Here’s how 8 In The Know creatives are doing self-care while at home

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The first time I learned about self-care, it may have been too little, too late.

After suffering my umpteenth visit to the emergency room for hives that plagued my body from the crown of my head to the soles of my feet, my mother and I were truly at a loss for words. Trust me, it’s a different feeling when you can’t even remember how many prescription drugs are thrown your way or how many useless blood tests you take for the doctors to figure out what’s wrong with you.

“What TF are they doing with all my blood?!” I would ask my mom after each visit, slowly reclining in my chair as I attempted to fix my predisposition at this point.

Years later, we would come to find that my body had gone into a self-inflicted “fight or flight” response, resulting in overdoses of histamine in the body. The doctor’s prescribed cause? Stress.

Growing up in a Black household, I wasn’t taught the importance of self-care or even what that could mean. I, like so many kids who come from marginalized communities, was taught to work through your problems and not to complain because someone always had it worse than you.

“But does that excuse the fact you are hurting?”

Years later, the question hits me like a tractor trailor as I sit in my therapist’s — a Black woman who finally looks like me — chair. “Can you give yourself permission to take care of yourself, even if it means admitting that you’re not alright?”

Self-care looks different for everyone, especially during a time like now when you may have good days and well, not so good days. For me, I found freedom the day I realized my physical, emotional and mental health mattered and that it was my obligation to take care of it. After all, you’re no good to others if you are not first good to yourself.

For me, I’ve incorporated yoga and meditation practices into my daily routine, as well as the occasional splurge at Sephora and “notifications off” option while binging terrible TV with my dogs.

To see how others are caring for themselves during this time, I asked eight people on our In The Know team. Read on to hear their thoughts about self-care and what’s working for them:

Alex Lasker

Credit: Alex Lasker / ITK

What is self-care to you? How has it changed?

To me, self-care is mindfully seeking out the specific patterns, behaviors, and things that you know will improve your quality of life, whether something big — like pursuing a challenging opportunity at work — or something simple — like buying yourself flowers every once in a while.

What are some of your favorite products for your self-care routine?

As part of my quar self-care routine, I have begun leveraging my sense of touch to help soothe my worsening anxiety (this is a real thing, I promise!). The resulting product is usually me wandering around my apartment wearing something that looks like it was skinned off a stuffed animal (e.g. very, very soft.) A few of my faves so far have been the world’s fuzziest, warmest blanket, the world’s butteriest leggings which might feel even better than being naked, this light, simple tank top and these Buffy eucalyptus sheets — not only are they a comfy dream, but they’re also cooling (good for my fellow night sweaters).

What would you have told yourself six months ago about self-care?

Six months ago, I think I was putting a lot of pressure on myself to keep up my stringent fitness regimen at home while the world was just starting to be crippled by coronavirus. I think if I could go back, I would tell myself not to stress about that.

 Life mantra you choose to live by.

Never deny someone the sweet feeling of knowing they did something right.

Alexandra Katsoulis

Credit: Alexandra Katsoulis / ITK

What is self-care to you? How has it changed?

I used to think that self-care meant trying to prevent the inevitable — aging. So I snubbed all parts of it from skincare to meditation, until I realized two years ago that self-care is about nurturing my physical, emotional and mental health. 

Today, I have a lean self-care routine that I do every day in order to best balance those three parts of myself. I start every morning by washing my face with the Cetaphil Cleanser and then I dab on some Clean and Clear Astringent — that tingly sensation wakes me up. I exercise for an hour every day and start off each workout with an exhaustive run. That is my form of meditation, and without running, I find myself thrown off-balance emotionally. 

I also love tying my hair in buns with colorful scrunchies, like the satin, printed ones from Anthropologie

Do you think you do enough self-care?

I’ve found the perfect self-care routine that works for my low maintenance needs. It is achievable on a daily basis, and as my interests change and grow, it is the perfectly bare-minimum routine to which I can always add but not detract from! 

What would you have told yourself 10 years ago about self-care?

I would have told my younger self to stop being contrarian and to try out self-care routines at an earlier age until I found the one that stuck!

Life mantra you choose to live by.

I live by the saying “A healthy mind, and a healthy body.” (It’s a translation of the Ancient Greek mantra νους υγιής εν σώματι υγιεί.)

Vanessa Quintero

Credit: Vanessa Quintero / ITK

What is self-care to you? How has it changed (for you) over the years?

I think my understanding of self-care has evolved a lot since the concept and term became popularized.

