Feature photo courtesy of @adolescentcontent
As the saying goes, “when the going gets tough, the tough get...soft blankets, a good movie and a warm cup of tea.” Okay, maybe that wasn’t quite right. But one thing’s for sure: each generation is defined by their resilience. We might be the first to really, truly demand a healthy sense of balance and wellness from and for ourselves. This doesn’t, as some might suggest, make us frail; it ensures that we last.
We’re not surprised that there are certain stereotypes surrounding our generation. We’re told we have it easy. We have the entire universe at our fingertips, thanks to unprecedented advancements in technology. We live in an era where we can speak freely, our comments and opinions unleashed into the public sphere at lightning speed. We’re connected to people and places far beyond our physical reach. But maybe that’s the issue: we’ve never known the security that boundaries can sometimes provide.
I’m in no way complaining about how much we can accomplish these days; I know we’re lucky that what seemed impossible before is now easily within reach. At the same time, the world moves around us dizzyingly, maddeningly. We burn out before we can legally vote, or drink, or rent a car. We’re so used to digesting, processing, and producing information at rapidfire pace. We’re never too young to know better, but always told we’re too young to make a difference. We are simultaneously overstimulated and patronized.
The things that define success in the tech era - efficiency, output, production - have become markers for our own lives. We focus on accomplishing as many tasks we can as quickly as possible, and, oh, did I mention, we still have to care about what our neighbors think - only we have billions of them now. With everything we have to pay attention to - often simply by having access to them - we lose focus on ourselves.
And while millennials might be lauded (or scorned, by some) for their unprecedented commitment to self-care via workout trends, life coaching, and app-based therapy, we want more. We don’t want to resist consumer culture by spending our money on miracle rituals promoted by influencers or expensive products derived from gentrified ingredients. That’s not resistance; that’s a distraction. The “self” in self-care critically refers to the way we find rest and recovery for ourselves and in our own ways.
For some of us, our self-prescribed methods may seem unorthodox or even silly, but their value isn’t in your approval, only in the ways they work for us. During my university’s chaotic finals period, I asked five people on campus about how they each practice self-care.
TRACY: COFFEE PROJECT
“Sophomore year is harder than freshman year, so when the work kicks in I sometimes feel like doing absolutely nothing. That’s when I come to the Starbucks on our campus. I’ve been starting a “project” to try and test out every single non-dairy option at Starbucks. I think soy milk is my top choice at the moment. I feel like doing nothing would make me anxious, but doing nothing with a drink is perfectly fine.”
NIGEL: STAND-UP COMEDY
“Comedy is fun and I enjoy making people laugh and making them feel better. I feel better together with them because things get stressful and when I see people de-stress, I de-stress too.”
MADDIE: HOUSE PLANTS
“To me, [having plants is] a way to take care of something that’s not myself, so I feel less pressure. It’s also nice to watch something grow and be like, “yeah, I did that.” Having an element of nature here is really nice so I don’t feel so disgusting in the winter. I had a lot of plants growing up so they remind me of home, and of tending to something slowly and carefully; that sense of devotion.”
OSCAR: ROCK CONCERTS
“I’m a musician myself so that’s always been my way of self-care; it’s a fantastic way to blow off steam. Live music makes me feel alive and kind of powerful, sharing that same enthusiasm and passion with the people around me. Just being able to bang your head is such a de-stressor for me. Some people box, some people run -- I like to go to metal shows and mosh my ass off.”
“Meditation helps me to remind myself about the importance of being aware of what is happening in the present, and not to expend my energy wishing it were different. It helps me to enjoy the pleasant things in my life but also to live with the unpleasant things knowing that things won’t always be this way -- they will get better.”