On January 31, Bell Let’s Talk raised $6.92 million dollars to support mental health initiatives across Canada by donating 5 cents for customers’ texts and calls, as well as any tweets using the #BellLetsTalk hastag, Snapchap filters, or video viewed on Bell’s social media pages. Since the campaign started in 2010, Bell Let’s Talk has done a lot to get people talking about their struggles with mental health and it’s nothing short of inspiring to hear these stories.

 

No doubt, one such step is self-care, which Psych Central defines as “any activity that we do deliberately in order to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health.” It goes on to say that self-care is a concept simple in theory but it is often something we overlook. “Good self-care is key to improved mood and reduced anxiety. It’s also key to a good relationship with oneself and others.”

 

That last part about self-care- that it’s key to a good relationship with oneself and others- is an important one. The article from Psych Central goes on to say that self-care isn’t meant to be selfish. “It is not only about considering our needs; it is rather about knowing what we need to do in order to take care of ourselves, being subsequently able to take care of others as well.”

 

A good friend of mine recently put it like this:

 

“[Self-care] is all about goddamn balance. [It’s like], ‘Hey, I’m having a hard time right now. But when I’ve taken some time for myself, I’ll definitely get back to you so I can support you. I value you and will listen when I can better focus on you.’ THAT’S HOW YOU DO IT!”

 

Recently, I noticed a meme floating around (mistaken as a Tweet from Chance The Rapper) that says; “canceling plans to read is ok. skipping a party for the gym is ok. staying home to cook is ok. lets encourage it & respect self improvement.” He’s not wrong, but apparently, he also didn’t Tweet these words of wisdom. (The Tweet actually came from a fake account but the rapper doesn’t seem to mind, going so far as to Tweet his endorsement).

 

The thing is, it is ok to cancel plans to read, skip a party to go to the gym, or stay home to cook. Reading, exercising and cooking your own meals helps build a stronger mind and body and hones some important skills.

 

But what about the person with whom you had plans? Whose party are you skipping? Cooking can be a rewarding and satisfying thing to do, but did you cancel plans to eat out with a friend?

Remember, self-care isn’t meant to be selfish. What if that person you canceled on is a friend that you haven’t seen in a while and has been going through a tough time? We’re all busy, but we all do need to make some effort even when we aren’t feeling our best.

 

Social media sure doesn’t help either when you see pictures of friends who you haven’t seen in a while indulging in their versions of self-care, leaving you feeling left out. Even though we know that people’s social media accounts are meant to act as “highlight reels” of our lives, it often doesn’t stop us from getting social media FOMO (fear of missing out). A recent study from Cornell University even found that people often have “a surprisingly grim outlook on their social lives.” Ouch.

 

Seeing friends that you haven’t hung out with in a while and have been trying to make plans with to no avail practicing “self-care” on social media can make you feel lonely. Loneliness is pretty serious. The Backstreet Boys sang about it, and the British government recently appointed a minister of loneliness to combat the growing isolation of citizens. This might seem like an unnecessary use of government funding, but Reuters reported that doctors in Britain have reported that as many as one in five of their patients comes in primarily because they are lonely.

 

In Star Wars: Episode 1- The Phantom Menace, Master Yoda warns, “Fear is the path to the dark side…fear leads to anger…anger leads to hate…hate leads to suffering.” What if self-care leads you to detach from friends, which leads to their FOMO and is the start of their path to loneliness, which leads to more sadness and depression?  This is in no way meant to diminish people’s need to work on themselves and their mental health. Just don’t make working on your self selfish. Like my good friend said, “it’s about goddamn balance.” (Just like the Force itself).

 

In the 1990’s, a man who I consider to be as wise as Master Yoda sang “[w]e’re one, but we’re not the same/We get to carry each other, carry each other.” So yes, stay home to read, skip the party, stay in and cook. Also think about who you are skipping out on and how that might make them feel and how they have been feeling. Bono is right, we aren’t all the same, and we might be going through different struggles and issues but we do get to carry each other, and having a good support system in friends and family should be the foundation for any self-care journey we might be on.

 

Kristopher Smith

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