If you have a Twitter account, or just generally aren’t living under a rock, you have seen or heard of the trend of “treating yourself.” This phrase was definitely popularized in season four of the show Parks and Recreation, when Ben joins Tom and Donna for a “Treat Yo Self Day.”

Treating yourself usually consists of doing a face mask, using a bath bomb, or ignoring your responsibilities by binge-watching Stranger Things before the second season comes out. This has become very popular in the mental health community, seen as something that is a healthy way to cope with mental illness. It has become almost the default response to someone that is going through a hard time because their mental health is poor. Being told to take a warm bath, light a candle, or just relax is a common prescription, even from other people that struggle with mental illness. However, is this doing more harm than good?

Sometimes, it is acceptable to cope with your mental illness or poor mental health with things like baths, face masks, or aromatherapy. In fact, sometimes that may be just what you need in that moment. Moments of mindfulness, where you only focus on the task at hand while you are completing it, can be very beneficial for anxiety and depression, among other illnesses. Aromatherapy can also help your nerves calm, or help energize you if needed. But sometimes coping with mental health isn’t that simple, or aesthetically pleasing. Sometimes poor mental health is gross, and smelly, and dirty, and that is something that isn’t talked about very often.

I experience my fair share of struggles with my mental health. Anxiety and depression can be really crippling at times, especially during the school year. Sometimes I lack the motivation to keep up with my personal hygiene, or to clean my room and do the laundry. Sometimes dishes stack up in my room, because I lack the motivation to clean them. Other times, I get very far behind on my schoolwork because everything starts piling up, and instead of doing the logical thing and setting time aside to get it done, I go into a state of responsibility overload, and slip into a state of panic, that ultimately does not allow me to get any work done at all. This is true for many people that have a mental illness, and sometimes the symptoms can be even more life-altering than this. Given this, you can see that it is important for society to begin shedding some light on the not-so-pretty sides of self care.

I understand that in some situations, these are the things that trigger mental illness, because they get to a point that they seem so insurmountable that it becomes impossible to accomplish them. However, if you have a friend with mental illness, they could help you complete some of these tasks, and if you are the friend of someone with mental illness, you could encourage them to complete some of the tasks, or even help them complete them. Even if you are someone that is struggling with mental illness, and you are having a good mental health day, you could try to do some of these things for yourself.

  • Shower

  • Brush your teeth/floss

  • Do an assignment or more for school

  • Do laundry

  • Eat a snack or drink some water

  • Do the dishes

    The romanticization of self care can sometimes be a good thing, because it encourages more people to be aware of whether or not they need to treat themselves to a little more love. However, it can also cause people to romanticize putting off important tasks, which, in the end, will only make the problems worse.