Current ‘self-care’ fads – do they really work?
Self-care has become a bit of a buzzword of late. No workplace worth its mettle wants to be seen without a self-care policy, often comprising mission statements, directives to managers and supervisors, various courses, gym memberships and dutiful reminders at the end of meetings about self-care.
The latter are normally followed by a quick nod from everyone around the table, relieved they are not being queried in any great detail and hastily confirming to themselves and others that they are on track.
But what does it mean to care for self? Are the nods genuine and are these workplace self-care strategies really working?
It seems that we have turned self-care into a lot of doing and into rules and directives about what is good for people – good for us in other words. The word ‘strategy’ itself conjures up a straight line, a start and an endpoint, a quasi-military operation no less; we have identified a deficit and created an imaginary pot of gold at the end of the self-care rainbow.
And thus, as an employee and recipient of corporate and non-government attempts at self-care, I have been on the receiving end of various well-meaning suggestions and at times on-site detailed instructions, such as:
a guided meditation where I was to enter a door at the bottom of a flight of stairs
the suggestion to have a drink or two and relax
venting anger is good for you
. . . and the list goes on. But can you see the problem here?
Are we not just adding more things to our to-do lists and, with a sigh of relief, then ticking off the self-care boxes, just like we would the ‘buy underwear’ and ‘take the kids to soccer’ ones?
Is that really what self-care is about?
What if true meditation had nothing to do with going anywhere but was about connecting to ourselves and then carrying that over into everything we do and are, 24/7?
What if we could admit that a drink or two is a relief strategy that has nothing to do with self-care and that drinking in moderation is a feeble excuse to avoid the fact that alcohol is a poison, not just in a laboratory but also in our body?
What if mindfulness serves to lead us further away from our body and a true connection to ourselves, no matter its popularity and rise to stardom?
Dr. Maxine Szramka suggests that:
“True care is about providing the body what it needs to feel healthy and well, of acting with the body in a caring way. Care is a quality that we all know and can sense, it is not just something that is done, it is the way that something is done.”
This quote proposes that self-care has to do with the quality we bring to everything we do and how we are with ourselves, first and foremost; is it then possible that true self-care is continuous, ongoing and builds a quality of life that can justly be called self-caring, vital and joyous?
A colleague, Matilda Bathurst, put it to the test and brought more attention to just one mundane, everyday activity and made it about the quality of doing, her connection to self and her level of presence. She calls it ‘walking the talk’ and the changes in her life speak for themselves.
And thus, is it possible that true self-care is about connection and our quality first before it is about anything else?
- Furthermore, is it then possible the workplace self-care strategies and tick boxes could be a distraction from what foundationally truly supports and sustains us?
- Could they be a distraction from the possibility of a forever deepening and evolving connection to ourselves and the quality we bring?
Is it possible that we favour, by default, the doing and the tick boxes over the simplicity of this statement:
“Self-care is about being connected with you while you do all you do.”