How can we get back to the roots of self-care?

by Clementine Team, 24th April 2023

Self-care. It’s a term that gets banded round - from candles and bubble baths to walks and breathing. It’s become something that we all hear about, know about, and will likely have been given to us as advice when things are feeling a bit tough. But have we lost touch with the origins of self-care? 

The origins of self-care

 “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” Audre Lorde

An ideology created by the medical community in the 1950s, self-care became popular in psychiatric settings to help patients advocate and take ownership as part of their recovery, through looking to increase their self-worth through activities like exercise, grooming and eating well.

It was then adopted and brought into less medical settings thanks to the Black Panther Party who used it’s ideals as a key part of their manifesto to help reduce burn-out in their activists. They saw how important self-care within their party was in being able to continue the impact of their community work, and their fight against systemic racism. 

This version of self-care was set out with the intention of caring for the self in order to benefit the wider community. To help them continue the fight, and care for yourself whilst doing so. It was value-driven, and focused on its impact of more than outside of just you - think “you can’t pour from an empty cup / put your mask on first” kind of idea. 

Audre Lorde, a prominent self-care activist, especially for the voice of the black LGBTQIA+ community, brought to the table radical views on self-care, and their work has helped shaped and form the basis of how self-care has grown as a common and popular activity in modern day. But their work, and the work of so many involved in activism seems to get lost amongst the now near $4.4 trillion wellness market that often peddles materialistic items as the fix for “self-care.”

And all of this got us thinking…have we lost sight of what true self-care really is? 

How can we re-think self-care?

“One of the values of studying Black women’s historical narratives is a better understanding of self-care strategies that are not based on consumerism…Natural movement, homemade crafts, spirituality, sensual pleasures of eating and drinking, and simple peace are free or cheap if done right.” Stephanie Evans, professor of Black women’s studies at Georgia State University.

Being a part of the wellness industry, we often discuss the state of the market we operate in. We look at trends, new products, new offerings and where there are needs that we could meet. Despite exponential growth in the market, especially in a post-lockdown world, of things that help support our wellbeing, studies show that collective mental health is deteriorating. 

And this makes us consider - how can we be providing things of real value that don’t lean into the world of buying more, more, more in order to feel better? Rather than viewing self-care as an act of consumerism and something pretty to take a picture and post about on socials, what if we came back to the roots of it all? 

Accessible Selfcare

Just like it’s origins of helping activists overcome burnout, self-care didn’t start as activities that you needed to spend money or too much time on. And to get back to the source of what true self-care is, here’s some of the accessible things that our team do as ideas for what you can incorporate into your every day that don’t necessarily cost you more, and can become apart of your daily life, rather than an add-on to your to-do list.

Just a little note - we use the word accessible, but we also recognise that not everything on this list is accessible to everyone too. These are things that we are privilege enough to get to do in our everyday lives, and we recognise what a privilege is it to even practise self-care, too. 

  • Getting outside - taking walks, sitting outside, feeling the sun on your face, listening to music or a walking session as you move
  • Savouring - really immersing yourself in your activites, savouring your food or drink, taking stock and stopping for a moment to take in the world around you 
  • Tending to your body - trying some breath work, placing your hands on your body & checking in, giving yourself a face, hand or foot massage, filing your nails, taking your time in the shower or bath, putting on fresh clothes or pjs
  • Catching up with loved one - phone calls, video calls, texts and meet ups, writing letters or cards (even if you don’t send them!)
  • Learning new things - reading blogs & articles, listening to podcasts, hypnotherapy sessions or audiobooks
  • Resting - naps, sleeps, daydreaming and getting cosy
  • Writing - journaling, jotting, doodling, bullet pointing things you're grateful for
  • Listening - making playlists you can’t wait to listen to, playing a quick affirmation session
  • Cleaning your space - decluttering, sorting and tidying things away

These are just some of the things that we do as a team to incorporate self-care into our everyday that feels accessible to us. Every person, and every life is different, and the things that help you on the path to self-preservation can be small and simple.


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