In COVID-19 times, often the only difference between a weekday and a weekend is how we use our computers. On weekdays, we sit in front of a screen to attend online classes, or say “yes” to work meetings. And on weekends, the same screen becomes our entertainment centre, or a portal to nibhao-ing friendships. We have no structured…. anything!
So, with rising COVID-19 cases, pressure to give online exams, very little prospect of getting good jobs, and bye-bye to travel plans – how do we do self-care?
Is self-care only a face mask?
The thing about the “face-mask-and-chill” brand of self-care is that it’s meant to be performative. If you’ve lit a scented candle, and are having a relaxing night, and you haven’t posted it on social media, are you even having a relaxing night, haan? It’s this performance of self-care which tells others that they must also #selfcare – otherwise, they aren’t taking care of themselves. Think about it! Do you even like chamomile tea, or are you drinking it because you’ve been told you will feel better after it?
This commercialisation of self-care has taken away from the root of what the thing actually is. To paraphrase Geet from “Jab We Met,” self-care helps us to get to a point where we can say, “Main apni favourite hoon!” It’s basically anything we do to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health. And if that’s drinking chamomile tea every morning for you, that’s great!
But self-care has to be something which works for YOU. And only, you.
This means that sometimes self-care is not only buying things. When taking care of ourselves becomes a profit point, then we are told that the more we buy, the better our lives will be. We are Aladdin, and all the self-care pages are our personal genies.
A 2015 study shows that millennials spend twice as much as boomers on self-care, which can include apps for personal well-being or diet plans or workout regimens. And boom! Anxiety becomes something that a simple purchase can fix; rather than something which needs to be tackled with the guidance of an expert. Like Ester Bloom writes in this 2015 piece in The Atlantic, “The advertising industry has nudged self-care away from introspection and towards reflexive consumerism.”
Self-care ft. social media also ignores economics. Buying a shampoo for Rs. 1,000 might cause you more stress, especially if you can’t afford it. When Retta takes a “Treat Yo’ Self” day off from work in “Parks and Recreation,” it looks great! But in real life, proxy kaun lagaayega? Especially, if your boss wants that project update NOW.
Self-care can’t be a “one-size-fits-all solution.”
So, how to do self-care that really helps us care for ourselves?
Well, firstly – accept that in 2020 being not okay…is okay. Like a piece published by the Harvard Medical School says, “acknowledge the turbulence” in this flight of our life. So, check in with yourself, and if necessary, check out. Yes, that means putting the phone down.
Apart from ensuring you sleep and eat right, it’s also essential to include some COVID-specific self-care. The World Health Organisation has some great tips – wash your hands, practice safe sex, and be kind. As the pandemic becomes the “only normal” we know, self-care is now moving away from fancy massages to just a simple deep breath.
The answer to “arre, but what is self-care?” is different for different people. Find what works for you, and like our mothers always say, “routine, beta. Routine.”