The Miseducation of Self-Care

Lil' Kim said it best, "I've been gone for a minute now I'm back with the jump -off."

Welcome back to The Conscious Queen! For those who are new, I am Chalice Nelson, a licensed and board certified counselor located in Atlanta. It has been nearly a year since my last post, because you now, life has its way of creating its own plans. With such, I had strategize ways in which I can ensure that I was engaging in self-care routinely to stay afloat.

Yes, that word...self-care. It seems to be all the buzz right now for all the wrong reasons. About a month ago, I read the article "Black Mothers are Drowning and Self-care is Not the Answer," and instantly I was triggered. One reason was because it was apparent that while this word is used constantly, no one truly knows what it means and secondly, it was a reflection of all the work that I wasn't doing which I set forth to do.

So before I get started, take a few moments to define what you believe self-care is...

Now it is my turn! Self-care from a mental health standpoint can be defined as activities one engages in to develop and/or maintain overall ideal wellness. It addresses 6 dimensions of life to include emotions, spirituality, mentality, physicality (fitness), professional (work) and relationships. So yes, despite what that article said about self-care... your relationships with others and access to support is SELF-CARE!

This concept was developed as a method to help those in the helping profession and those experiencing mental distress find ways to make changes in their life that could help them relieve stress. Meaning on a deeper level, it is to help people feel empowered enough to make the best decisions for their lives. The goal of self-care is to foster independence. Independence in a way in which someone has the natural supports of family, friends and the community.

Somehow, self-care is now defined as luxurious trips, trips to the nail salon and buying some expensive candle or cream. While those things are nice (I myself love a mani/pedi), those are not the things that are going to help us get through every day. Not engaging in such activities will not lead us into depression or as some say a "mental breakdown." Self-care is brushing our teeth, eating, making a budget, identifying goals. Because, you see, when mental distress arises in one's life, those simple things take the most energy to complete. When mental distress arises, those are things that when done, demonstrate the progression one has made in his/her life.

That is why I get upset when I read that self-care is not the answer. Self-care is mental wealth. Self-care is a revolutionary act. Self-care is necessary!

While many of us in the mental health field can say the work is rewarding and an honor to be a part of, it is not expected that we are to be apart of the journey from beginning to end. We want to see people thrive. We want to see people live with fulfillment and that requires us to provide them with the self-care tools necessary to fly their wings.

Research conducted by Matrorell-Poveda, Martinez-Hernaez, Carceller-Maicas and Correa-Urquiza (2015), demonstrate that amongst adolescents who experience depressive symptoms (diagnosed and self-perceived) desire to learn self-care skills which they can implement on their own to help them overcome symptoms. In a world in which everyone is encouraged to stand on their two feet, we have to teach them how.

So before you buy another hair product, before you read another article telling you that self-care is just about whether or not you can go to the spa, know that self care can be simple, free and liberating.


Martorell-Poveda et al.; licensee BioMed Central. 2015 MM

Martorell-Poveda, M., Martinez-Hernaez, A., Carceller-Maicas, N. & Correa-Urquiza, M. (2015) Self-care strategies for emotional distress among young adults in Catalonia: a qualitative study.. International Journal of Mental Health Systems Retrieved from