Eckburg: Finals are stressful, so stop gendering self-care

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(Graphic Illustration by Falyn Sebastian | The Collegian)

Bella Eckburg, Opinion Editor

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by The Collegian or its editorial board.

In life amid a pandemic, we all could use a little self-care, especially as we exit dead week and make our way to the final week of the semester — one full of stress and tests and the luxury of break peeking over the horizon.

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When you think of self-care, a few images may come to mind — a glistening face mask, a manicure, a long bubble bath — but there’s something clearly missing in these spas and salons: men.

Taking time for yourself not only helps you deal with life as it moves around you but also impacts how you interact with others. You can’t pour from an empty cup, and when you’re drained and emotionally exhausted, you’re probably not going to stress the pleasantries. 

It’s not just about making sure you look good and feel good about yourself physically. It’s about taking care of your mind and those around you too.

“Self-care is not solely feminine nor is it selfish. You don’t have to lather yourself in lavender-scented lotion with cucumber slices on your eyes to engage in self-care; it can be as simple as putting your phone on Do Not Disturb while you take a long, hot shower. The world will be waiting for you when you’re done.” 

The lack of male voices in the self-care discussion is largely due to the societal pressures placed on men. They’re told they can’t cry and that they need to be gruff and rugged as a display of hyper-masculinity. 

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, men tend to have lower rates of mental illness when compared to women. However, according to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, they are far more likely to die by suicide or never receive treatment for their mental health.

The way the United States treats and views masculinity is damaging both to individuals and the surrounding society, and this treatment is upheld through our patriarchal government, in which men are more likely to be in positions of power. 

Ideas of masculinity are internalized and usually passed down generationally but, like all stereotypical ideas of gender, rely hugely on the opinions of others and fears of how one will be perceived. 

College-aged men, like all of us, are still developing their identity and therefore feel more pressure to adhere to typically masculine activities to fit in. When this masculinity is threatened, younger men have a higher tendency to become aggressive in order to compensate. 

“We need to shift the narrative to not only include but encourage men to participate in these activities. We all have a responsibility to take care of ourselves and those around us, and it all starts with little, personal actions.”

This long-held idea that men need to be strong and unwavering in the face of pressure not only affects how they feel about themselves but also how they feel about and respond to their surroundings. Spending time worrying about how you’re being perceived by those around you will only result in more stress. 

Now, fixing the patriarchy is much easier said than done. Just because we have a woman as our vice president does not mean that sexism evaporates, and just because you’re asked, as a man, to be mindful of how you uphold patriarchal ideals in your life doesn’t mean you will. 

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Gender roles in this country are deep-rooted and damaging and certainly hard to address on a mass scale. Discussions of healthy body image, mental health and self-care tend to orbit around women’s experiences, and men are repeatedly left out of the conversation. 

We need to shift the narrative to not only include but encourage men to participate in these activities. We all have a responsibility to take care of ourselves and those around us, and it all starts with little, personal actions.

We need to stop gendering self-care because it’s so crucial to our society’s functioning as a whole. Just because you’re a man doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take time to rest and tend to your own needs. 

Self-care is not solely feminine nor is it selfish. You don’t have to lather yourself in lavender-scented lotion with cucumber slices on your eyes to engage in self-care; it can be as simple as putting your phone on Do Not Disturb while you take a long, hot shower. The world will be waiting for you when you’re done. 

With finals week rapidly approaching, now is the best time to make sure you’re creating spaces in your schedule to do something for yourself. Yes, it’s stressful, and those exams aren’t something you can skip with a shower, but make sure you’re sleeping well, eating food that makes you feel motivated and taking care of your mind and body at the end of the day.

Happy finals week — you’re so close to that well-deserved, month-long break!

Reach Bella Eckburg at letters@collegian.com or on Twitter @yaycolor.