Many milliliters of facial serum, hours of meditation and endless links to natural food recipes followed a lot of people in the search for self-care in recent months. Faithful companions during social isolation, these practices proved to be important to support emotional frailties. The trap was to understand this process as a collective movement.
Armed with a list filled with a dozen highly recommended initiatives, a large crowd tried to fit in to balance their energies and emotions. And, in the vast majority of cases, the return was frustrating, tiring or, at least, ineffective. “Self-care demands self-knowledge. This standardized model that became popular in the pandemic does not fit the majority. Doing yoga on the beach wearing a white outfit is a very particular situation. There are people who need high-impact exercises to relax. Massification is complicated on many levels, but in a subject like this it is even more out of context”, points out Erika Maracaba, a psychotherapist trained in transpersonal therapy. According to the specialist, normative behaviors can lead to even more risky side effects for mental health, which can generate anxiety at pathological levels and even psychological distress. “What we see on social networks often doesn’t even serve the influencers themselves”, he adds.
The term self-care also has a very powerful gender bias. The psychologist at the Aliá clinic, Jennifer Cereja, specialized in human rights and collective health, talks about the origin of the concept, presented by the American-Caribbean writer Audre Lorde in 1988. “It has to do with the feminist struggle because it seeks to appease a characteristic that was once attributed to women by the patriarchal society: the responsibility to take care of the other, to prioritize the well-being of the children, the family. In Lorde’s writings, self-care appears so that women learn to turn to themselves, treating it as self-preservation”, he points out.
Since there is no formula, how can one identify a practice that does good in a genuine way, without oppressing or adhering to fads? Erika Maracaba’s suggestion is to start with personal questions, to understand what kind of sensation certain possibilities promote in you. “A great way is to put out some kind of artistic expression, whatever it is. Women have creative potentials that are castrated throughout life. A good way to work on self-knowledge is to access what was interrupted. There is an important combo that we leave behind over time, which is sexuality, creativity and vitality. Looking at all of this carefully helps to find a practice that satisfies her”, explains Erika.
For Jennifer Cereja, an effective starting point is to perceive yourself, feel your emotions and observe how your body responds. “Crying, feeling angry, withdrawing, pouring out, all of this is precious for the process of self-knowledge. By practicing your emotions, you know yourself better. And, with this awareness, it is easier to understand what is good for you”, he observes.
feel pleasure, enjoy life
by Marília Ponte, businesswoman,
“I’ve been masturbating since I was 13 and that has had different meanings throughout my life. In the beginning, it had a lot to do with sexual discovery. I remember hearing a boy saying that, when he came, his feet were tense, crooked, from so much pleasure. And I wanted to feel that. Then I had the masturbation phase to relax before bed. Then, in the pre-university course, the girls were talking about methods to concentrate for exams: they were taking medicine, coffee, energy drinks, and I said that I masturbated. They remember it to this day, such a commotion. I really like sexual pleasure, but my relationship is with pleasure in general, I’m one of those people who eats moaning, making noise, you know? That’s why masturbation for me isn’t about loneliness. I have been in a monogamous relationship for 12 years, we live together, we always have sex. But masturbation is a personal treat, a treat for me. When I self-stimulate, it’s just for me. Over time, the repertoire accumulates, the body changes, and there are always new experiences. I see it as an invitation to take care of my body. I’ve also done orgasmic therapy, tried different vibrators. I went so deep that I went to undertake the area. And here I am, with a brand of portable vibrators, trying to demystify this theme every day. I live masturbation intensely, but I have phases. My self-stimulation is not about often or about formats. It’s pretty intuitive. The strange thing is that it is never seen as self-care. My mother, who talked to me about intimate safety, harassment, condoms, never talked about masturbation. It’s taboo for everyone. For the young, who are ashamed, for the older women, who think it’s childish. Some even feel ridiculous. In the end, it’s all about pleasure, one of the most primal and necessary feelings.
It’s about coming.”
dance like no one is watching
Ana Karine, psychologist, Fortaleza (CE)
“I never had a strong connection with exercise, with any sport. But during my psychotherapy sessions, we identified a need to connect more with my body. I tried to take flamenco lessons, but it was very difficult. All very marked, choreographed. I didn’t have enough motor coordination. Until they recommended the Clube da Dança Livre, which is not a course, has no technique, it is a meeting for people to dance based on their realities. Everything starts from improvisations, which suggest triggers for some aspects of each person’s personality. So you respond with your body. It is a practice that connects through the physical, because it uses the body as a means of reaching these expressions of self. And it doesn’t look for performance results. So I learned to be more aware of my movements. I started at the club in December 2018, but during the pandemic the classes went online and I couldn’t keep up. This time away was difficult, I felt the physical and emotional difference, I was all stuck in a general way – and I wasn’t willing to replace this habit with any other. In October 2021, I came back in person and was able to feel all the stages of the reconnection. I still feel my body locked, having difficulty doing improvisations, to create movements, but as I reconnect, it dissolves. Now I understand everything even more as a practice of self-care, the place it occupies. Discovering the truth of my body was a big moment for me. Which, deep down, is my own truth, because body and psyche are one and the same.”
A change or a revolution?
Mariella de Campos, tarologist, Rio de Janeiro (RJ)
“My quest for self-care was revolutionary. I never imagined that I would need to change so much to reconnect. I thought it would just be a professional change, but everything has changed. I left a 19-year job as a buyer for a major fashion brand and became a tarot reader. I started with a slow but very deep dive for a key turn. As I am Virgo, I did everything in stages. First, I identified where I needed to move. Afterwards, I understood that I would have to stop everything to plan, so I went to organize myself financially for that. And just then I set a date to resign: March 14, 2020 – exactly the beginning of the lockdown because of the pandemic. It was an even more intense moment for me because I still didn’t know what to do. But I felt encouraged to invest more deeply in what I wanted.
I studied astrology, but I found myself in the tarot. And absolutely everything has changed. Some people feel that, in order to take care of themselves, they need to set aside their children for a while. For me, following my 12-year-old son more closely represents the big change. I sleep eight hours every night. I learned to cook and eat much better. I also started doing pelvic exercises, DNS, walking, and my body has completely changed. I never had the physique I have today. And tarot became my profession. I currently live on it. I’m growing and I work with a very special team. It’s a new way of life, because the tarot lights up the light of those who are consulting and being able to help these people is very important to me. I can say that, today, my professional path is my self-care. I feel like a more structured person, with more emotional intelligence, more wisdom. I even physically rejuvenated. All a reflection of what I’m living.”