This week's issue is a day late - but given our topic, I think you'll understand.
Self-care doesn't work the way most of us think it does. It's often a very unbeautiful thing - like hitting the gym after a busy day, cooking healthy meals instead of ordering in, and visiting the doctor on the reg.
In fact, taking care of yourself is often the hardest thing you have to do.
This week, we've pulled together a few of the best articles and stories on how real self-care differs from #selfcare.
What does self-care mean to you? What are some tips you have that help you be the hero in our own life? Hit reply and let me know 👋
Co-Founder, The Ongoing
After being diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, entrepreneur Komal Minhas gave up her successful production company, moving back home to Canada to recover and reset her life and career.
Immediately after being told I had a rare form of skin cancer, my brain said to me, You need to get better as soon as possible so you can get back to New York and back to work. It helped that my cancer was treatable, and that my prognosis was positive—it was easier to try and brush off. Getting well for the sake of being well didn’t cross my mind for a second.
She goes on to explain how self-care is not just a productivity hack:
Now, here’s where there needs to be some nuance: I still love to work. I still take a lot of pride in contributing meaningfully to the world. But I’m able to recognize that if my reason for taking care of my physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual self is to boost my career, it’ll never be enough. There will always be one more milestone, one more achievement to add to the list. I’ll never feel whole because we are not what we do; we are not the outputs we create. That kind of self-care isn’t self-care at all, it’s work under a different name.
Shayla Love's article in Vice expands on the difference between self-care and #selfcare#selfcare, and how our obsession with the latter is fueling confusion and complication for those seeking true mental healthcare.
These activities and products are not sinister in and of themselves. I would hope that a life includes leisure, time with loved ones, and exercise. But self-care has been appropriated by companies and turned into #selfcare; a kind of tease about the healthcare that we are lacking and are desperate for.
If we lived in a world in which we were being properly taken care of, would self-care have the same appeal? Is self-care a symbol of a generation that wants to take care of itself, or does it reveal how our society has failed to take care of us?
Just as Komal Minhas noted in her article, self-care is often a very unbeautiful thing, according to Brianna Wiest in Thought Catalog. She discusses the differences between the consumerized version of self-care, and the harsh reality of actual self-care:
True self-care is not salt baths and chocolate cake, it is making the choice to build a life you don’t need to regularly escape from. And that often takes doing the thing you least want to do
It is letting yourself be normal. Regular. Unexceptional. It is sometimes having a dirty kitchen and deciding your ultimate goal in life isn’t going to be having abs and keeping up with your fake friends. It is deciding how much of your anxiety comes from not actualizing your latent potential, and how much comes from the way you were being trained to think before you even knew what was happening.
Harvard Business Review
Stopping work and actually recovering aren't the same thing. If you've ever laid in bed for hours, unable to fall asleep because you're stuck thinking about work, you'll know the feeling. You might be rested, but you'll still feel exhausted the next day.
Shawn Anchor writes about how building resilience requires both internal and external recovery periods:
If you’re trying to build resilience at work, you need adequate internal and external recovery periods. As researchers Zijlstra, Cropley and Rydstedt write in their 2014 paper: “Internal recovery refers to the shorter periods of relaxation that take place within the frames of the workday or the work setting in the form of short scheduled or unscheduled breaks, by shifting attention or changing to other work tasks when the mental or physical resources required for the initial task are temporarily depleted or exhausted. External recovery refers to actions that take place outside of work—e.g. in the free time between the workdays, and during weekends, holidays or vacations.” If after work you lie around on your bed and get riled up by political commentary on your phone or get stressed thinking about decisions about how to renovate your home, your brain has not received a break from high mental arousal states. Our brains need a rest as much as our bodies do.
Harvard Business Review
Unlike most other listicles covering self-care tips, this one caught my eye since the author dives deep into the science behind the three essential components of self-care: physical, mental, and spiritual self-care.
Establishing a good self-care routine can sort of be compared to putting on an oxygen mask when an airplane cabin loses pressure. “Put your own mask on first before assisting others,” the flight attendant warns us during the safety brief before departure. While it may seem selfish and counterintuitive for some to help themselves before assisting others in an emergency, there is a simple truth contained in the order to don your own mask first: You cannot help others to the best of your ability if you are stuck fighting for oxygen.
+ You Feel Like Shit: An Interactive Self-Care Guide. A fun little choose your own adventure game for your own life. "It's designed to take as much of the weight off of you as possible, so each decision is very easy and doesn't require much judgment."
+ Is the drive to be masculine hurting your mental health? How hidden stigmas are making it difficult for men to take care of themselves and seek help.