Self-care is important, but it’s not the same for everyone

Hannah Tasker calls bullsh*t on some of the forms of self-care.


Self-care is important. I really mean this. Not in a self-proclaimed instagram influencer, avocado on toast, herbal tea, ‘inspirational’ quotes, smoothies and jogging routine kinda way. In a proper way.

To start this off, I just want to make a quick disclaimer that I am not having a go at any of the aforementioned forms of ‘self-care’ — I’m very partial to a cup of green tea and honey, it makes me feel healthy and mature, of which I am neither — but instead clarify this idea that seems to have appeared over the last couple of years of said, ‘self-care’. Sometimes this may indeed mean having a big bubble bath, treating yourself to a cheeky bit of online retail therapy, or binging on that show that you’ve told everyone who’s suggested it to you “yeah yeah I know!’ “oh, I’ve heard that about it!” “really must get on that”, because, frankly, at this point you’re running out of excuses as to why you’ve ignored their recommendation’s. But I think sometimes we need to recognise this form of ‘self-care’ as a privilege.

How do I explain what I mean? I’m going to try with a personal story (which hopefully you’ll understand, or just think I’m a bit weird and stick to the smoothies and exercise, no hard feelings). Over the summer break from second to third year of university I, unsurprisingly enough, had a fair bit of spare time on my hands compared to the hectic life you get used to during term time. I know that sounds lovely and don’t get me wrong I am not complaining about the time off as such, but about how my brain reacts to that shift. She (my brain) does not love it. She feels guilty and useless and impressively unmotivated — which, if you’ve been there you’ll know, is quite the vicious cycle. Anywho, skip forward to this past week, back at uni, busy, and I was really ill for a couple of days. Normally this queues the old brain to revert back to that useless, miserable mindset of summer; not this time bitch.

For once, I actually did the adult thing and took care of myself, rested, read, watched crappy tv, and most importantly, recognised that this was exactly what I needed to do — to give myself a break — to be able to get back on my feet and be my more normal self.

When you google ‘self-care’ some of the advice that immediately comes up is:

  1. exercise daily
  2. eat right
  3. say no to others and say yes to your self-care
  4. take a self-care trip

Right. Ok. Let’s have a little chat about these. They are all completely valid, they can all completely work for people, they can totally perk your mood; but they can also not work for you, and actually make you feel like you’re failing at what is advertised as simple, easy things to help your mental health. Which is, weirdly enough, at best unhelpful and, at worst, detrimental to a possibly already bad headspace.

Some of these things — take the idea of a ‘self-care trip’, or exercising daily — are things some of us can only do if we are privileged with expendable money or the physical health to do so. Or, we just don’t want to (that’s me, maybe that’s you, what that definitely is, is fine). ‘Eat ‘right’’. What the f*ck does that mean. There are foods that may help with your health but again this is very individual, comfort eating can be great, and to someone that struggles with their eating and/or weight this statement of what is ‘right’ is not going to help. Period. Maybe, let’s say no to broad and cliched statements about self-care, and say yes to people’s individual needs, being respectful of our differences. You got this.

This might seem like a bit of a roundabout way of basically saying LOOK AFTER YOURSELF YOU DESERVE IT, but sometimes you just need someone to yell that at you, don’t you? Yes you, you there. Go on. Go say it at yourself in the mirror. Or at least think it. Whatever that form of self-care is to you, allow yourself it. Keep learning about yourself and your needs. Keep growing. Slip up on the way? No worries, we all do. Pick yourself up, lean on your friends for a bit, you’ll get there. Right, I’m off to make a cuppa — regular not green though, I’m feeling comfort right now not a healthy and mature kick, maybe tomorrow.

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