Self care. You’ve heard the phrase bouncing from countless Instagram pages to celebritys’ mouths—most of the time spoken by those whose capital warps their perspective of what it means to self care.
It is true that self care looks different for everyone, but I am exhausted from seeing the inspiration industry that continues its drum beat even as most people’s lives are falling apart. Everything from the dismissive commentary of, “you should have been building towards a savings account to be prepared for situations like this,” to “use this time to learn how to add a secondary income to your household,” to an endless stream of notions that over-glamorize productivity and ignore the realities so many are facing.
I am exhausted of the phrase “self care” being thrown around without an expansive understanding of the reality we are facing. It is not simply self care we are contending with. We have to frame it the way it is: this is self care during a global crisis. This is trying to care for ourselves during a time when so many of us are unemployed, have had a cut in work hours, are working essential jobs without hazard pay, are trying to care for our children and immunocompromised loved ones, and are relying on community efforts of mutual aid when state resources are failing. This is trying to care for ourselves when living paycheck to paycheck has only become grimmer, and survival is at the forefront of so many of our minds. Mental survival, emotional survival, physical survival.
So how do we even begin to conceptualize self care during a pandemic? First. we must understand the lived realities so many communities are undergoing. We must extend our understanding to those in circumstances different from our own. We must open ourselves up, extend our care, our resources, that connection that makes us human, to our neighbors, to organizations doing the work that is necessary in this moment. We must extend acceptance both to others and to ourselves. Invite inner reflection, allow ourselves to feel each day, rather than dismissing what our bodies and minds are telling us they need.
We must lose the over-glamorized notion that this pandemic is solely a time to become more, to gain more in capital and skills, and instead allow ourselves the rest, relaxation, and therapy we need. Self care does not only mean we are working towards something external, self care, also, means we are working towards the internal. Working towards accepting our full selves, and our full selves cannot always be moving, cannot always be doing, cannot always be productive in the ways capitalist systems demand. Our full selves need true rest, need true introspection, need to honor our daily emotional labor as well as our manual labor, and need moments of nurture, so that moments of energy can exist.
In this time, as so many of us are learning to adjust to a new pace of living and the uncertainty of where tomorrow is going, let us embrace this slow. Do those things you genuinely enjoy, not because you are working towards improvement, but because you want to indulge in the sweetness of joy. Let yourself feel all your emotions, invite the anger, the frustration, the fear, and give them room to breathe. Allow yourself to grieve. Allow yourself to hold space for your emotions, allow yourself to hold space for others. Inhale, exhale, and forget the capitalistic notions of self care. To self care during this time means to lean into your inner self, and lean out to your communities. Self care means to build support for others when there is nothing else to grasp. Self care means to acknowledge the systems we called our normal, are not sustainable. In this moment where there is so much noise, tune into the earth, tune into what’s inside. To self care is to listen with all parts of our body.