2017 was a hard year for women’s health. From the roller coaster of legislation threatening to repeal the ACA to the federal de-funding of Planned Parenthood — not to mention the general stress and anxiety of living in our socio-political climate — this past year made very clear how important it is for us as women to protect our own health. More than a trending hashtag or SEO keyword, wellness, or how we take care of ourselves, has become a powerful and necessary act of resistance. By caring for our minds and bodies, we can give the strongest version of ourselves to the world around us. We talked to seven women about what “wellness” means in their lives: Here’s what they had to say.
1. Emily, St. Louis, MO: “Wellness means a lot of things for me in this season — primarily taking care of my body and mind. I try to remember to wear supportive shoes so my body doesn’t get achy and I will want to exercise. Also, I monitor my social media intake. Since I get my news online, I know I don’t and can’t hide from everything, but I try to mute the angriest and most intense voices. Another important thing for me in this cultural moment is reading books with happy endings, especially ones that empower women. In romances like Lucy Parker’s, the women know what they want, and the men apologize for being sexist and punch harassers in the face. Books in which women’s work, pleasure, consent, and personhood are valued give me a lot of hope.”
2. Rachel, Europe via Kansas: “For me, wellness meant leaving the country — my husband and I are currently traveling Europe with our dog. American politics were giving me literal anxiety attacks, probably because I let myself get way too involved without putting proper boundaries in place. Still, it felt like the ‘noise’ of it all was around me nonstop. Americans are, on the whole, really defensive and angry and polarized right now, and I didn’t need that kind of toxicity in my life. The distance and time difference is a forced boundary, and that feels necessary and good. Also, being in a different environment is giving my husband and me the space to evaluate what we actually believe rather than what we only believe because everyone around us believes it. We couldn’t see the forest for the trees, so to speak. More than anything else, the election (and everything since then) compounded on the grief I was already feeling from my mom’s death in 2016, making my need for self-care that much greater.”
3. Lily, Berkeley, CA: “Wellness for me, especially given the current sociopolitical climate, is all about radical self-care. As a mother, I want to model to my kids that a strong body leads to a strong mind. It’s difficult to help the world if you barely have the stamina to get through the day, riddled with anxiety and panic over the latest news headline. Instead of becoming depressed and causing my family to worry that there isn’t hope, I go out of my way to stay away from news 95 percent of the time and eat a nutritious ketogenic diet that gives me mental clarity and brings my insulin resistance down. (Studies are showing a link between high insulin with depression, and possibly cancer.) In addition to eating healthy, I have begun to add in regular exercise, not to just look good, but to feel mentally fit. This is me putting on my oxygen mask first, as they say to do on an airplane, even before putting it on for your child. And I make sure I’m not in denial, popping up when I can to donate, make calls to senators, and practice kindness to everyone who needs it.”
4. Jenna, New York City, NY: “I’ve really come to value the act of unplugging and spending creative time away from my screen. As a business owner, I’m connected to my devices night and day. So for me, wellness is being able to spend time engaging my creativity in a playful, screen-free way. Hobbies are a way I recharge and refocus. I’ve taken up embroidering, something I first learned from my grandmother as a child. It’s really amazing how recharged I feel even after an hour or two with a needle and thread.”
5. Tanya, Atlanta, GA: “For me, wellness is part of a foundation of self-love that everything else rises or falls from, including our physical safety. I teach and believe that the most empowering thing I have as a woman is choice. And now we are seeing the truth, that some people have made a habit of stripping away women’s choices. What I know as a coach and survivor of domestic violence & a physical attack in college is that successful women are often easier targets for predators, because we haven’t made enough time for our own emotional, physical, and spiritual wellness. Whole-life wellness gives us the strength & confidence to see better choices, own better solutions, and ask for help when we need it. Wellness to me means I have the strength to follow a dream, break a bad pattern, and stand up for myself. None of these is truly possible when your mind, body, finances, or heart are not well. Whole-life wellness means I matter to me and I take good care of me.”
6. Michelle, Salt Lake City, UT: “Wellness, to me, means being well in all things: my body, my mind, my home, my family, my community, and my earth. I focus on simplification: exercise and eating in moderation, practicing mindfulness and meditation, ensuring my home is filled with organic, ethically-sourced products, making sure my children and husband receive the love and attention they need without sacrificing my own well-being, volunteering in my community, and making sure I create as little waste as possible by using renewable products, recycling old clothes, and using renewable energy sources. It sounds like a lot at first, but wellness comes out of habit. What you practice for wellness now turns into a daily action, turns into a habit, turns into a lifestyle.”
7. Sacha, Arlington, VA: “To me, wellness means a healthy, well-nourished body and a calm mind free of worry and anxiety, which isn’t exactly easy during these crazy times. I make it work by eating as well as I possibly can, which includes mostly vegetables, plant-based proteins, and whole grains; keeping alcohol to a minimum (I’m doing Dry January, and I can really feel the difference); hitting the gym every other day; and staying off social media as much as possible. One of the smartest things I did last year was to delete my personal Twitter account from my iPhone. Facebook may be next! I’m also a big fan of simple self-care like baths, deep breathing, enjoying time with friends and family, cuddling with my dog and cats, and spending time in nature.”
How do you incorporate wellness into your life? Tell us at @BritandCo.
(Photos via Getty)