During times of crisis, the thin line we navigate between want and need, essential and non-essential grows fuzzy. Sure, we can attempt to quantify what takes priority for our mental and physical health by taking inventory of the pros and cons, financial investment, and amount of time required for a new self-care practice. But with the entire world reeling from the economic toll of the coronavirus pandemic, unemployment rates are skyrocketing and our financial futures have become uncertain, it is apparent our socioeconomic situations and familial or work-related obligations often make these decisions for us.
Whether that’s tending to the sick (or sick yourself), juggling child and elder care, or you’re still required to show up for work in person, many lack the time and resources for a self-care time-out or “treat.” For the lucky ones who have an abundance of time and income security, but a scarcity of substantial ways to help others, we turn inward to help ourselves.
Self care is not inherently self-indulgent, nor should you ever feel bad for splurging on a facemask, indulging in an extra s̶c̶o̶o̶p̶ tub of ice cream, or investing in a wellness supplement. But what was once touted as a radical act of caring for and about yourself, has morphed into capitalist consumption: buy yourself a new facemask for a spa day! Junk food is comforting! Optimize your health with a magic pill!
Self care is not inherently self-indulgent.
And while buying these things feels good in the moment (and yes, can definitely feel worth it, however you define “it”) that mini high tends to be fleeting. This new commoditized wave of self-care perpetuates the idea that we must sacrifice something for another—in this case, the expenditure of money, rather than effort to self-soothe.
We’ve grown complacent with the comforts of capitalism just a click away and it can be very tempting to savor in retail therapy. But now, more than ever, it’s difficult to determine if stocking up on a 48 pack of TP (or a few weeks worth of underwear, or a new set of running shoes, or a bulk bag of pretzels, or...) is compulsive or therapeutic. Sure, these items are technically necessary (we need food, clothing, and basic necessities like toilet paper), but are these items crucial or comforting? The line grows even blurrier when it comes to these “self-care” items.
This commoditized wave of self-care perpetuates the idea that we must sacrifice something for another.
We should refocus our energy on doing, rather than consuming. The pressure to use our time productively is seeping through our phones, computers, and televisions, and it’s time to turn off the notifications, tune out, and get back to basics. Self-care can come at no cost, and in the comfort of our own home. Below, we’ve compiled a list of ways you can take your health into your own hands—no credit card or internet connection required.
Consider this your friendly reminder to drink up! Water is the most underrated magic elixir that keeps our bodies and brains running efficiently. Our bodies are made up of 60% water, so literally all of our organs and tissues rely on H2O to function. We’ll spare you the details of the benefits of drinking water, because you probably already know how important it is. (Hint: it helps you concentrate, flushes out toxins, regulates your digestive system, improves your skin complexion, and boosts your immune system.)
Sleep helps the body repair, regenerate, and recover, and will help your body fight off or prevent infection. Studies show that even a small loss of sleep has been shown to impair immune function, which you should be taking extra care of at the moment.
EAT YOUR GREENS
Sure, supplements can offer an extra boost when in a pinch, but our bodies are better equipped to absorb these nutrients through the foods we eat. Eating the rainbow of fresh fruits and vegetables provides you with fiber and essential vitamins and minerals that help support our overall health. Benefits include lowering your risk of heart disease, protecting you against certain types of cancer, and preventing inflammation or infection. There isn’t a magic pill for anything, and supplements claiming otherwise should only be taken at face value: to supplement your diet.
Meditation is often used to increase awareness of yourself and your surroundings, and many find it helps reduce stress and develop concentration. So if you’re suffering from anxiety and can’t seem to finish anything, take a moment to breathe, reset, and refocus your energy on the here and now.
You don’t have to splurge on a Peloton or new kettlebells to make up for missing a workout due to mass gym closings. Walking (at a safe distance of course) can help you re-energize without compromising your sanity. Long distance, low impact workouts have incredible benefits that are good for the mind and body. Walking improves cardiac health, alleviates depression and fatigue, prevents weight gain, reduces risk for cancer, chronic disease, and infection, improves endurance, circulation, and posture, all without creating more stress on your joints and reducing pain. It doesn't hurt that fresh air and sunshine can also help boost your mood when you’re feeling low.
words by Maggie Buchmann