We’re constantly navigating the pendulum swing between healthy and unhealthy, but personal development and self-care have taken on a life of their own in 2017. It’s not a bad thing — we need it! — but truthfully, it can feel like a lot to keep up with for many people.

Case in point? While stress-scrolling through Facebook a few days ago — a mindless habit I’ve picked up that never helps anything, but also never seems to hurt — I stumbled across a sponsored post that stopped me in my tracks. “15 Self-Care Products that Redditors Swear By,” the caption read, paired with a photo of a zen-looking dude fiddling with what looked to be a white-noise machine.

It’s come to this: the term “self-care” is so buzzy, it’s been reduced to clickbait.

A few years ago, the idea of taking some time for yourself to decompress and unwind sounded a little superfluous — maybe even worthy of an eye roll, if mentioned around the wrong group of people. The ethos of the early 2010’s was that everyone who was successful was somewhat stressed, slightly over-caffeinated, and borderline unhealthy… but that was okay, because we were Getting. Things. Done.

Now, the script has flipped. An almost myopic focus on self-care, wellness and achieving “optimal health” has become the new barometer of success. And in some ways, this obsessive concern with well-being has become downright unhealthy.  

Lately, it seems that we need to spend so much time following the right morning rituals, using the proper adaptogens, heeding the perfect diet, meditating and going to yoga every day, while cleansing our space (and energy fields) with sustainably farmed palo santo that we barely have time to actually live our lives and accomplish what we need to get done.

In theory, practicing self-care helps us feel less stressed and more grounded, and therefore more productive and present. But sometimes, it feels like we’ve turned into self-care hypochondriacs — feeling just an ounce of stress or fatigue is viewed as unhealthy, and should be instantly remedied with a meditation session, energy clearing or superfood tonic. And even worse, when we realize we can’t squeeze that meditation class or hour-long bath into our busy day, we find ourselves getting more stressed.

But maybe spending so much time on self-care actually has the opposite effect on our health and wellbeing — it depletes us.

Here’s a radical idea: what if we allowed ourselves to skip traditional self-care practices for a while?

Maybe this week, instead of struggling to wake up in time to meditate every day and feeling guilty about it, snooze the alarm and get some more sleep. Let yourself off the hook. Don’t try to be perfect. After all, that’s what self-care is really all about — giving yourself the support and the space, to be calm, happy and present.

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