Let me admit it, I am the guru of self-care. As mentioned before in previous posts, my journey to self-care was quite a long and difficult path. The balance of work and school life took a major toll on allowing myself to have free-time, and pair that with (at times) my depression and anxiety, sometimes my free-time was honestly spent in bed watching Netflix. I am hear to say though that everyday now, I take time to practice self-care and self-love in any way that I can. Sometimes, I try to be as cliche as I can with it. Yes, you heard that correctly... me a cliche!
I believe there is a certain elegance that goes into self-care and mastering your self-care routine. Take Marie Antoinette for example - the actual epitome of wealth and grandeur. According to The Toilette of Health, Beauty, and Fashion, Marie Antoinette's most infamous beauty practice was cleansing with Eau Cosmetique de Pigeon, which, unfortunately, was created using the actual bird itself. The recipe included the juice of water lilies, melons, cucumbers, and lemons, as well as the crumbs of French rolls, white wine, and stewed pigeons. That isn't even the half of it! After washing her face with that, shall we say, elixir, she'd tone her skin with her choice astringent, Eau des Charmes, which was juice extracted from the "drops exuded by grapevines in May." Finally, her signature face mask (which is still popular in France today) involved mixing together two teaspoons of circulation-stimulating cognac, 1/3 cup of cell-renewing dry milk powder, brightening lemon juice, and one egg white. If that isn't elegance (and maybe insanity), I do not want to know what it.
When it comes to my own self-care routine, I do not necessarily go into the great lengths that Marie Antoinette had taken to ensure her skin was "fresh" and "clean," rather being drawn to more simpler practices that I still believe have a touch of elegance and sophistication. Below is my guide on the Art of Taking A Bath and Other Self-Care Ideas:
The Art of Taking A Bath
I cannot exactly pinpoint in my adult life when baths became such a luxury, but I am here to say that they are the ultimate tool of self-care and relaxation. When people generally think of baths, they think that it is too time-consuming, too restricting, or they are often worried about sitting in their own filth (are you actually that dirty though?). In all honesty, yes, that is fair, because you're welcome to your feelings. But instead of thinking as a bath as a way to get clean, it is maybe more helpful to think of the bath as a relaxation manifesto. Really though, I am letting you know that the best way to overcome a weird feeling about the act of taking a "filthy" bath is just to take one and see what that's like. It is truly an incredible feat. And let me just say that I take baths seriously, so I know of what I speak.
In taking a bath, I aim to treat it like a spa experience. For some, they may have a completely different approach, but for me, usually I try to make the most of my time here. Turn off the lights in the room, gather some supplies and take the time to prep for your session. My key essentials are:
- Essential Oils : I am someone who enjoys aromatherapy, and I find that adding a few drops of essential oils can completely elevate the bath time experience to a new level. Some essential oils I enjoy using are lavender, jasmine, honeysuckle, and rain, which I find specially made at my local holistic new age store.
- Candles : Candles are more for an atmospheric touch than anything else, but often provide an extra soothing comfort to the warmth of the bath.
- Epson Salts : Epson salts add a little touch of luxuriousness to any bath, while also being a good remedy for many ailments. It helps to reduce stress as well as add in sleep by raising magnesium levels in the body. Perfect for those days you and your body need a little add TLC. One of my favorites is the Coconut Milk Bath Salts from Maude.
- A Bath Caddy or Shelf : This may seem random, but they can be key for a relaxing bath session. I have a piece of driftwood I found that perfectly fits across my bathtub that I use as a little shelf. If I have books to read, magazines, or anything else I want to bring into the bath with me (like a journal), I will just place them right on it! It is perfect for a glass of wine (if it spills…antioxidants!) or herbal tea as well.
- Books or Magazines : As I said in step four, I love bringing things to read into the bath. It is my time to relax and catch up on the latest stories I've been wanting to dive into, or find inspiration in some of my favorite magazines like Kinfolk or Cereal.
- Music : It may be comforting to sit in some silence and take some time to find comfort in the peace around you, but for me, I find comfort in listening to music. So in taking a bath, I always listen to a playlist! I enjoy listening to anything from jazz, to classic rock, to even folk music! Do what works for you and your taste.
When it comes to the main event, that actual bath, there is a lot of extra things that you can do for an added bonus. For example, you can
- Take Time To Exfoliate The Body : Use bath time as an excuse to indulge in all of those extra rituals that you never have time for. For me, I like to exfoliate with either the Tree Hut Shea Sugar Scrub (usually the coconut lime one - it smells so so incredible) or depending on my mood and if I need a little extra boost, the Original Coffee Scrub from Frankbody. Both exfoliants help in tackling acne, scars, and other marks on the body while also leaving my skin to feel brighter and softer.
