Self-care is a hot topic that’s slowly made its way into the spotlight from the wellbeing movement and is meant to provide an alternative to pharmaceuticals. The principle is well-meaning and stems from a psychotherapeutic, person-centred, humanistic approach – basically every person holds the power and ability to work through their issues and repair themselves to a healthier, happier version.
This in the broader sense, holds true and it’s a place from where I practice. However, the self-care advice and suggestions that get vomited across social media on Mental Health Days don’t correspond to the original sentiment and can sometimes come across as victim-blaming and patronising in tone.
Self-care advice suggests that someone with a mental health condition should simply take a walk outside, meditate or keep a journal. Thing is, they probably already do that and more, but still feel exactly the same. Self-care advice feeds into that mechanical model – if it’s broken, this is how you fix it, and if this advice isn’t working, it must be your fault.
Anyone who’s experienced a mental health condition of any kind knows what it’s like on those rock bottom days when they physically don’t have the energy because their body is exhausted from the internal struggle. Adopting the ‘just go out for a walk’ attitude is exactly what’s wrong with our conversations around mental health. People just need to be heard.
Those struggling with mental health rarely need unsolicited advice and a step-by-step guide to get their life back on track. Even if they do, they should be guided to find the answers themselves. This is where any great coach, psychologist or counsellor is specifically trained to provide a safe space to help a person work out their own path with compassion and without judgement.
So next time someone comes to you with a heavy heart, show a bit of kindness and just listen. It’s the most helpful thing you can do.
If you’re struggling today, I posted a video on World Mental Health Day and it’s about getting comfortable with doing nothing at all. You can watch the video on my Facebook page.