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By Abigail Ileto


Self-care looks different to everyone and takes many shapes and forms. We’re told to say yes to a night out, but also no for a night in. What’s the “right” thing to do? Well, here we’ll explore opposite sides of the self-care spectrum. I present to you, a contradictory guide to self-care.


  1.   A 10-step skincare routine vs. sleeping in your makeup and worrying about the consequences later


Mmm, self-care Sunday. What better way to relax than treating your face to a meticulous 10-step skincare routine? Close the bathroom door, gather your products, and begin. Gently swipe off the makeup and daily grime. Cleanse, exfoliate, tone. A drop of essence, two drops of serum. Top it all off with a face mask, eye cream, moisturizer, and facial oil. The calming, pre-determined, step-by-step procedure will ease your mind as you lovingly layer one product after the other. Lull yourself into a rhythm, pampering with grace and finesse. Your skin will soak it all in, reversing in age as you sleep. Wake up refreshed, renewed, rejuvenated.

On the other hand, maybe the mere thought of all those products sends you into a tizzy. What’s first? Facial oil? Moisturizer? No need to stress over the complicated art of skincare. Go straight to bed with a full face of makeup. At best, haphazardly rub your face with a pre-moistened wipe. Clogged pores won’t kill you. Worry about the consequences tomorrow. I won’t tell.


  1.   Staying in to binge-watch Disney+ vs. going out for a night on the town


It’s been a long day of work, and the last thing you want is more social interaction. A night alone on the couch or in bed reliving your childhood with the Disney part of Disney+ is the way to go. Snuggle into a cozy blanket. Turn down the lights. You’re in for a night of G-rated entertainment that your tainted soul, knowing the harsh realities of adult life, will thank you for.

Or maybe staring at a screen for hours, watching content made for six to twelve-year-old children, sounds like the complete opposite of fun. Maybe partying in dark rooms packed with sweaty strangers is your vibe. Release that pent-up energy from sitting all day, breathing stale office air. Go to a concert. Go to a club. Dance the night away. Have a drink, or two, or three (legally and responsibly, of course). Call an Uber. Comfortably ride home in the backseat with a designated driver at the wheel, and call it a night.


  1.   Exercising ’til you sweat away the stress vs. lounging with snacks in hand


Set your quads on fire at a spin class. What better way to let off steam than pedaling a bike to nowhere as someone yells at you to “kill that hill?” Or a solitary run might better suit your fancy – hair blowing in the wind, feet pounding the pavement, young parents passing you while pushing strollers. The right ambience is key. If the weather refuses to cooperate, you can always do jumping jacks in the comfort of your own home, dance along to a video on YouTube, or plank for as long as humanly possible. Get a hit of dopamine and serotonin with a wicked workout.

On the other hand, maybe the idea of moving is too much to handle. I get you. I understand. You know what’s a wonderful alternative to physical activity? Physical inactivity. Order a high-calorie meal, have it delivered to your door, have someone else open said door (if you’re one of those lucky people with friends over, yay!), and eat your extra-large pizza in one sitting. There are many ways to do this – at the table, on the floor, in bed. The guaranteed relaxation that comes with this indulgence is well-worth the food baby you’ll wake with the next day.


  1.   Waking up early vs. sleeping in


Who, you ask, would ever want to wake up early as a form of self-care? Well, the answer could very well be you. Set your alarm for the early A.M. Enjoy the peace of mind that comes with starting the day slow. Watch the sunrise. Take your sweet time as others scramble to rush out the door. Brew a cup of coffee or tea. Heck, do both. You’ve got time. Leave conditioner in for the recommended three minutes, shave your legs if you feel, use lotion. Listen to a motivational podcast while making your bed and munching on the elaborate breakfast you prepared.

Or maybe what truly satisfies you is repeatedly hitting snooze, perhaps not setting an alarm at all. Maybe you get a kick out of speeding through your morning routine and still getting where you need to be on time. That’s cool too. Get all the extra sleep you can. You deserve it. Time spent in slumber will be rewarded with a welcome boost of energy in your waking hours. Yes, I think that’s how it works. Eight hours and all that jazz.


  1.   Cleaning the house vs. skipping daily chores


Go all Marie Kondo on the place. Hold each of your belongings one by one and ask yourself, “Does this spark joy?” If not, rid your life of the meaningless objects that no longer serve you. You’re free. Breathe deep, knowing you are surrounded only by what you love. Vacuum the carpet. Unclog the shower drain. Water the succulents. You deserve a space that feels like home.

Or maybe the idea of sifting through literally every item you own is anxiety-inducing on a whole new level. You know it’ll help in the long run, but you’re not quite up for the task. Ignore your responsibilities for the day. That pile of laundry? That’s not your problem. That’s your future self’s problem, and they’ll be more than happy to take on the challenge. Probably. Your job right now is to do anything but productively declutter to sort out your life. That’s how everything will fall into place. Yes. Okay, moving on.


  1.   Listening to happy music vs. listening to sad music


Happy music equals happy vibes. Obviously. If life is bringing you down, maybe some upbeat summer songs about romantic dates with your one true love, driving for hours with the windows down, or laughing about losing your phone in the club will turn your frown upside down. Let the cheery beats whip the sadness right out of you. Sink into the bass drop, and forget why you felt down in the first place.

Or maybe you need a minute to stew in the sadness – cry your eyes out, wallow. It’s unhealthy to hold it in. Let it all out to your favourite sad songs. Nod along to melancholy melodies in the dark, lit only by the light of your phone, as you scroll through photos of times when you were happy, or at least seemed to be, with that guy, or that girl, or with yourself. Feel the full force of the heartbreak, the grief, the emptiness. When the moment’s passed, toss the snotty tissues aside, and maybe step back into the light.


  1.   Reading a book on self-care written by knowledgeable, certified doctors/psychiatrists/experts vs. reading a listicle by a 20-something-year-old who is still figuring things out


So much knowledge out there, wow! Learn how to truly care for yourself from certified experts who’ve spent years studying the brain, human behaviour, and what makes us tick. Use their well-researched methods to deal with your increasingly stressful life. They know what they’re talking about.

Or maybe that’s a little too serious for you. Maybe it’s too many words. Maybe what you need at this very moment is an easy-to-read, mildly humourous listicle on self-care, written by someone who is also figuring out the best ways to care for their mental, emotional, and physical health. Good luck to us. We’re all doing the best we can.


Everyone interprets self-care differently. There’s no one way to go about it. If what you’re doing healthily helps you recharge, go ahead and do that. It’s called self-care.


Abigail Ileto is a writer based in Vancouver, BC, with a love of film and television.  She enjoys going for long drives, singing when no one is listening, and collecting spiral notebooks.

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