Photo: Getty Images/Westend61
January 2021 has just begun, and it's already proven that the challenges (to put it mildly) of 2020 didn't end with last year's calendar. While we can't retreat fully inward in times of crisis, carving out time for self care is necessary for not only maintaining your own mental and emotional health, but for being best able to show up for the communities that need it.
Mama Glow founder Latham Thomas calls the time we dedicate to nurturing ourselves—creating space that's separate from our routine and grind—"glow time." It's a time to unplug, slow down, and be present for whatever relaxes and restores you. A time to "pour back into yourself," as Thomas frames it. "It is all about honoring the Divine within and creating sacred portals of self-renewal."
If your entire being is screaming "yes!" to the idea of creating "a scared portal of self-renewal," there's no time like the present to begin. If you made it through last year with your faculties intact, you surely have some sort of coping mechanism already in place; however, if you're looking for new ideas, you'll find a few, sourced from a variety of different wellness experts, below.
Wellness experts share their go-to "glow time" practices
Rachel Ricketts; racial justice educator and spiritual activist
"My favorite self-care rituals include saying 'no' without guilt or apology—especially vital as a Black woman—breathwork for release and grounding, and play, which is looking like singing and dancing at the moment."
Shizu Okusa; founder and CEO of Apothékary
"I tend to always start the day with a little bit of movement, like Pilates or The Class[by Taryn Toomey]. As a busy entrepreneur—and [because of] the COVID-19 [pandemic]—I find myself hunching over and looking at a screen more than I'd like. So getting my blood moving and any stresses out of the body via movement has been so good. At the end of the night, I always wind down with a mug of Chill The F* Out plus oat milk, like a delicious peppermint mocha but rich in adaptogens to help with de-stressing from a long day."
Chelsey Luger; co-founder of Well for Culture
"My self care always involves a push followed by a reward. I've learned that a tried and true way to address my anxiety is by accomplishing a mundane task—the kind of task one tends to put off. So, if I wake up in a state of stress, I will usually set out to answer at least one email, pay a bill, submit an invoice, or clean a room in my house just to feel an immediate sense of relief. Then, once I have the mental space open to actually enjoy a treat, I will reward myself with something satisfying: time for a long bath, watching a show on Netflix, FaceTiming one of my sisters, or eating something really [delicious]. Finally, squeezing in a movement session or some outdoor time always feels great."
Photo: Nitika Chopra by Laurel Creative
Nitika Chopra; founder and CEO of Chronicon
"In a world that is constantly trying to keep many people doubting their greatness and questioning their worth, especially those who belong to a marginalized community, self care is not just radical, it is vital.
My favorite form of self care is starting my morning out with intention. I make sure that when I start my day, I am kind to my nervous system; I nourish my body and I ease into what I have going on for the day. That usually looks like playing soothing music as I wake up, cleaning up any clutter in my space, and making a breakfast that won't give me a sugar rush. It's made a huge difference in my life over the years and allows me to fully show up in the world because I start the day taking care of myself first."
Lexx-Brown James, LMFT; sex educator and couples clinician
"One of my new things is to have a rage fantasy. This is a mindfulness exercise wherein you get to expel all your feelings of rage in fantasy form. You are safe, you're not breaking laws, but [the exercise] helps alleviate the powerlessness that people often feel when they are enraged...
In a rage fantasy, you walk through an incident and you do exactly whatever the eff you want. So if you're imagining yourself smashing everything in the Oval Office, then that's what you get to do; and if you're imagining having an argument with your parents and telling them everything you've ever wanted to say, that's what you get to do. And even though you're never going to do these things in real life, it helps expound and expunge some of those feelings of ickiness and rage that we tend to hold so we can let go and not build up as much resentment."
Rachelle Robinett; herbalist and founder of Supernatural
"My favorite way to unwind [at home] is to close my email and set my phone to 'Downtime,' which is more 'off' than 'Do Not Disturb'—check it out if you aren't using it already! [Then I] go to bed early, wake up without an alarm, and go for a very long run outside, which definitely includes sprints. After a juicy runner's high, I'll get cozy and spend the rest of the day writing and reading—poetry, short stories, essays, and more poetry. The combination of intense exercise followed by uninterrupted creativity is like a complete neurological reset—it yields beautiful results and feels simply delicious. My body and mind are humming after those days, which I aim to have at least once per week."
