Americans are spoiled. We have access to goods and services that offer many choices, maybe too many. During your next trip to the grocery store notice the potato chip aisle with its dizzying array of offerings. The Lays brand alone has 35 types of chips.
The first time DoorDash delivered food to my house I felt pretty fancy and also lazy. All did was let my fingers do the walking across computer keys then answer the front door. I didn’t have to drive, shop, cook or wash dishes. Restaurant delivery is the best culinary advance since sliced bread.
Merchants make it easy to add to cart. Click Shop for Her, send money I can’t see and receive the purchase. Since my birthday is in October, I couldn’t resist the email from Saks Off 5th last Saturday promoting a forty-eight hour, online, 75% off sale. I’m not bragging or complaining, just enjoying. But because people in our country face hard times and food insecurity in the COVID-impacted economy, shopping so much feels decadent.
While I’m at the age when I don’t really need anything and don’t want stuff that has to be dusted, there are still presents I adore. Give me a gift certificate from a favorite restaurant. A present I can eat is a meal I don’t have to cook.
I give and appreciate gifts from Heifer International. In some parts of the world a goat or flock of chicks improves a family’s standard of living. A tree planted in my name by the Arbor Foundation offers hope that future generations might breathe easier because of the oxygen produced by that tree.
The best gift is taking care of myself. Stress from the pandemic heightens this moment experienced by the self-care industry. It’s not a new concept. What has changed is the overtone of luxury the phrase now carries. Self-care includes things you do to take care of your well-being in four dimensions: emotional, physical, psychological and spiritual health. Self-care is key to improved mood and reduced anxiety. It’s a plain concept in theory, but we often overlook the obvious.
The term self-care was coined in the 1950s to describe activities that allowed institutionalized patients to preserve some physical independence — simple tasks that helped nurture a sense of self-worth, such as exercising and personal grooming. In the 1960s, self-care was recommended for people whose careers involved exposure to pain or trauma, such as firefighters, social workers and health-care providers.
In the 1970s, the idea about self-care took off when the Black Panther Party promoted it as essential for Black citizens. It was a means of staying resilient while experiencing the repeated injuries of racism. Over the past few years, particularly after the divisive 2016 election, self-care entered public discourse in a major way.
The world can feel overwhelming. We experience anxiety exacerbated by the explosion of mass marketing, the relentless 24-hour news cycle and increasing addiction to screens with the attendant FOMO. Fear of Missing Out, a real malady, is an anxious feeling you have when you think other people might be having a good time without you. Persons with FOMO have a desire to stay continually up-to-date with what others are doing, for example via the use of social media.
It’s tempting to retreat, using luxurious selfcare strategies as a means of disengaging from the frustrations of everyday life. The problem with this newer take on self-care is that not everyone is able to disengage through pampering.
Self-care is not selfish. We can’t nurture others from a dry well or empty cup. When you start taking care of yourself, you start feeling better, start looking better and even start to attract better.
My daughter Sommer sends flowers and gift boxes to brighten my day and spoil me. Her last package contains non-essentials like Shiny Girl shimmer body oil. It indulges my skin with real 24 carat gold dust, so I “shine like the morning sun.” The watermelon under-eye cream tightens and rejuvenates delicate skin around my eyes.
The box also includes two hand-held, blue liquid-filled glass cooling globes to massage and firm my skin. Step 1: Freeze globes twenty minutes. Step 2: Glide globes upward over face. Step 3: Feel ridiculous, because enhancing skin elasticity is a first world problem.
I don’t know if these are guilty pleasures, an extravagant waste or both. I don’t know that it matters.
The gift box redeemed itself by including a book of scratch-off self-care activities, including: take a mindful walk outside, watch the sun rise or set, cloud watch, star gaze, stretch for fifteen minutes, exercise for thirty minutes, get eight hours of sleep, meditate, light a scented candle, write a love letter to yourself, cozy up with a book, call someone you’ve been meaning to reconnect with, declutter a space in your home and surprise a loved one with a special small gift or act of kindness. Add these activities to your daily routine, or choose one when you need a little pick me up.
Treat yourself to a self-care day or weekend. You deserve it.