Mind your mind: Self-care on social media is often not that helpful

Let’s be real: self-care can look pretty glamorous on social media. Especially on platforms like Instagram, self-care looks like sipping tea out of cute mugs with inspirational quotes, lounging in silken bubble baths and journaling in pretty notebooks — but the key word is “look.”

Most likely, a fair amount of effort through strategic placing and posing has gone into this lovely photo. “Does the candlelight from my lavender-scented candle make the bubbles in the bath glint?,” “Can people read the inspirational quote on my mug?,” and “Does it look like I’m enjoying myself?”

We all know social media bombards us every day with the pressure to be a certain way. Every time we scroll through Snapchat, Instagram or Facebook, there are touched-up photos and advertisements that try to sell a certain lifestyle or look.

Applying this to the topic of self-care, we then see a rising trend of social media telling us that to properly take care of ourselves, we need to commit to pampering ourselves with “finer things” like fancy beverages and pretty candles, or purchase bath bombs that cost more than a lunch in the Nest.

Apart from adding extra pressure into our already busy and stressful lives, the portrayal of self-care on social media layers a superficial filter on top of something meant to be fulfilling and restful for your soul and mind, turning it into something that’s merely made to look like you’re living your best life.

I know you’ve all probably been told this before, but let me remind you: you do not need to prove to anyone else that you are having a good time. You do not need fancy things to relax. There will definitely be times when you will post a photo in the midst of having fun and times when you will find yourself happily enjoying the finer things in life.

But do not feel like you absolutely must replicate those times every time you try to exercise self-care.

Realistically, a lot of the time taking care of yourself looks more like:

Taking out the overfilled, weeks-old recycling because you’ve run out of space to throw out your empty milk containers. Remembering to do the laundry so you can have fresh clothes to wear instead of the same hoodie you’ve been living in for the past week. Buying groceries so you can stop buying overpriced meals on campus and eat better. Sleeping earlier so you can actually focus in class the next morning.

Most of the time, taking care of yourself is just remembering to do a lot of the mundane, everyday things — it’s the unsavoury and unenjoyable tasks that slip easily under your radar because they’re not things people tend to look forward to. You never see people posting photos of this on their Instagrams, and let’s be honest, who would? None of this is interesting or proves you have an interesting and exciting life. However, these are the little things that make your day-to-day life easier and more comfortable. As unfulfilling as they might seem, they are just as crucial to creating a healthy routine as taking a break once in a while.

The author of this column is not a mental health professional. If you need additional support, please contact Student Health Services, Sexual Assault Support Centre and/or the Wellness Centre. In the case of an emergency, please call 911.