There is a lot of talk about self-care these days. I totally agree with the 'put your oxygen mask on first' mantra; however, focusing too much on our selves may act counter to deep self-care. As anyone who practices Karma Yoga can tell you, care for others without any expectation of something in return can deliver more serotonin and support our nervous system than gong baths.
We must ask ourselves: is self-care becoming an excuse for self-absorption? Is the commericalisation of self-care within the wellness industry distracting us from self-care opportunities that are so vital for ourselves and communities? Is it weakening our resilience rather than growing it?
My husband says I'm at my happiest when I'm in self-less service to others. Reflecting on that, he makes a good point. Once a week I help a refugee learn how to ride a bike and every Thursday I support a group of refugees practicing yoga. Even when I was working 10 hour days at an office job as a mother with a toddler, my medicine was volunteering. It was doable - I found a way to bring him with me when I taught English to a refugee. Trust me when I say that was self-care. Yes, there are times when I feel a bit of pressure juggling those along with other areas of my life, but I'd argue volunteering is an act of self-care better equipping my body, mind and spirit to show up more fully and calmly with life's obligations.
There is, of course, an upside to the self-care opportunities in the wellness space and so much on offer now. Don't get me wrong, I love my alone time. No one has as much fun with me as I have with myself. Not arrogant, slightly pathetic, but true. I loved living on my own in my studio flat and travelling alone has always been one of my favourite pastimes. The benefits, though, of social interaction and selflessly supporting others, not family but supporting people you have nothing to gain from, has been proven again and again as a positive influence on mental health and longevity.
Now, instead of making more time for myself, I have a few local friends here and there with whom I meet up regularly for a walk in our local woodlands. That is self-care. I volunteer weekly. That is self-care. Also, instead of blowing off social engagements for some alone time, which I was guilty of in the past, the wellness space has filled the gap in combining wellness with social time.
Grab a friend on Friday night and head over to the Frankincense Store in Nottinghill for an interesting workshop followed by a vegan dinner at The Farmacy. Or join one of Pause Place's evening events where we have the space to pause and get quiet together.
My point is, the more the self-care drum beats, don't mistake it for more retreats and bubble baths (though I'm not saying remove those from the equation). Just don't let it distract you from the fact that giving and interacting are also forms of self-care. Perhaps too much self-care leads to self-absorption, less resilience and leads to missing out on the beauty of life.