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Self-Care Tips Only Go So Far During a Pandemic

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In the midst of the current pandemic, it’s no secret that we’re all in the midst of a financial roller coaster. Unemployment rates are high, the second stimulus package has been stalled and social service benefits across the board fail to meet the rampant needs across the country. What some may not recognize, however, is how this ultimately impacts individuals’ ability to engage in self-care. You see, the financial instability we are collectively experiencing prevents individuals from being able to meet their basic needs, due to the capitalist system our society uses to function. When individuals cannot meet their basic needs, going a step further to intentionally engage in self-care practices becomes essentially impossible.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, a foundational theory of motivation for those who study Psychology, is a five tiered hierarchy that explores human needs. Essentially, each lower tier must be addressed to a certain extent before an individual is able to address higher levels of need. Practically, we all know this makes sense. No one is preoccupied with investing in relationships when they can’t pay the bills, right? Of course not, because we would all automatically prioritize those basic needs; like food, housing and running water. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs presents the same principle, but in greater detail. The hierarchy begins with basic physiological needs, such as health, food, shelter and sleep. It then continues to the need for safety, security and stability. The third tier is the need for love and belongingness, which can best be explained by the need for connection with other people. The fourth tier focuses on esteem needs, such as feelings of accomplishment. Lastly, the top of the hierarchy is self-actualization, which is essentially becoming the best version of one’s self. 

If we look at this hierarchy and compare it to the collective trauma we are all in the midst of experiencing, we recognize that no one can be past the second level of the hierarchy. None of us have stability right now, particularly in the midst of constantly receiving contradictory directives and facing uncertainty over the government’s next move. So while we are in this space of being unable to have stability in the very world around us, none of us can progress further to the relationships, esteem or self-actualization we need to have holistic wellness. 

So how does this all tie back in to self-care? Well, as mentioned above, when people are focused on lower levels of need, they can’t address the higher needs that generally fall into the category of self-care. Additionally, note that each lower tier must be addressed to a certain extent before an individual is able to address higher levels of need, but it does not need to be addressed fully. Thus, two individuals who have contrasting areas of physiological needs met can still both have that first tier adequately addressed, despite not having the same tangible resources required to meet the same specific needs.

So, while people can make an intentional effort to engage in all of the self-care practices out there, we have to remember that while they may provide some level of temporary emotional relief, no amount of self-care is truly addressing what anyone needs right now.

Photo by Thomas de LUZE on Unsplash

Originally published: September 22, 2020
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