Beyond Bubble Baths: The Stressful Side of Self-Care

It’s nearing finals season and I’m struggling to find balance, because self care always seems to drop off as a priority the busier and more stressful my schedule becomes. We all know self-care in the form of baths and face masks, and while that is certainly beneficial, I think we all also know that this form of self-care is only a sliver of the picture.

For me, self-care means taking the time to do things that I know refuel me rather than drain me in the form of actions that will improve not only my present self but my future self as well. This means that self-care is not always about doing the easiest or most convenient thing – it can be uncomfortable. And this also means that there isn’t one self-care formula that works for everyone, instead self-care relies on listening to our needs in the moment and trying to act in our best interests.

As an introvert, my self-care practices have always been about creating space for myself to relax and refuel because social interactions tend to drain me more than they fuel me. This means my self care practices are full of reflection and time alone. This certainly includes baths and facemasks, as well as reading for fun, yoga, running, painting, journalling, dancing and going for walks. But I’m realizing more and that reaching out and communicating honestly with my friends and being more open and vulnerable is also a crucial self-care practice for me, because there’s something cleansing about being heard and being honest, even if it is difficult or uncomfortable.

This shows that self-care can be uncomfortable, it’s not all glamorous and it’s not always easy! I think this is particularly important to consider when trying to incorporate self-care in day to day life. Are we choosing to do things we know will refuel us and make us feel better, or are we doing things out of laziness or convenience? It’s way too easy for me to waste hours on my phone on Instagram or Youtube and validate it by telling myself that it’s just my way of relaxing after a busy day, when my brain feels tired and I feel like I don’t have the energy to do anything but scroll mindlessly. I feel fine while I am on my phone distracting myself, but my brain feels a little muddier, reality a little more dull and confusing and the room a little more empty every time I put my phone down. So instead, in order to take care of myself and refuel and relax in healthier ways, I’m trying to fill my gaps of time with things like painting and yoga, listening to music and dancing, writing my thoughts out, or simply sitting and thinking and just breathing and being. It’s not always easy to do this, because it takes a little more mind power and a little more energy to get out my paints or unroll my yoga mat or pull out my journal, but I know it will refuel me for longer and feel more cleansing overall.

Self-care is about prioritizing things you know will make you feel good for longer than just the duration you do them, and therefore the most rewarding forms of self care are often not the easiest. For one, being silent and really listening to my own feelings and thoughts and processing them through journalling, talking or just thinking can be exhausting, scary and vulnerable and not the first thing I want to do to relax and refuel. Self-care is also made more difficult when there’s so many bigger goals and bigger problems at hand. We live in a fast paced society where it is so easy to compare ourselves and our successes not only to people in our circles and communities, but to others across the world. Self-care can be hard to legitimize – do I really deserve to do these things for myself? We constantly have this pressure to be productive and to constantly be working hard towards achieving our goals, leaving no space to think about caring for ourselves and our own wellbeing.

Indulgence and the idea of ‘treating yourself’ has become a big part of self-care, but it creates a dynamic of guilt around self-care as well. It goes against the idea that we should be selfless and should always be working towards success and productivity, and makes us feel guilty when we do allow ourselves to indulge. Though indulgence conflicts with other societal rules about moderation and health as well, allowing ourselves to indulge can feel good, and makes us feel like we are taking care of ourselves because it is included in the narrative around self care. So how do we tell if it really is time to listen to our cravings and buy a whole pint of Ben and Jerry’s and watch TV, or if we should care for ourselves by going on a run, cooking a vegetable filled meal or doing some yoga instead? I run into this issue a lot, because although I try my best to exercise and move my body because I know its good for me and makes me feel good, sometimes I want to dedicate the time I would spend exercising to painting or reading instead. And then it becomes a big mess in my head because I’m guilty about not working out, but on the other hand I should be proud that I’m listening to myself if I don’t feel like it, because isn’t listening to our preferences a form of self-care too?

Weirdly in this way, self-care has become a stressful item in my life. I don’t know where to find balance, where to indulge, or where to pull back. I’m such an overthinker and I certainly overthink self-care. I think what’s important to keep in mind is viewing self-care as not only a “self-care Sunday” event, but creating space every day to consider what would refuel me the most, without stressing out about missing a work out if I decide to spend time with my friends or go for a walk instead. Checking in with ourselves everyday and being conscious about what will refuel us yet not being too hard on ourselves if we can’t make those things happen is, I think, where balance can be found. We all deserve to take care of ourselves, and I think sometimes that does mean eating Ben and Jerry’s and watching TV, and sometimes it means going on a run, and sometimes it means reaching out to a friend. We don’t always need to be perfect at it, but self-care is a skill we will need for the rest of our lives. Our bodies and souls will power us through so many incredible accomplishments and experiences in this life, and they deserve to be cared for!

Overachiever Magazine was started by Rehana Paul in October of 2018 to give a platform to all Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities.

Our name is poking fun at the stereotype that all Asians are overachievers, especially Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities. It’s also in recognition of all of us who have had no choice but to be overachievers: managing societal expectations, family obligations, and educational opportunities, all while fighting the patriarchy.

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