My definition of self-care now is things I can do that feel healing, relaxing, and stress-free for me, which varies depending on my mood, current workflow and other external factors.

Do you think you do enough self-care?

I probably do too much self-care right now given all the downtime and at-home time in quarantine, LOL. It feels great in the right amount, but I have to be careful to not be overindulgent and still be productive with things I like doing less, like cleaning, taking care of finances, etc.

Share some of your favorite self-care routines/rituals/practices.

My favorite thing to do is consume any type of media, whether it be movies, TVs, games, music, anything! One of my favorite things to do is play games where I can kind of just zone out, organize in-game items or areas, easily unlock achievements and feel like I’m progressing! Some games that give me this sense of satisfaction right now are Stardew Valley, Animal Crossing, Hades and Breath of the Wild.

Aside from that, I like to have some time away from screens by practicing my (bad) drawing with color pencils, gouache paint, etc. I’ve also really enjoyed making clay pins/magnets from Sculpy, painting on them and then adding a coat of UV resin to make them shiny! It’s just very satisfying to make something from start to finish by yourself that didn’t exist at all the day before. I also try (keyword: try) to read for an hour before bed every night!

What would you have told yourself six months ago about self-care?

Don’t spend money on stuff you know you don’t care about! You know what it means to take care of you, what helps you relax and what you enjoy. It’s okay if that’s different for you than others!

Life mantra you choose to live by.

I suffer from imposter syndrome often and worry that starting off at something and not automatically being good at it means I shouldn’t do it at all. I constantly have to remind myself that “no one is born knowing everything,” and that helps me a lot!

Moriba Cummings

Credit: Moriba Cummings / ITK

What is self-care to you? How has it changed (for you) over the years?

To me, self-care means navigating healthy ways to maintain your sanity and nurture your soul.

For me, over the years, I’ve learned that overworking (both professionally and personally) is a battle that just can’t be won. I’ve learned that taking time to unplug from helping others and, instead, taking care of ME will benefit all parties in the long run.

Do you think you do enough self-care? How do you feel when you self-care? How do you feel when you don’t?

I’ll say that I believe I’ve gotten much, much better at it. I’d say within the past two years, I’ve gotten my stride and the results are like night and day. When I practice self-care, I feel energized and I feel inspired to do the things I love.

Share some of your favorite self-care routines/rituals/practices.

Some of my favorite self-care practices include skincare (yes, men love skincare, too), fragrances and making sure I get fresh air at least once a day.

Black Orchid by Tom Ford has been my signature fragrance going on five years now and just a couple of years ago, I’ve gotten into the Replica fragrance series by Maison Margiela and Jazz Club that’s just the gift that keeps on giving.

I also cook often with the Always Pan by Our Place to remain mentally grounded (and to keep my bank account in check). Sometimes, I do so while catching up with my mom back in Trinidad over FaceTime since Covid-19’s thrown a wrench in our yearly visit. 

What would you have told yourself six months ago about self-care?

Six months ago, I would have told myself, “Stop and breathe. They can wait! Your mental health and sanity come first.”

 Life mantra you choose to live by.

Remember the past, but live for now.

Danelle Sandoval

Credit: Danelle Sandoval / ITK

What is self-care to you? How has it changed (for you) over the years?

When I was younger, the easiest way to do this was to create music and that is still a strong constant in my life whenever I self-care. However, I must say that as I got older, a good bubble bath, hydrating serum and facial oil have done wonders.

Do you think you do enough self-care?

While I try to make self-care a priority, I definitely want to practice it more. Right now, things are a bit hectic, to say the least, so it can be tough to remember to take a step back and ask yourself how you’re doing.

Share some of your fave products for your self-care routine.

One of my best friends got me this journal for my birthday last year and I loved writing in it. I’m a big plant person and this book incorporates quotes, writing exercises and is by the New York Botanical Garden. I also love this plant-themed coloring book.

My nighttime skincare routine can also be an act of self-care for me and that includes using a cleanser, moisturizer, facial oil, toner and if I feel like I really need a pick-me-up, I’ll throw in a face mask.

What would you have told yourself six months ago about self-care? 10 years ago?

Six months ago: “Take time for yourself and try to make it a priority as much as possible.”

10 years ago: “Self-care can be in all different forms, discover a few that you can continuously rely on and know that they’re there for you.”

Life mantra you choose to live by.

“My home is in my head.” – Bob Marley

Christine Wallen

Credit: Christine Wallen / ITK

What is self-care to you?

