Self-Care Struggle

May 27, 2019

By Lauren Berger, MSW, RSW

Self-care is a huge buzzword (buzz phrase?) these days. The premise is sound: do things throughout your month, week, day to care for yourself amidst everything you “have to” do, such as go to work, care for your kids, and make sure your home isn’t a total dump. The subtext of self-care is that it should be special, decadent, or ultra-relaxing – think: spa day, candle lit bath, entire chocolate cake from a famous patisserie. While a lovely idea in theory, not everyone can swing an Instagrammable self-care experience on a regular basis, due to lack of time, funds, energy, or other resources. This seems to leave many feeling that self-care is an all or nothing premise.  Well, here I am to squash that theory! Self-care can be accessible to everyone, we just have to redefine its parameters. How, you ask? Dive into my top tips for accessible self-care. Let’s go!

1.Rework your definition of self-care.

If the self-care items on your list are limited to decadent moments, it’s time to redefine the term. Self-care isn’t meant to be something unattainable that you strive for; a more helpful way to frame it is as something that nurtures your wellbeing. That can be done in many ways. Consider the different aspects that make up your wellbeing. What are you eating? A self-care moment that reflects how you feed yourself doesn’t need to take place in a fancy restaurant. Maybe it’s inviting a pal over to eat with you, so you can talk face-to-face instead of over text. Maybe it’s learning to make a version of your favourite restaurant meal so you can enjoy it any time you please.  Or maybe it’s even making a swap, trading out some junk food for something fresh or more nutritious to give your body a boost it may be craving. These are all ways to serve yourself, even if they don’t seem so out of the ordinary. 

2.Reframe the parts that are holding you back. 

Does there always seem to be something in your way when you’re trying to have a moment to yourself? Try building that thing into your self-care time.  Want more time to exercise but your work hours are just too long? Suggest a power walk meeting. You may be surprised at how your colleague may find that a welcome change to a boring office meetup. Is your daily commute zapping your time and incurring your road rage? Download a cool podcast or create a relaxing play list for your drive to turn that time into something more fun or peaceful. If your commute is on public transit, you can even aim for some meditation or guided relaxation on your route (sorry drivers, don’t operate heavy machinery while attempting deep relaxation! Take the streetcar if this is your aim.). Or follow my lead: when I had to spend some time in the hospital with an IV bag, I silenced my phone (bye bye, email alerts!) and brought along the book I’ve been meaning to read… all of a sudden, the potentially crummy and boring medical experience was transformed into some uninterrupted me-time. Even the act of receiving the IV can be looked at as self-care; hey, I was getting my body something it really needed, and that is an excellent way to care for myself!

3. It looks different to everyone.

Some people would give their right arm for a massage while others can’t bear to be touched. That’s cool! No need to force something just because it’s “meant” to be enjoyable or relaxing. Some people crave time with friends while others crave an hour of solo Netflixing. There is no wrong or right way.  You’ll know it’s right for you if you feel a sense of fulfilment, wellbeing, or happiness doing your chosen activity. Most people wouldn’t choose to chill at the hospital for an hour and a half with a needle in their arm, but hey, for me it ended up being a great morning and I walked out with a smile on my face. Our self-care needs are diverse, so don’t worry about it fitting into a pre-determined box.

4.Consider quality vs quantity. 

I think a valid argument can be made for both quality and quantity when it comes to your self-care. Trial and error are key here to finding out which is more beneficial to you. Some people thrive on spending a year looking forward to a two week vacation while others much prefer to take a three day weekend once a month. This also applies to low key self-care; do you need an hour to decompress at the end of the day, or do you need to take five to ten minute breaks throughout the day to re-energize? Experiment and see what’s best for you.

5.Build it in. 

Still finding it hard to get that self-care moment in? Maybe it’s time to build it in to the things you already do. Reframing an everyday task as a self-care moment can make a world of difference. Try looking at your daily shower time in a new way. If you usually rush through it without much thought, try amping it up with some things to take it next level (a new body scrub or a couple drops of essential oil in the steam to relax/invigorate you?), or finding ways to take pleasure in what you already do (pay attention to the sensations while you wash your hair… suddenly it feels like a wonderful scalp massage). 

Caring for yourself should definitely be a non-negotiable, but you can absolutely negotiate what self-care means to your life. With my tips I’m sure you can find a way to fit it in without it feeling like a chore or something out of your reach. Enjoy!

**Disclaimer: The advice in this article is for informational purposes only and does not replace the diagnosis/treatment of a licensed medical or mental health professional.**

Lauren Berger is a Registered Social Worker Psychotherapist providing counselling and psychotherapy at IHI.  Check her out at, drop her a line at, follow her on Twitter: @LaurenBergerMSW, or sneak a peek at her Instagram: laurenberger_msw.

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