Be cautious of using the phrase “self-care”

By GILLIAN LELCHUK | March 30, 2017

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FotoosVanRobin/CC BY-SA 2.0 Eat your brownies, but don’t pretend that binging on chocolate equates to self-care.

In the age of fragile liberal snowflakes, there’s a phrase that I see thrown around quite a bit: “Practice self-care.” Now don’t get me wrong, it is incredibly important to take care of yourself, but we need to examine what we actually mean when we say something like that. If eating a pint of ice cream instead of watching the news is your idea of “self-care,” aren’t you buying into the idea of being a fragile snowflake?

I see it on Facebook and on Twitter almost constantly — people posting about how they’re abstaining from social media for a few days/weeks/months because the news is stressing them out.

And sometimes that’s fine. The term “self-care” as we use it now can mean a lot of different things, anything from unplugging social media to doing yoga before bed to indulging in a decadent dessert or midday snack.

We need to distinguish between feeling overwhelmed or sad and actually feeling symptoms of anxiety or depression. It’s hard for me to get behind a justification for unplugging just because you’re unhappy with the headlines.

If the state of the world upsets you, and this is just a suggestion, figure out what you can do to change it. Don’t eat an entire batch of brownies after reading Trump’s latest executive order. Call your representative instead. Or, do eat the brownies — I am a strong supporter of brownies — but don’t call it self-care.

When we tell ourselves and each other to practice self-care when we’re talking about our anger or fear or sadness in regards to the news, we belittle the mental health issues that people actually struggle with every day. We belittle the problems that people face, and we belittle them.

It’s one thing to want to drown out the news with loud music or chocolate cake. It’s a whole different ballpark when watching the evening news elicits a panic attack. We can’t conflate the two.

That’s not to say that you don’t deserve to take care of yourself. Because of course you do. Eat your brownies and your ice cream and meditate before bed and unplug from Facebook sometimes. Take breaks when you need them. You can’t be expected to fight all the time.

But you should fight sometimes. If you disagree with what’s happening in this country, you need to do something about it. Call your representatives. Go to protests. Volunteer in your community. Donate your spare change to a needy organization.

Don’t stay home from a protest because you’d rather stay in bed, and definitely don’t label your inaction as self-care. Sure, there are cases where protesting really would induce an anxiety attack or where the depression gets so bad you can’t get out of bed. However, this is not the situation for the vast majority of people.

Practicing self-care is important, but you can’t use it as an excuse. It’s a hard balance to strike sometimes, because you and your mental well-being are the most important things, but they’re not the only important things.

I’m not trying to make you feel guilty for indulging yourself or for taking a break from the world for a little while. Just be conscious of the language you use, and be conscious of when you use it and what you’re skipping.

You are more than just the fragile snowflake the conservatives are calling you. You are more than a box of chocolates or a deleted Twitter account or a morning exercise routine.

You have a voice, and you have opinions, or you wouldn’t feel the need to unplug from the world. Take a stand for what you believe in instead of just shying away from the people and stories that make you angry.

Gillian Lelchuk is a junior Writing Seminars and mathematics double major from Los Alamitos, Calif. She is the Opinions Editor.

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