Alice Inoue; astrologer
"At the end of an especially tension-filled day, I make it a point to do an ancient breathing technique called 4-7-8 breathing. I call this 'calm breathing' because it literally brings a wave of peace to my whole being within seconds. If you'd like to try it, inhale to four counts, hold your breath for seven counts, and exhale slowly and intentionally for eight counts. Repeat three times. This is the fastest way I've found to make an immediate and tangible difference to my state of mind."
Photo: Jordi by Shamael Ali
Jordi; spiritual coach and activist
"This season of social distancing has been hard for me as a person whose love language is physical touch. I've had to touch myself a lot more; I've been hugging my body more and giving my belly lots of rubs...
Something that I had to reassess recently in order to ground self-healing and release in my daily life is routine. What things do I want to do every day to improve my well-being? [For me it's] drinking water, stretching, meditating, 20 minutes of movement, floss, and journal one page. I make lists and there is something so cathartic about checking them off. This act reminds me of how much I do for myself every day and I'm thankful for it!"
Jena Sophia; subconscious specialist and healer
"One of my favorite self-care rituals after facilitating lots of energy work is taking Cymbiotika magnesium L-threonate and then meditating in my sauna! This combo really allows me to relax and ground after a busy day."
Jessie Van Amburg; senior food and health editor at Well+Good
"I’ve really doubled down on two [self-care rituals] in the past six months: baking and watercolors. Cooking and baking can be therapeutic, and for me, they provide a great opportunity to slow down, completely unplug, and just focus on the task at hand one step at a time. Similarly, I’ve recently started learning watercolor painting, and my sessions let me carve out time to unplug and relax without distractions, and just focus on my brushes, the paint, and the paper. I’ve learned that I rarely give my brain time to rest or focus on just one thing at a time, and these sessions are invaluable for my mental well-being."
Susy Schieffelin; sound healer and founder of The Copper Vessel
"My most essential self care practice begins right when I wake up. I take a shower, drink warm water with lemon, and then sit on my yoga mat for some gentle stretching, breathwork, and meditation. This helps me to begin my day feeling calm, clear, and grounded in my body.
I end each day with a hot bath with magnesium salts to release any stress and wash the day away. I find that the more time I spend online in this virtual age, the more hot baths have become a self-care lifeline to help me to unplug, unwind, and get a good night sleep. In addition to magnesium salts, I often make my bath feel special by adding essential oils and crystals, usually rose quartz. I also love to listen to a recording of a virtual sound bath meditation while I'm in the bath tub. I share so many sound baths with others, it is important for me to take time to receive the healing benefits for myself too!"
Alexis Berger; senior lifestyle editor for Well+Good
"Since the pandemic started, I've really relished in taking a midday break from work to listen to a podcast and take a walk by myself. Since I don't live alone or in a large space, carving out that time for myself has been really nourishing to me—not to mention that it gives my eyes a welcome break from the glow of screens for a few blissful minutes."
Photo: Sophia Gushee
Sophia Ruan Gushee; host of the Practical Nontoxic Livingpodcast and author of the Detox Deep Dive
"With my children's school and extracurricular activities being more restricted to home since March 2020, self care has become more limited. During this unusual time where days/nights/months/seasons have blended into one big blur, I have enjoyed respite and restoration when escaping into fascinating podcasts, lengthy showers, and naps."
Shari Auth DACM, LAC; co-founder of WTHN
“I light an aromatherapy candle and do gentle stretches on an acupressure mat, followed by sipping a relaxing herbal tea blend while soaking in a CBD-infused salt bath. Post bath, I decompress with a hydrating sheet mask on my face for 15 minutes, taking long, slow, deep breathes.”
Julie Bernier; Ayurvedic practitioner and founder of True Ayurveda
"I so love my weekly abhyanga—which is a luscious Ayurvedic massage that I give to myself! It's so grounding and soothing, and it makes my skin feel glowy and juicy. Basically, I cover myself head to toe with warm Ayurvedic herbal oil and then massage it into my skin in a downward direction, leave it on for 20 minutes, and then take a nice hot shower."
Kelsey Patel; founder of Pure Joy and author of Burning Bright
"My go-to anytime I'm feeling depleted, burned out, or just in need of some space and a reset is a 20-minute salt bath. I'll take a bath any time of day. I pour in Dead Sea mineral salt, Epson salt, or magnesium flakes and then run my hands into the bath and infuse it with reiki and a mini healing intention. I'll then play some amazing binaural beats or a meditation from my app, The Pure Joy app, and just float into a deep state of relaxation and release."