Our lives are filled with stress and worries, from the smallest of things such as what to eat, to bigger, more important decisions that affect every facet of our daily lives. With the prevalence of technology and incessant noise around us, it’s become increasingly difficult to sit back, pause, and just be.
Perhaps it’s the ‘grind culture’ that pushes us to constantly be searching for improvement in all aspects of our lives; to constantly strive to be better, to achieve more, and to be more productive. And perhaps it’s these added pressures and the constant bombardment of information from social media that traps us into this productivity cycle, resulting in feelings of inadequacy, anger, and despair.
And perhaps that’s where all the self-care videos come in. YouTubers post videos about their self-care routines in hopes of informing their viewers about the importance of stepping back and relaxing from time to time. Burnout is real, and is something that plagues our modern society; it’s no wonder that these self-care routines have become all the rage.
The Glitz and Glam
More often than not, the self-care routines we see online are idealized: the face masks, the bath with the bubbles and bath bombs, the meditation, the outdoor walks, a green smoothie, a quiet night of reading and reflecting, and the list goes on.
And I tried those. I tried to emulate the self-care routines I saw floating around YouTube, seeing how perfect they were, how happy the people were at the end of it, and how much I wanted to be happy and relaxed as they were. But I was chasing a false illusion and a fake dream.
Because as much as self-care routines on a single night are important and can be a good way to relax after a stressful week (or month), they are by no means the ultimate saviour to our busy world. As I learned, it wasn’t all face masks and rosé like the painted pictures online.
Self-care isn’t something that you do once a week to detox from everything that happened. It’s a daily occurrence of small things intertwined into our daily routine that keeps us healthy, both mentally and physically.
Self-Care Is Ugly
That’s what the videos don’t show you – the ugly truth behind a real self-care routine. Because it’s not all rainbows and butterflies.
Self-care means holding yourself accountable for your actions, owning up to your mistakes, and figuring out a way to make yourself a better person. It’s hard, it’s brutal, and it requires a whole other level of honesty with yourself. It requires you being able to sit down with the person you are and to ask yourself deep, demanding, and difficult questions that will ultimately get you out of your low place.
Self-care means being honest with yourself, no matter how hard it is, because you know that you’re the only person responsible for your own well-being and happiness.
It’s about surrounding yourself with uplifting people, and distancing yourself from the ones that don’t. It’s about being honest with yourself about the company you keep and surround yourself with – are they really good to be around, or do you just hang around them because you need to?
Being honest with yourself is hard, and it hurts. Coming to the realization that certain people around me weren’t who I thought they were, or accepting the fact that some things just aren’t meant to be, or the fact that you can’t change yourself into something you’re not – those are all difficult things to truly accept. Your mind and your ego will fight against these things that you so desperately want to believe, and at a certain point, you’ve got to let go and accept what you knew all along.
As pretty as bath bombs and nature walks and redoing your room can be, they’re just not the reality of self-care. Oftentimes, it’s giving yourself a day to be sad and dwell in your emotions so that you can pick yourself back up the next day and get back on your feet. Other times, it’s saying ‘yes’ to an opportunity that frightens you because you know that it gets you one step closer to your goal. Or sometimes, it’s saying “no” to a tempting event because you have more pressing issues to handle.
At the end of the day, self-care is different for everyone; it could be face masks and bubble baths for one person, and furiously journalling for another person. The one thing that remains universally true is that self-care is crucial and important for one to maintain a healthy state of mind.
What constitutes self-care is defined by YOU and you only.
My Self-Care “Routines”
In my view, self-care isn’t something that you do once a week to detox from everything that happened. It’s a daily occurrence, small things intertwined into our daily routine that keeps us healthy, both mentally and physically. Whether it be going to bed 5 minutes earlier than usual, taking some time to meditate and reflect on your day, or choosing not to have another all-nighter. These are all conscious decisions that can be made on a daily basis to mitigate stress and keep ourselves healthy.
Self-care is choosing yourself over any distractions that come up in your life.
On a day-to-day basis, I truly find that small things add up. I always ensure to do my full skincare routine at night to counteract the harsh winter weather and to get rid of all the dirt and everyday grime.
Starting a bullet journal was also one of the best decisions I made this year – I track my mood and write down three things I’m grateful for or that made me happy each day. Cliché, I know. It was something I did on and off for the past two years, and I’ve noticed an improvement in my mindset and outlook on life. Plus, it’s a good way to look back on days and experiences.
Cleaning and reorganizing are my favourite ways to clear my mind, be productive, and focus on something other than school or work.
Over the past year, I’ve also incorporated journalling into my schedule as a way to declutter my mind and sort through my emotions. As much as I like to keep things in my head, writing things down solidifies them and as I’m writing, I’m able to draw conclusions and figure out solutions to my current problems. Aka how to avoid my next breakdown.
And as cliché as the next one sounds, putting on a face mask makes me feel ‘clean’ and rejuvenated and ready to take on whatever the week throws at me.
A deep clean of the apartment is always a nice way to restart a new month. Washing bed sheets, makeup brushes, and reorganizing my closet allows me to refresh and regroup for a new month.
Reviewing my financial statements also gives me peace of mind because I’m able to track where my money goes and set new goals for the next month. For 2019, one of my goals was to become more fiscally responsible, and with that came about a million spreadsheets and budgets before I finally found a system that works.
Setting new goals is perhaps the biggest thing I like to do on a monthly basis. An aspect of the ‘grind culture’ that I’ve strongly internalized is the idea that there’s always a new goal to strive for and a new target to reach. And in order to reach my 2019 goals, I’ve recognized the importance of setting small, monthly goals, so this is something that I hold near and dear to my heart.
You Do You
Self-care is deeply personal to each and every one of us. And when you figure out what makes you feel good and what helps you balance out the hectic, crazy, and stressful parts of your day, you’ll be thankful for the little escapes you’re able to find.
May your life become lighter and your days become brighter, and remember to live every day boldly and be daringly yourself.