That's because regular hygiene routines like brushing your teeth, showering, and keeping a clean room can be difficult for people with disabilities, mental health issues, executive functioning disorders (like ADHD), and sensory processing issues, says KC Davis, LPC, a licensed therapist and author of the book How To Keep House While Drowning.
Why do some people struggle with hygiene tasks?
"When you look at something like brushing your teeth, there are actually a lot of steps: there's going to the bathroom, getting your toothbrush, toothpaste, and then standing there, then spitting," says Davis. "This can be hard for someone who is depressed and just doesn't care about taking care of their teeth or overwhelming for someone with executive dysfunction challenges like ADHD."
- KC Davis, licensed professional therapist, author, speaker, and founder of Struggle Care
To make things even harder, it can feel like society places value judgments on your ability to keep up with your hygiene. These practices are very personal, very charged with cultural values, and tied to a lot of messages around self-worth, or that you're "gross," "lazy," or "dirty" for not being able to keep up.
How to reframe your thinking around hygiene tasks
The truth is, your self-worth is not tied to your hygiene, says Davis. Care tasks like this are morally neutral: You're not a good or bad person for doing them or not doing them. Instead, Davis stresses that people struggling with these tasks deserve to have clean teeth, a clean body, and to be comfortable.
"A lot of people have a judgment for themselves about what they're going through and what they find hard," says Davis. "If someone finds that brushing their teeth is hard, they might feel self-critical and mad that they can't just do it," says Davis. Instead, Davis recommends using radical acceptance—really being okay with where you are right now in your hygiene journey.
The fact is you're not alone—we talked with 10 people who shared their struggle to complete everyday hygiene habits.
1. I have the hardest time taking showers during the workweek
"Showering has always been hard for me because it's genuinely overwhelming. There's so much that changes from homeostasis: the temperature, the million droplets of the shower head, being naked and having to contend with my body, and getting cold when I'm out. I really hate it. I don't really have time to take a long bath during the week, but sometimes I just push through it or wait."— Sav, an advertising specialist
2. Changing sheets has always been hard for me
"I have Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, which, for me, results in chronic hand pain. There's nothing I hate more than changing my fitted sheet. I just can't do it. It's resulted in so many tears, but I like having a clean, fresh mattress. I ended up just getting a friend to put on multiple fitted sheets for me at once so that I could just take one off at a time. Sure, that's not perfect, but it works for me."—Jamie, a teacher
3. I have five toothbrushes
"I have five toothbrushes. I have one in each bathroom, kitchen, car, and nightstand. I started doing this because no matter what I did I would always forget to brush my teeth. So now, if I remember there is a toothbrush near me or seeing one of them will remind me, and I can just do it there."—Shraya, a student
4. Flossing is so disgusting to me
"I hate flossing. I hate it. It's so gross to me and painful. Which I know means that I need to do it. However, I just can't. I brush my teeth extra to make up for it, but I don't really have a solution."— Isa, an SAT tutor
5. I can't afford to slack on my hygiene, but it stresses me out
"As a plus-size Black woman, I really can't afford to slack on the hygiene and care that my hair requires. I spend hours of my life caring for my hair. If I didn't– I could face so many repercussions in my life, at work, and socially. I have depression, so sometimes I just feel like I am outside of myself, watching myself do everything I need to and spend money on it."— Ciara, a communications associate in the tech industry
6. I literally don't wash my face
"I loathe washing my face. Ever since I was a kid and Hayden Panettiere started commercials for the grapefruit Neutrogena face wash, you could see her beautifully splashing her face with foamy water. I felt like I had to do that, but it's honestly horribly unpleasant. The water temperature is never right, and you need to make sure you don't get soap in your eyes. Then, the worst part is that water just runs down your elbows no matter what you do. I hate that. So I just don't do it, and you know what? I always get compliments on my skin.—Ayanna, a publicist
7. Playing pretend helps me
"I used to hate my skincare routine, but if I don't do it, I break out. So I started playing a little game with myself where I just pretended I was filming a tutorial like a famous YouTuber, and I explained every step to my fake followers. It helps, lol."—Natalie, a registered nurse
8. Washing dishes is really hard, so I traded tasks with my roommate
"Washing dishes is regularly the worst part of my day. I hate the water and the feeling of food scraps. Sometimes I'd cry about how much I didn't want to do it, but it just felt unacceptable not to. I ended up talking to my roommate about it, and we realized that she hated vacuuming because of the noise. We realized we didn't have to split everything evenly, and we divvied up responsibilities based on what we liked."—Lauren, a UX researcher
9. My gender dysphoria gets worse when I menstruate
"I am trans and anything to do with my period makes me feel really dysphoric. I hate it all, especially the way that a lot of period products are very pink and feminine. I mean the aisle that you go to get the products are literally called feminine hygiene. I pass as a man, but I still have a period sometimes. Most of the time the checkout person will say I am a great boyfriend. Anyways, the hygiene aspect... I do it because I have to. But it's horrible and unpleasant."—Max, USPS employee
10. People take their hygiene education for granted
"I was neglected when I was younger. I am in therapy now and that's why I feel okay saying that. But it's just true: I was neglected and part of that meant that I wasn't taught how to do things. I wasn't taught about hygiene and I wasn't told that you need to do x, y, and z. It was humiliating to learn the hard way but I did. However, even now there are some things that I realize I never learned like putting on lotion after showering. Sometimes I feel like everyone got a manual except for me."—Kelly, an administrative director for a dance school
No matter what kind of hygiene struggles you're dealing with, know that it's okay—and there are strategies to help you get back on track.
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