- Hair Masks and Treatments : I used to be someone who dyed their hair A LOT, so this was a big one for me! It sounds funny giving your hair some extra love and care (especially when you are a guy) but the benefits can pay off well! Most hair mask add moisture to your hair while also adding shine and repairing breakage and damage. It will also help to reduce any frizziness as well.
For the aftermath, take a minute to just breathe. I know I have said this and I will say this again, but it is all about mindfulness. Take a moment to become one with yourself and take a moment to practice an attitude of gratitude. Be thankful for the bath honey! As Jonathan Van Ness would say, "You have to create little pockets of joy in your life to take care of yourself."
The Art of the Nap
“A good eight hours” is what most people hear when it comes to sleep. Most people aim to fall asleep quickly and wake up promptly when their alarm sounds off the next morning. If you can’t sleep, experiment with the thousands of tips circulating online: an herbal remedy, a bath and aromatherapy, drinking chamomile tea, writing down your thoughts before bed... night time yoga even! If nothing works, medicate! Sleep is too precious to leave to chance!
My weekends are meant for time to indulge, meaning, it is a time to treat myself and take time to relax. As silly as this might sound, this usually involves finding time to nap or idle. As I get older, as well as for other people, I have realized that time is more valuable than money, and in sometimes finding more time to do absolutely nothing is perhaps exactly what I need at times. There isn't anything crazy that comes with taking a nap, but there are ways to elevate the experience, making sure you do not "nap-too-hard" and making sure you feel more energized after your experience.
When I nap, I need to set the scene - funny enough, I make my bed if I didn't already do so. I find the coziest pillows I can find, the fluffiest of blankets too! I make sure to draw my shades, maybe even use my essential oil diffuser, and bury myself in between all those warm layers. I also set an alarm to make sure that I do not go overboard and wake up feeling to drowsy.
In taking a nap, I find it best to be sure exactly what length of time works best for you. According to certain studies, there are actually different benefits that come from the length of nap you take:
- Six Minutes Naps : Are beneficial for memory and can enhance memory functions
- Ten to Fifteen Minute Naps : Are good for improved focus and productivity
- Twenty to Thirty Minute Naps : Considered the optimal nap time, is generally guarantees stage two sleep while also enhancing alertness and concentration
- Forty to Sixty Minute Naps : Shown to boost brain power, including improving memory functions, productivity, and learning abilities.
If I need a little added boost of energy, I actually drink coffee right before taking a nap. It might sound counter-productive, but caffeine actually takes about twenty to thirty minutes to digest in the body, and should kick in as soon as you wake up. It has actually been proven in a study performed by the Loughborough University that the combination of coffee and naps are more effective than doing one over the other, plus, its a best of both worlds situation!
The Art of Drinking Coffee
I think there is a social art the comes with drinking coffee, but that doesn't mean that coffee cannot be turned into an act of self-care. There is quite a difference between the social gatherings of people drinking coffee compared to that of the solo drinker. I’m not talking about those who stand in line every morning at seven a.m. waiting for their cup to grab and go. I think there is a beauty in those like the old man in a cap who sits everyday in the same booth of the local coffee shop reading his paper or the woman nested at the window seat while watching the world go by slowly taking out her knitting needles out as she kills the next few hours sipping and knitting. These are the solitary coffee drinkers whose single art of drinking coffee solo is one I crave to master and become one with myself.
I have read too many Patti Smith books to not try this act for myself. I have dreamed about the days she spent in the Caffe Dante writing and inspiring generations to come, solely living on cups of black coffee and toast. For myself, I have often done the same, finding comfort in the booths of this same cafe daydreaming and losing myself in thought as I have watched the barista make himself his tenth cup of espresso. There is a romanticism within this lifestyle, within very sip of coffee and very little indulgence and aroma that perfumes the room. The act of mindfulness within this moment transcends even the single act of taking a bath or taking a nap. So every morning, I take time to perch myself in my local coffee shop (or luckily when I am a barista on the weekends at my coffee shop) and take a moment to dive into the perfect cup of coffee. The next time you have a moment to yourself, consider sitting down at your local coffee shop and taking a time to get away from technology and the modern world and get yourself the perfect cup of coffee. You will thank yourself later!