In 2019, on Instagram and everywhere else, the thing to do is #selfcare. Unless you're throwing a bath bomb and lighting yourself a candle or three, rolling out the yoga mat on the daily or fixing yourself an acai bowl, then what are you even doing with your life?

Now, let's get this straight: there's zero per cent wrong with bath bombs and I'm incredibly partial to a scented candle. The problem is when this self-care trend becomes so pervasive that people with genuine issues are led to believe all they need is a little guided meditation coming through their headphones.

It's nothing if not a positive thing that self-indulgent behaviours that involve taking time to look after yourself are now being applauded, and they're a great antidote to the "busyness" culture that has made so many of us so sick. For so long, these little acts of kindness to ourselves were seen by many as selfish acts that no one should brag about.

The old rule of getting your oxygen mask before helping others is not just for planes and your own wellbeing should always come first (one upside of 2019 - and there aren't that many - is being able to say this without feeling like a selfish so-and-so).


The problem is when the lines blur and people forget that the tips and #hacks they're getting from social media are no replacement for proper medical care. And down the rabbit hole of wellbeing inspiration we go, feeling more and more unwell every time we don't have the strength to even roll out the yoga mat.

Sometimes, for a lot of us, it takes a bit more than writing down our thoughts in a gratitude journal, while sipping detox tea. It takes hours of counselling, different medications, even periods in hospital. In summary, all things that would not make for a great Instagram post - but things that can be truly life-saving.

This is your reminder that that's okay. You don't have to fix your life with advice from social media. If a celebrity or influencer tells you that the secret to happiness is a tall glass of lemon water in the morning, remember that is 100 per cent not true. A glass of water is really good for hydration, but if you feel down, you really need more than that.

"Social media is certainly a double-edged sword when it comes to self-care, or what people perceive as self care," an Auckland mental health nurse told the Herald.

"I think that social media can be useful for enhancing one's sense of connection, providing inspiration, or seeding ideas about wellbeing and pursuing this. On the flipside, the immediacy of social media, and the power that some users wield in terms of 'this is what works for me' can set dangerous precedents, and perhaps fostering or enhancing a sense of inadequacy if someone has a vulnerability to stress or anxiety," he added.

In a world that tries to tell you all you have to do is some yoga and practice a bit of gratitude, it's important to remember that you might need a lot more than that - and that does not mean you're failing.

Instagram is a highlights reel

"I think also, we need to be clear that the lives we lead on instagram or whatever are not always wholly representative of our actual lives. When we see someone fabulous, we need to remember that often these photos are not candid, and there may even be an undercurrent of commerce present, in that the person espousing whatever new trend in wellbeing may be paid to do so," the mental health professional, who preferred to remain anonymous, explained.

One thing to remember, when it comes to using social media to seek inspiration for "self care" or dishing out thoughts on it, is that language matters.

"On the whole, we are supremely unaware of the symptoms or presentations of people who have a lived experience of a serious mental illness. 'Depression' is not simply feeling blue, or down, or experiencing a congruent emotional response to a situation that is distressing. People saying 'I managed my depression with xxxx' may not indeed be the case, in that certainly the act itself may have helped to lift someone's mood, or distract them, however they may not be depressed."

If you suffer from an ongoing low mood, self-care could go a great way towards improving that, "be that engagement with others, nutrition, exercise etc".

However, it might not be enough. "There is no substitute for professional help, be that psychotherapy, medication, or a combination of the two."

"If someone is anxious and/or clinically depressed, trying to kick their way out of the bag via advice on social media from people who are not health professionals would not be something that I would recommend. If I broke my arm, I'd go to the ED, not YouTube to learn how to set a bone myself."

The Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand wants people to be aware of the dangers of relying too heavily on social media for their own wellbeing.

"We know social media can be an enormous support for many people – it can provide advice, comfort and connection to people who may otherwise feel isolated and alone. It can be a way for people to find communities with whom they share identities, beliefs and passions," CEO Shaun Robinson said.

"However, we're also aware that social media can have a negative impact on the mental health of some people and the advice given is not always helpful.

"Self-care is a very personal thing, and is different for everyone. We'd encourage people to take what they wish from social media, but to be mindful that social media posts are often curated and packaged to appear a certain way which can leave people feeling inadequate. It's important that people don't take verbatim what influencers project on social media, but that they reach out for support from people who care about them - their friends, whānau and colleagues. Social media advice should never replace advice from a GP or mental health professional."

By all means drink the green smoothie, do the yoga session. All of those things will absolutely help. But remember that, in many cases, they will not solve the problem, they're just Panadol for a broken arm.


If you are worried about your or someone else's mental health, the best place to get help is your GP or local mental health provider. However, if you or someone else is in danger or endangering others, call police immediately on 111.


0800 543 354 (0800 LIFELINE) or free text 4357 (HELP) (available 24/7)
YOUTHLINE: 0800 376 633
• NEED TO TALK? Free call or text 1737 (available 24/7)
KIDSLINE: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
WHATSUP: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
• DEPRESSION HELPLINE: 0800 111 757 or TEXT 4202