Picture this: It’s Sunday afternoon and your face is smeared with a pink clay face mask, your feet are propped up on the sofa in their Milky Feet gloves and there is a mug of peppermint tea beside you, the steam rising alluringly. You turn on Netflix to rewatch Gossip Girl (again) before taking a video for your Instagram stories (making sure your monstera plant is visible in the background). Your picture is equal parts sincere and self-deprecating as you throw up the peace sign, writing across the image on Instagram: "#SelfCareSunday."
Sadly, your zen mood is killed as you glance to your right to see the laundry that has been 'drying' for so long that your shirt has a permanent crease. When you go to get a cheesecake as your Sunday treat (which you deserve), the fridge hits you with a distinctly 'unclean' smell. As you eat, your tongue runs against the back of the brace you’ve had on the inside of your lower teeth for years, catching where the wire broke two weeks ago. And when your mum WhatsApps you to check how you're doing, you ignore it.
Self-care has become such an integral facet of our lives, it is almost unremarkable. When first proposed by the lesbian feminist Audre Lorde, caring for yourself was a radical act, a way to preserve yourself in order to survive and fight adversity. It has long been stripped of its politics, becoming instead a byword for a kind of 'me time' that comes with suitably Instagrammable accessories and has grown into an industry said to be worth $11 billion.
It’s enticing to see self-care as part of a grand project of self-improvement, where every relaxing moment of skincare is actually a step towards the final, perfect form we secretly want to achieve. Actual self-care is much more mundane, and involves basically everything your mum used to do for you. So why haven't we taken these tasks over? There’s a theory that we put off doing things that don’t provide us with immediate gratification, and the kind of unsexy self-care we’re talking here is not necessarily going to provide immediate satisfaction. But if you connect the feeling of relief and satisfaction you’ll get from sorting these tasks out with the feeling of sinking into a bubble bath, it becomes much easier to deal with them. Before you know it you can have the best of both worlds – you’ll stop ignoring the mould in your bathroom as you apply your vitamin C serum in the morning, or holding your breath as you hand over your debit card to pay for an açai bowl that you're not sure you can afford.
Click through for an unsexy – but much better – list of tasks for your next #SelfCareSunday. It’s a potentially daunting list so, to start, pick just one a week.