Self-care to me is the time we take for ourselves, and it can look any way we want. As I’ve gotten older, self-care hasn’t changed much. I definitely seek it on a more consistent basis in order to pour back into myself.

Do you think you do enough self-care?

I have now put self-care into my schedule weekly. I feel great when I do. I feel refreshed and when I don’t I start to feel worn out. Cooking meals is also a nice time to reflect and nourish myself.

Share some of your favorite self-care routines/rituals/practices.

Self-care to me is skincare. Facemask, eyemasks, lip masks, exfoliating my skin, and applying creams take time so I do it slowly and take it as a time to recharge after a long day. New recipes are so fun to put together and enjoying them when they are done with my family.

 What would you have told yourself 10 years ago about self-care?

10 years ago, I would have told myself all this time not doing anything is a waste of time. Over the last two years, I have learned time for me isn’t time wasted.

Life mantra you choose to live by.

If it doesn’t nourish your skin or your soul, let it go.

Katie Dupere

Credit: Katie Dupere / ITK

What is self-care to you? How has it changed (for you) over the years?

I used to understand self-care the way many people do — as an excuse to pamper yourself through bubble baths, face masks and other luxuries. It never really spoke to me and felt really inauthentic — basically an excuse to post selfies on Instagram.

But eventually, I found folks in mental health spaces talking about self-care in terms of brushing your teeth, cleaning your room and doing your dishes. Switching to view self-care in that way helped me really develop habits that actually care for myself and my mental health rather than just giving me a momentary escape.

Do you think you do enough self-care?

For me, my relationship and success with self-care fluctuate. On bad mental health days, self-care looks like simply motivating myself to brush my teeth. But on good days, it looks like deep cleaning my apartment all day from sunrise to sunset — and still having time for self-indulgence like a face mask or a long tech-free walk.

Share some of your favorite self-care routines/rituals/practices.

One of my favorite self-care practices is reading tarot. It’s a time when I can sit with myself, my thoughts and my intuition, and connect with powers and forces beyond myself.

If hygiene tasks, like brushing your teeth, become hard when you are in a depressive episode, I can’t recommend this toothbrush enough. It gives you a dentist-like clean at home and can get your teeth back to a really good place. Don’t be embarrassed if hygiene tasks are sometimes hard. It’s super common, you aren’t alone and you’ll get through it.

What would you have told yourself 10 years ago about self-care?

Ten years ago, I had no concept of self-care. That’s partly due to the fact that the internet had yet to latch onto the idea, but also because I was coping with my mental illness in destructive ways rather than healthy ways. But even six months ago, I was in a very different place with self-care.

Quarantining alone has really made me embrace the practices I need to live a happy, healthy life. In that way, I’m really grateful for this time isolated.

Life mantra you choose to live by.

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” It’s from “The Lorax” by Dr. Seuss. For a long time, I saw that quote as motivating my activism and my awareness of injustice. But it also applies to self-care practices, in a way. Care motivates action.

Justin Chan

Credit: Justin Chan / ITK

What is self-care to you? How has it changed (for you) over the years?

Self-care means being mindful of both my physical and mental state. More importantly, it means being present. When I was younger, I used to think that self-care was tied to getting a dopamine rush — any time I experienced some level of happiness, I thought I was doing a good job of taking care of myself. As I’ve gotten older, however, I’ve realized that self-care also includes acknowledging experiences that are not necessarily euphoric, especially those moments where I’ve had to reflect and dig a little bit deeper within myself. 

Do you think you do enough self-care?

The first few weeks of quarantine were especially tough. I’ve lived on my own for almost 10 years, and the lack of social interaction definitely had me in a rut. But, in recent months, I’ve been making the effort to work out (exercise has been proven to be beneficial to one’s physical and mental health), and I’ve occasionally taken the time out to meditate.

Share some of your favorite self-care routine/rituals/practices.

I try my best to get a good amount of sleep (although I still need to do better). In the morning, I drink a glass of water and follow it up with some lemon tea. I also pop a few supplements to get my energy going (vitamin E, zinc, Korean ginseng, calcium). On most days, I try to eat healthy (apples, bananas, Greek yogurt, greens, etc.). After work, I usually do some form of cardio (last month, I biked 320 miles for example). 

What would you have told yourself six months ago about self-care? 10 years ago?

Six months ago (and even 10 years ago), I would have probably told myself to take care of myself a little bit more and focus less on things that are outside my control.

Life mantra you choose to live by.

“Strive to improve during difficult times” — it’s a Chinese saying that I have tattooed on the inside of my left arm. 

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