The last five years have seen a birth of a new lifestyle movement in Perth. One that has single-handedly kept Lorna Jane in business, and the instagram bios of fledging influencers defined with the latest fad diet created by celebrity chefs. Our zeitgeist reflects a society of autonomous millennials who are actively proliferating healthy lifestyles and initiatives—regardless of their ulterior social media driven motives. Within this new trend however, the discussion of mental wellbeing and self-care is often neglected in service of performing the well-practiced posture of achieving physical perfection.
We are persistently told the immense benefits of a healthy lifestyle, with doctors selling to us the package of eating well and exercising more in hopes of achieving an unattainable sense of immortality. However, this same level of importance isn’t always placed on our mental wellbeing. Imagine the kind of environment society could flourish in if the same methodology for achieving physical health were also applied to our mental health? Where discussions of self-care and mental illness would be as accepted as attending a yoga class or claiming you have suddenly turned gluten free or vegan. We can’t exist in a society that deliberates what elements of our wellbeing suddenly have significance depending on whether they’re on trend or not, or if they can be accessorized with hundred dollar lycra.
The prehistoric concept that ‘beauty isn’t skin deep’ is a philosophy also applied to our health and wellbeing. Being physically fit and in shape isn’t enough to classify us as being entirely healthy—that title is given to a triad of wellbeing that amalgamates body, mind, and soul. Achieving the titular health however, isn’t always as easy as it appears. And taking a step back in the name of self-care can sometimes feel like a selfish moment wasted in the heat of our chaotic lifestyles—a guilt we wouldn’t burden if we had spent a morning at the gym, or just finished a 4km, right?
Society has developed such an infectious stigma towards mental health that it has turned the simple act of openly discussing mental wellbeing into a controversial topic, or one only deemed acceptable when preached from street corners by bohemian pacifists. But when it is estimated that 45% of Australians will experience issues with mental health at some point in their lives, can we really remain that ignorant?
Self-care is essentially any activity that helps you to maintain and regulate your physical, mental, and emotional health.
Performing self-care is paramount as it keeps you healthy, helps to recharge, and to manage mental health. We would never question the importance of going for a run, so why should exercising our mental health be any different? However, sometimes we all need help in learning the art of relaxation and finding that equilibrium of putting our health first, and our stress last.
In 2017, we are constantly attached to our smartphones. They form a direct vein from the palm of our hand to the rest of the world, making the idea of unplugging all the more unattainable. With a simple swipe of our thumbs, we can access the furthest corners of the planet and witness the travesties of the world as if they were occurring in our living rooms. Sometimes, all we need is silence. We need to detach and step away, to not reply to a message the second it’s received, and not to spend hours trolling through Facebook pining after synthetic lives. In service of our mental health, sometimes life calls for us to switch off and unplug, even if it’s only for a few hours. Being physically present without the constant prickle of our devices is an act of self-care that elevates any feelings of guilt. There is no obligation to scroll through Facebook or to be tenaciously checking the views of a Snapchat story, this time calls for you to remove yourself from the artificial tyranny of social media, and to recharge in the impermeable clasp of nature.
Everyone relaxes differently, and everyone’s ideals of self-care mirror these differences. For someone like myself, my vision of self-care is straight out of a Nancy Myers movie, where an afternoon is spent indulging in a Lush-product-infused claw-foot tub. For someone else, relaxation could be exercise, fresh air, or actively seeking social interaction. The key to self-care however, is learning to embrace relaxation guilt free. I will be the first to raise my hand and admit that I battle feelings of guilt anytime I spend more than an hour in the middle of the day being unproductive. Something within me screams that I need to be doing something, something that is pushing me forward on the trajectory of my life, fearing that if I slow down, for even a moment, I will be perpetually trapped in a stationary position. Not only is this module of thinking responsible for burning me out, stressing me out, and leading me down a path of unfilled gratification, it also creates an environment where mental health fades from a list of priorities. Sometimes, we need a day to ourselves; to grant ourselves timed selfishness and to indulge in all the things that we had previously deemed too ‘luxury’ or ‘unnecessary’.
Our emotions form a current; they pass through us like the undulating roll of a wave. At times in life, some emotions have a stronger pull than others and can drag us into rips; ones that feel as if we will be within its grasp forever. However, much like the waves they form, emotions come and go. No emotion is truly permanent. Self-care allows us to validate our emotions and to understand that whatever we may be feeling is warranted; there are no pre-requisites that determine that we must be in a perpetual state of happiness. If someone broke their leg, no one would pressure them to leave the couch and run a marathon. Our emotions deserve the same attitude. Allow yourself to feel whatever it is you’re feeling, and take steps of self-care until you return to a more familiar emotional state—at your own pace, and at your own leisure. You are human; you are under no obligation to be anyone other than yourself.
As a society, we need to learn to be kinder to our mind and soul, not just to our bodies. Practicing self-care can present itself in so many different forms, from the simplicity of drinking more water, to logging off Facebook, or surrounding yourself in nature. No matter what vision of self-care you craft for yourself, the importance is to become a practitioner; to invest in unplugging, relaxing, and breathing without the guilt of productivity. We need to understand that mental health is a discussion that should be shared freely, and that any moment of self-care isn’t squandered away frivolously but deservingly indulged so we can emerge back into the world, stronger and healthier than before.
Related: You can start small with these 10 easy pick-me-ups to instantly brighten your day!