Opinion: Is there more to self-care than Netflix and bubble baths?

Ashlynn Norton | Digital Media Manager

For a very long time, self-care felt like a very elusive thing to me. What I heard from the majority of society and my friends was that it consisted of taking bubble baths and binging on Netflix. I didn’t know how to start my journey or what it would look like for me. I tried doing things that I had seen others do: cooking, watching Netflix or drinking tea. Even today, I don’t fully know what works for me. There are so many things out there to try, what if I pick the wrong thing? 

I recently — and by recently, I mean two weeks ago — started to learn one way to perceive self-care. The little sliver of information I have regarding self-care came from my learning seminar class taught by Lizzy Harman. Harman, the Assistant Director of Student Success and Advising at the Student Success and Advising Center, has been studying self-care for a little over two years now. With a master’s in rehabilitation mental health counseling, Harman wanted to see how self-care related to advising students. 

Harman thought she knew what self-care was since she has a background in counseling. She soon discovered that she was wrong, and did not understand the subject as well as she thought she did. 

“It started as a research fascination and then became a personal fascination because it wasn’t going so well for me,” Harman said. “But also it was important to me that we could kind of talk about it in the field of advising because I think it has been seen as a weakness or a shameful act in a lot of ways and I really wanted it to be a part of the conversation of how we train new advisers.” 

Self-care can be defined in many different ways. Harman’s favorite definition is “Any act or experience (that) maintains or enhances your wellbeing.” 

“That’s very highly individualized and based on who you are as a person, and the things that you value and the things that are important to you,” Harman added. “I also prescribe to this belief that self-care is not just about yourself, it’s about the people around you. That the ability to care for yourself means that you are better able to be present and show up for the people around you.” 

Harman also believes that self-care has to be preventative and treatment-based. 

Further expanding on the idea, Harman explains “Where you are doing things to get through stress and challenge, but you’re also taking care of yourself in the long term of building things in your life so that you don’t have to take an escape or take a break from your life,” she said.

Harman has taught me that “escaping” is not the best route to take when life gets a little too hard and you need to take some time for some self-care. Self-care is about creating a strong base (prevention) and then occasionally doing something to realign yourself if you get a little off track (treatment). 

So, for those who are like me and are stuck at the fork in the road not really sure which path of self-care to take, I hope this sheds a little light on the best path for you. As for me, I’m going to stick with my salt baths and regular beach trips. 


Contact the author at anorton17@wou.edu

Photo by Rachel Hetzel