Self-care: the top three myths debunked

Words by Ellie Gerszt, Partnerships Executive at NABS

Like avocado on toast, a sense of entitlement and an inability to function without a smartphone, the phrase ‘self-care’ seems inherently millennial. It speaks of a snowflake generation who can’t get through life without selfishly prioritising themselves.
However, the Oxford English Dictionary defines self-care as ‘The practice of taking action to preserve or improve one’s own health’.
Sounds pretty normal, right?
In a world which can at times feel more fast, furious and fragile than any of us would wish, looking after yourself can be the difference between feeling constantly stressed and having the resilience to deal with any situation.
In the UK last year, of all working days lost due to ill health, almost 50% were related to depression or anxiety, so anything that can help us all feel more resilient and nourished is worth our time and should be encouraged by employers.
Despite this, many myths about self-care persist. So let’s talk about the top three myths on self-care and debunk these misconceptions.
Myth one: self-care is optional
Some people think that self-care is something they can opt out of. They’ve un-ticked the box, because they don’t need to bother with this self-indulgent nonsense.
I have some bad news for those folks: you’re already doing self-care. Whether that’s what you call it or not, everyone has that one thing they need to get through the week. Perhaps you’re a mess if you don’t get your eight hours of sleep. If you’re happy with five hours, maybe you’re liable to fits of hanger if you don’t eat three meals a day. If you’re an eat-on-the-run type, perhaps you spend the afternoon in a stupor if you don’t get outside for twenty minutes at lunchtime.
There is an option, but it’s not one any of us would want to take. Not looking after yourself can easily result in increased anxiety, overwhelming stress and eventually, burnout.
Myth two: self-care is time consuming, expensive and, above all, selfish
When people picture self-care, they’ll often think of evenings or entire days relaxing, perhaps at a spa. Thoughts turn to scented candles, glamorous holidays and pricey green juices.
But in this era where 24/7 engagement is viewed as a valid lifestyle and we’re all feeling increasingly poor in both time and pocket, the little pockets of time we spend mindlessly each day often offer opportunities for inexpensive and simple acts self-care.
Consider using shower gel you like the smell of, five minutes of stretching, making a healthy meal or reading a book on your commute (instead of the usual flicking through the ever more distressing news). These all fit within most schedules, cost little and might help you feel calmer and happier in your everyday life.
Myth three: self-care looks the same to everyone
While everyone is likely to feel healthier if they get enough sleep, drink enough water, eat well and spend time with friends and family, self-care looks different to each of us. No method, strategy or activity will work for everyone, and we all need to take the time to discover what can help take us from depleted to nourished.
Self-care also isn’t all burgers, booze and beauty products – it isn’t simply anything that makes you feel soothed. It should support your wellbeing without being harmful to your mind, body or bank balance. Try thinking about what will sooth you in the short term while also contributing to your life in the long term.
Think about what makes you feel like you’re looking after yourself. For some people a week without exercise leaves them twitching. Others don’t find that exercise effects their mood but need regular doses of time away from the smog and concrete of London, out in the woodlands and greenery of the countryside. Ambivalent to mud, cows and a distinct lack of wifi, others might take the time to write down something they are grateful for every single day.
Whether you’re a self-care expert or so busy you don’t feel like you have time to breathe, NABS is here for you. Our Advice Line and Resilience Programme offer support, guidance and a range of strategies to help prepare you for the days when stress and pressure hit. Our coaches are also on hand to help you find out what your pressure points are and find ways to unwind for a more balanced you.