Don't replace health with self-care

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While self-care is important, treating it as a cure-all for school-related stress, poor mental health, and general wellness can be dangerous.

In its most basic form, self-care is about prioritizing our physical and mental health amidst our hectic schedules. But in recent years companies have capitalized on the phrase, using self-care as a means of selling products which align with idleness and pampering.

As a result, the term’s definition has shifted—and most popular self-care practices tend to focus more on indulgence than wellness.

That said, there’s nothing wrong with pampering ourselves every now and again. Taking long bubble baths, ordering in pizza, and splurging on an expensive outfit can be just what the doctor ordered, especially when we feel mentally or emotionally drained.

Real problems only arise when we begin replacing the practice of taking care of ourselves with these insufficient self-care practices.

As university students, it can be easy to neglect our physical, mental, and emotional health. Often plagued with stress, we tend to sacrifice our wellbeing in favour of excelling in our studies or meeting extracurricular obligations. During exam season, we wear sleepless nights and unsatisfied hunger like badges of honour, believing both are evidence of how hard we’re working.

When we consistently treat ourselves poorly and reward this behaviour with indulgence, self-care can easily slip into self-sabotage.

Self-sabotaging behaviours can range from treating ourselves to chocolate bars yet consistently skipping breakfast, to making time for face masks but refusing to get enough sleep. When we constantly patch up our problems with quick-fix self-care, these once-liberating practices can do more harm than good.

Taking real care of ourselves requires participating in the menial but important tasks that make up everyday life: sleeping through the night, confronting our negative emotions, and eating enough to keep us full and happy throughout the day. While not as exciting as some of the self-care practices listed on the Internet or shown on TV, these are what help us stay consistently nourished. 

Real and lasting wellness isn’t something we can find in a tube of face cream or at the bottom of an ice cream pint. In order to improve our physical and mental health, we must implement a routine of healthy habits and start to see those self-care practices as supplementary. 

Maintaining a well-rounded—if boring—routine can be hard, but it can also be rewarding. Sticking to a healthy lifestyle can keep us strong, so when we’re faced with challenging or stressful moments, we’re prepared to face them, and still have time to draw a bubble bath.

Ally is The Journal’s Assistant Lifestyle Editor. She’s a third-year English major.

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