Self-Care: Why This Recommendation Can Backfire

The Problem with Self-Care

You don’t have to look online too long, whether it be scrolling through articles or social media posts, to come across suggestions and recommendations for self-care. Overwhelmed or stressed? Take a break. Struggling with psychiatric symptoms? Get a massage. Mental health professionals are especially keen on recommending self-care.

The problem with these recommendations is that they fail to recognize that self-care is a privilege. For many, getting a massage, going to the gym, or taking some quiet time to read a book just isn’t feasible. Self-care typically takes time or money or both. When we recommend these practices to those who are lacking the resources to accomplish them, the recommendations can come across as frustrating or lacking in empathy or both.

So What to Do Instead?

If you don’t have time or money to engage in the typical self-care practices that we often hear recommended (or see other individuals participating in), here are a few things you can do:

1. Accept that this is a difficult time and that self-care practices are limited. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other.

2. Educate if you have the energy. Inform the person who is recommending self-care that this recommendation comes with certain assumptions that need to be challenged (or just share this piece).

3. Do less of something that isn’t necessary. While you might not have time or money to get a pedicure, take a vacation, or even relax and breathe, you might be able to cut out something from your daily routine that frees up some time and space. Maybe you actually skip a part of your typical self-care routine (e.g. taking a shower, exercising) in the name of self-care or decide that you can put off a daily or weekly chore (e.g., cleaning a bathroom, taking the garbage out) to free up a few minutes to rest.

4. Be kind to yourself. Adopt a compassionate stance. While you might not have the resources to practice self-care, you can work on some of the messages your send yourself. Notice negative self-talk. Embrace the refrain, “I’m doing the best I can.” Being kind to yourself is a form of self-care.

Can you think of any other strategies for taking care of yourself when you don’t have the necessary resources? We’d love to know!

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