The first two weeks of the Trump administration have been nerve-rattling, to say the least—not just for people working in politics, but also for those simply trying to keep up. Factor in cold weather, and many informed citizens are—in body, mind, and spirit—on the verge of a breakdown. “Winter is already a moment when we’re not as strong as we normally are,” says Jessa Blades, a natural beauty expert and makeup artist in Brooklyn who has spent her career advocating for the suddenly buzzy concept of self-care. The recent avalanche of shocking political developments, she says, “is happening in our brains and our inboxes and our Facebook feeds, and it’s way too much to take on. People aren’t feeling rested; they’re waking up in the middle of the night with anxiety. We need to take a moment to check in with ourselves.”
That’s easier said than done at a moment when following the news—and figuring out how to most effectively respond to it—feels increasingly like a full-time job. But as Blades argues, it isn’t that we don’t have time to tend to our well-being; we don’t have time not to. “If you’re not taking care of yourself and feeling run down and miserable,” Blades says, “it’s harder to have all that energy to resist and to organize.”
In other words, setting aside a few moments each day for self-care—whatever that means to you—is a form of activism. Here, Blades discusses eight simple ways to keep calm and carry on.
First things first—get your data stream under control.
“Turn off your alerts—across the board, people should do that. At least make it so that you have to go visit a website or open an app to get news. Make sure your phone is not constantly disrupting a train of thought or a conversation you’re having. Airplane mode is a wonderful tool. Consider setting aside some time to be unreachable every day. And to not look at the news sometimes—even if it’s just a two-hour break, or a news curfew at night. Whatever works for your schedule.”
Get back to nature.
“I wonder how many people who went to the Women’s March have spent anytime in nature since then,” Blades says. “Just go sit in a park for a few minutes with your phone off, or drive to the beach, or go for a walk or hike in the woods if you have access to that. It’s scientifically proven that you’ll feel a lot better.”
Don’t forget to breathe.
This advice isn’t new, but it is particularly relevant right now. Blades has lately taken to prescribing a basic breathing exercise, which takes just minutes, for busy clients: With the tip of the tongue resting on the tissue ridge behind your front teeth, inhale through the nose for a count of four. Then hold for a count of seven, and exhale through the mouth for a count of eight. Repeat for a total of four cycles. “They say it helps you fall asleep in one minute,” she says of the practice. “You can do it before you go to bed, or just for oxygenating the body. It’s so simple, and it rewires you.”
Self-indulgence is a form of activism . . .
“Sometimes self-care means that you bought this beautiful new body lotion, and it’s the process of opening the box and opening the jar and applying it, taking in the scent and the texture, and finding the beauty in that,” Blades says, noting that the right products feel good in more ways than one: “Make sure you know who made it, and support brands that are socially and environmentally conscious—most of those companies are women-owned. That is also an act of resistance. If you want to change things, shop differently.”
. . . and so is DIY.
“It’s not always about the consuming. There’s plenty to work with in your pantry cabinet or fridge—treating yourself can be as simple as getting some sugar and some olive oil and mixing them up to make a body scrub, or mixing some raw organic honey with organic whole milk yogurt and making a mask for your face. Or heat up organic olive, sesame, or coconut oil—double-boil it so it doesn’t get too hot—and do a self-massage. It’s one of the most relaxing things you can do for your nervous system.”
Aromatherapy is therapy.
“This is a nice moment for adding essential oils to your life. They are a really potent, easy-to-travel-with self-care tool. They change your mood, relieve pain, wake you up. They’re antifungal and antiviral as well, if you’re going to clean with them or spray them in the air. Choose one, or a few, that make you feel relaxed—lavender, clary sage, and petitgrain are some nice ones—get a little spray bottle, fill it with distilled water, add a few drops, and you have a sleep or stress or travel spray.”
When it comes to your wellness plan, add, don’t subtract.
“All this talk about New Year’s resolutions and detox and cleansing—that rhetoric right now is too much for our hearts and minds to handle. I’m not saying binge only on fondue and brownies, but think about what is delicious, what is sensual—look at adding that in, rather than being like, ‘I’m so freaked out that I need to work out for an extra hour.’ Can you cook with friends for an hour instead? Or go see some art? Rather than depriving yourself, what amazing delicious roasted veggie soup can you make that is really nourishing and grounding? Look at adding things that make you feel good, rather than focusing on feeling like you're toxic or bad.”
Let go of guilt—and embrace fun.
“Something that’s really coming up with my clients recently is guilt around feeling good. It’s like, ‘oh my God, I went to a friend’s birthday party and ate cake and drank a glass of wine, and I’m sorry to the world.’ It’s feeling selfish for letting your mind not be totally focused on what’s going on. But the power of fun and the healing of fun, whatever that means for you, is so needed right now. Go see some friends and laugh together.”