6 November 2019
Author: Daniela Walker
Burnout has become a global epidemic in the past 10 years, with unexplained mental health sick days now costing the British economy £1.4bn a year (source: Breathe). As the cultural conversation hones in on stress as a health issue, the wellness industry is offering self-care as a solution, which has led to 12.8% growth in the sector between 2015 and 2017, according to the latest figures from the Global Wellness Institute. ‘To avoid burnout, people are encouraged to spend more and exercise harder,’ writes Ester Bloom in The Atlantic on the commodification of self-care.
But, increasingly, consumers are scrutinising their wellness routines and instead of looking for ways to optimise themselves, as they might have done a few years ago, they now want to slow down. Already, some businesses are experimenting with four-day working weeks and the Labour Party is set to release a study in July on the viability of a shorter working week and its impact on British workers.
One route to slowing down has been a re-assessment of why we exercise and what it is for. While HIIT classes are popular for their efficacy, there has been an increased interest in restorative exercises that focus on slow and controlled movement. Studios dedicated to active recovery and assisted stretching, such as ReCOVER and StretchLab, have been launched in the US and the UK. ‘Consumers are becoming more in tune with their bodies and the impact that mindful exercise can have psychologically,’ says Alister Rollins, CEO of MoveGB.
The irony is that self-care, once a reliever of stress, has become a stressor in itself as social media spreads fitness fads and transformation stories. Hashtags such as #self-care, #yoga and #fitspo all have millions of posts on Instagram – with the latter numbering more than 66m posts at the time of writing. ‘There has been a growing awareness of the shadowy side of social media and its impact on our mental health,’ Katie Brockhurst, author of Social Media for a New Age, tells LS:N Global. Brockhurst says that social media has become too ingrained to disappear entirely, but she believes people’s awareness of the anxiety around social platforms will force a reckoning. ‘There are big questions to ponder, like what changes are we willing to make to our own social media use? How can we do it collectively?’