Wellness: more than just a face mask

With less access to support circles due to COVID-19, it is all the more vital to perform ‘self-care’. But what does ‘self-care’ really mean? Too often social media suggests face masks, baths and exercise classes are the key. I wholeheartedly disagree.

These are enjoyable but transient, and as effective long-term as a bandage is to the amputated leg; it also creates this pressure to feel completely fine if these are part of your life. Even with the help of a dopamine rush, it is common to battle anxiety, intrusive thoughts and mood swings.

I’ll admit, my skincare routine gives me a sense of structure, but it is not the foundation for how I soothe myself when I’m feeling blue. It is completely normal for our emotions to get the better of us, especially in these extraordinary times, but finding soothing strategies for effectively processing those emotions is more impactful.

Creating safe spaces to unburden ourselves and developing healthy reasoning strategies for when life throws a curve ball can be the difference between having a breakdown and feeling confident in your own ability to handle the situation. There are plenty of strategies out there including therapy, worry time and meditation.

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Therapy is the most stigmatised, however it can be transformative, and it is really an umbrella term for the range of approaches a mental health professional will choose based on their client’s needs. Cognitive behavioural is a practical approach to everyday behaviours while group therapy can help with identification. Too often it seems we concern ourselves with fitting into fads or approaches that have worked for others, when life experiences and emotional response systems differ. A one-size-fits-all approach definitely undercuts the concept of ‘self-care’ as mental health and what helps can vary so much from person to person.

A recent approach by Dr. Paul Gilbert is compassion focused therapy which aims to counter intrusive thoughts and self-criticism through the development of self- compassion. His book The Compassionate Mind provides a solid foundation for implementing this yourself.

While some feel uncomfortable opening up to therapists, your financial situation should not eliminate this option. For this reason, University of Edinburgh students can self-refer to student support during term time to receive free counseling sessions. Alternatively, the 10for20 program provides up to ten therapy sessions at the cost of £20 per hour.

Alternatively, guided meditation practices mindfulness, thereby teaching understanding the transience of emotion. Headspace recently brought out a three-piece introduction to meditation on Netflix, otherwise Youtube has plenty of guided meditations to help with everyday stress. Worry time on the other hand, is the practice of designating a limited time every day for an individual to worry about anything that is troubling them. The aim of this practice is to develop the instinct to suppress anxious thoughts until the designated point, at which time, they are mostly irrelevant or much less concerning.

Social media paints a different picture to what ‘self-care’ really is. I cannot solve all my problems with a temporary fix, and I know for sure that I am not alone in this. Feeling the pressure to conform to these rituals is the result of successful marketing campaigns which are trying to convince you that you need specific products to feel good.

In reality, no one feels good every day, most of us just roll with the punches and practice things that make us feel good. And sometimes, a face mask just ain’t gonna cut it.

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