Taking a hot bath with a bath bomb. Wearing a face mask. Burning scented candles. Going to the spa. A hot drink from Philz Coffee.
These activities are what come to many people’s minds when they hear the phrase “self-care,” which has become more commonplace in an age that is more open-minded about mental health.
Many use these products to practice self-care; however, they are not necessarily essential for it. As a result, self-care can often become commercialized, and its true meaning erased.
“Self-care is taking time to engage in activities that are meaningful for you that help you to recharge,” Elizabeth Spector, Paly’s Mental Health and Wellness Coordinator, said. “When you’re feeling depleted, or even if you’re not, it’s great to make self-care a daily habit.”
Self-care is important, as it gives people time to relax and prioritize their wellbeings. Brands have capitalized on this growing practice and have used it as a way to market their products.
While this has spread the knowledge of what self-care is, it has also caused many to create an association between spending money and self-care. With the term “self-care” becoming more widely used, it can sometimes be used too broadly, according to Spector.
“We definitely overuse the word and don’t necessarily define it,” said Spector. “‘Go to the spa and have a self-care day,’ ‘get your nails done,’ ‘get a massage.’ That stuff’s all great, but it’s hard to do that on a daily basis, and it’s expensive.”
Since self-care is something that should ideally be practiced daily, overusing such products and services can make the costs add up.
Senior Noor Navaid, a member of the Sources of Strength club and a student who practices self-care daily, echoed Spector’s sentiment.
“I’ve definitely noticed that some companies have been taking advantage of [self-care] or commercializing this by branding products as stress reducing or ‘self-care’ products. This makes it seem like self-care is a very exclusive thing that can only be achieved through certain rituals or products, when in reality… self-care is just doing stuff that doesn’t make you stressed.”
Senior Noor Navaid
Popular websites such as Buzzfeed, Popsugar and Bustle have often promoted the purchase of products for the explicit purpose of self-care through their articles.
For instance, Bustle has an article titled “38 Self-Care Products Under $20 Trending On Amazon That You Effing Deserve Too,” in which the author says that the listed products helped her “achieve a much-needed holiday,” and that “they’re likely to boost your mood and give you the self-care treatment that you effing deserve.”
Senior Giselle Navarro regularly takes time for self-care by listening to music, meditating and spending time with friends and family.
“A lot of people think self-care is something that has to do with money. Self-care doesn’t have to cost you a thing. There is a lot in the media [about] having to look a certain way to feel better about yourself, which may work for some people but not for me.”
Senior Giselle Navarro
Senior Kristina Im, a Sources of Strength member, says that self-care in the commercial world is often short-term.
“We hear about ‘self-care’ days and relaxing activities that may help relieve stress times and situations,” Im said. “Though these are not bad ways to take care of yourself, I personally think it’s important to look at long term self-care and consider how self-care can be integrated into your daily life.”
Self-care is not necessarily about the products one buys or uses; rather, it’s any activity that makes the particular person feel happy or relaxed, according to Spector.
“Self-care’s very personal,” Spector said. “Everyone uses different techniques to practice self-care, but it could be simple as taking five minutes to lay down in your bed and just breathe deeply or reflect on your day.”
For instance, Navaid practices self-care by making coffee, taking walks, chatting with her mom, stretching, taking a nap and staying hydrated.
“Self-care has always been doing things that normally just make me happy or appreciative of things around me,” Navaid said.
Spector encourages students to integrate self-care into their daily routines, whether it be by practicing yoga, drawing, meditating, watching YouTube, playing video games or anything else that relaxes them.
“I know [students’] schedules change everyday, so you’re not necessarily going to have a consistent schedule, but know that you want to create [time for self-care], no matter what your day looks like,” Spector said. “I could throw out a whole number of options [to practice self-care] and maybe none of them speak to you … Find what works for you.”
Im emphasizes the importance of consistency in making time for self-care.
“Maybe it’s taking 3 minutes a day to journal or drink herbal tea before bed,” Im said. “Instead of only utilizing self-care when you’re extremely stressed, trying to weave it into your daily life will probably be helpful as this may prevent stress instead of solely treating it.”
Navaid and Navarro have learned to make self-care a normal occurrence in their day, whether that be from taking one minute a day to breathe or having a chat with a family member. As a result, it has made them happier and less stressed.
“In recent years, I’ve learned that self-care is just supposed to be normal and part of your routine, rather than make you feel like you’re going out of your way to make time for yourself,” Navaid said.
While products such as bath bombs, candles and face masks may be nice to relax with every now and then, they are not essential to achieve happiness and self-care; rather, it is meant to be any activity to maintain mental, emotional and physical health.
A healthy lifestyle could be achieved through activities such as taking a walk or spending time with loved ones.
Navarro said, “You should always surround yourself with things that make you happy and not feel stressed. If you are a busy person, make sure you always make time for yourself, even if it’s a little bit of time and effort.”