When you hear the phrase self-care, chances are you fall into one of two camps: You either want to retch violently or you want to raise a glass of wine in tribute (one that you’re somehow managing to drink while lying face-down on a massage table). Arguably, both responses are valid. The practice of self-care has strayed from its radical roots — more on those in a second — and evolved into a posh solution for myriad modern-day ailments, including but certainly not limited to long workdays, tense family gatherings, political conversations, and circling the parking garage at the Grove two days before Christmas.
But in its more nascent form, self-care, which surfaced as a term in the 1950s, was far less luxurious.
Before it became synonymous with the larger wellness movement, self-care was something doctors and health professionals encouraged among elderly and mentally ill populations; everyday practices, like personal grooming, were ways to reclaim a sense of autonomy.
In the years following, academics began exploring the ways self-care might combat the stress experienced by workers in high-octane fields (think healthcare or firefighting).
The idea was simple: Taking care of oneself — whether that meant addressing a physical need like eating, or a psychological need like engaging in therapy — would more adequately allow someone to take care of others. You hear it on airplanes all the time. Put on your own oxygen mask first before helping those around you.
By the 1970s, the practice had fanned out beyond medicine and into politics, particularly the women’s movement and the civil rights movement. Both promoted self-care as a critical component of their platforms, the notion being that an activist community is only as healthy as its unhealthiest member. In order to enact real change, there needed to be a real focus on well-being.
Flash forward to 2022, and positioning self-care less as an act of self-indulgence and more as an act of self-preservation might sound odd — after all, the hashtag #selfcare has 57 million photos attached to it on Instagram (and counting).
But look back on the last two years and it’s evident that taking care of yourself — be it a bubble bath or getting enough sleep — isn’t selfish. It’s survival. So the question remains: Do you need to partake in a little self-care going into this year? Hint: The answer is yes. Here are 33 methods for recharging your mind, body and soul.