Looking at self-care

The leaves are turning brown, the nights are drawing in, and the temperature is dropping. Which can only mean one thing: cosy season is upon us.

As the clocks go back, the season we associate with hot drinks, comfy knitwear and nights in watching awful Halloween movies is here.

In this term – and especially because October is Mental Health Month – we see the phrase ‘self-care’ everywhere. It’s on our social media, on TV, and in publications (like this one). Self-care is defined by mental health charity Mind as “looking after yourself” by staying aware of your health and making the time for healthy habits to avoid burnout.

This sounds great in practise, right? Many things we associate with self-care we do without even thinking, such as socialising and taking time for your hobbies. Some things we might do intentionally, such as taking a break or meditating. All of this this sounds perfectly harmless.

Recently, however, self-care has become misunderstood. It’s now turned into something potentially unhealthy; as social media has led to us defining self-care as something material that we have to obtain, such as a bath bomb or a slice of cake rather than being mindful and aware of our mental health.

“Once I buy this face mask-all of my problems will be solved” I tell myself as I walk into the lush store. The self-care presented on social media is a synonym for self-indulgence. We can be led to do things in the name of ‘self-care’ that are essentially self-destructive, such as buying useless products, procrastinating important work or isolating ourselves.

As the academic year picks up pace, I suggest we remind ourselves of what self-care really means, and revert back to the Danish notion of “hygge” (which literally means cosy- how adorable is that?) Caring for ourselves isn’t one-size-fits-all – it often means doing things we don’t want to do, such as eating healthily and getting work done.

For the times when you can take a few moments for yourself, here is how to make your own at home Hygge kit! Instead of a self-care kit, which might be a little too over-indulgent, we recommend trying a Hygge kit instead. Replace those more expensive items with easy, at home things you can do. 

These include (but aren’t limited to): 

  • Having some tea and getting cosy in a blanket
  • Putting on a face mask and watching your fave TV show
  • Using your favourite mug for hot chocolate while watching the rain
  • Essential oil diffusers (these are great if you live on campus, as you can’t have candles etc)
  • Using the paths round campus to walk round the lake to watch nature

You can even get your friends involved, go ahead and invite them round for a cosy time with blankets cushions and a movie! The important thing about Hygge (and the original notion of self-care) is to look after yourself and take the time to do the things you enjoy.