Welcome to Refinery29’s Feel Good Diaries, where we chronicle the physical and mental wellness routines of women today, their costs, and whether or not these self-care rituals actually make you feel good.
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Today: A woman whose wellness routine includes running, virtual therapy, and baking cakes for her father’s birthday.
Location: Minneapolis, MN
Occupation: Copywriter/Marketing Specialist
This diary was written in November 2020.
8 a.m. — My boyfriend and I had an unusually late night, so we sleep in before making a quick breakfast — eggs, sausage, and Earl Grey tea — together. Then I kickstart yet another work from home (or work from boyfriend’s place) day by pulling up my Notion dashboard, a free online task manager that I use to organize and inspire my entire life.
10:30 a.m. — It’s an unseasonably nice day in November, so my boyfriend and I go for a walk around his neighborhood. I know it’s one of the last warm, sunny days I’ll get in many months, so I try to soak it in as much as possible. The warmth combined with the good company is calming and centering, and I feel more refreshed than I did after breakfast.
5 p.m. — After I’m done working for the day, I put on the true-crime podcast My Favorite Murder and go for another walk, back at my own apartment now. There’s a Target half a mile from my place, and I stop by in search of toilet bowl cleaner. They’re out, but I end up buying a box of penne pasta, which is under a dollar. Once I’m back home, I spend half an hour playing an online game with some friends before logging off. I cook an improvised use-up-the-leftovers meal of half a jar of pesto, a few ounces of cream cheese, and some mixed vegetables with the penne. World events have had me stressed and anxious, so there’s something about a warm bowl of basil-y, cheesy pasta that sets my heart a little more at ease. $0.99
Daily Total: $0.99
7 a.m. — The first thing I do after I wake up is head out for a 5K run through my neighborhood, along the nearby river. The temperature has dropped to a chilly 40 degrees, but the brisk air is invigorating. I finish the run with Pamela Reif’s “10 MIN SIXPACK WORKOUT // No Equipment” video on YouTube. I’ve been doing this series of 20 nonstop core exercises regularly since May, but some days it’s still a challenge to get through.
After, it’s morning smoothie time! Most weekdays, my breakfast is a homemade frozen smoothie pack with bananas, chopped kale, and various berries or other fruit, which I mix with Greek yogurt and almond milk. It’s big enough to be filling, but light enough that I can stomach it after a run or heavy workout, since my body doesn’t always like to eat right after I exercise. I sit down to work with a cup of coffee.
12 p.m. — I Skype with my mom over my work-from-home lunch break. We started Skype lunch dates in March during the first lockdown and have kept it up a few days a week since. It’s nice to chat, especially since we both spend much of our days alone. Most of my lunches are leftovers from whatever I made for dinner recently. I live alone but cook full recipes, which means I typically cook two to three dinners a week and spread out the leftovers.
8:30 p.m. — Time for a virtual therapy session. I’ve done some in-person therapy in the past, but now I’m trying virtual therapy through BetterHelp, which costs me $40.50 per week as part of my Employee Assistance Plan, to manage my pandemic-induced anxiety. It’s still very much a work in progress. As am I. $40.50
Daily Total: $40.50
7 a.m. — I like to alternate running/cross-training days, so I do another of my favorite video workouts: 35-Minute Nike HIIT Workout by PopSugar Fitness on YouTube. I like the combination of cardio and strength moves. I’ve recently graduated from five- to eight-pound dumbbells, so I’m sweating a bit more than usual.
4 p.m. — I log off my work email for the day, put on some music (today it’s the Dreamland album by Glass Animals), and go for a short walk, about a mile and a half. Now that it’s getting dark earlier, I’m less motivated to go for daily walks than when I could look forward to feeling the warm sun on my skin. But sitting on the couch all day makes me feel lazy, so I try to walk every day.
9:45 p.m. — On a good night, I’ve done my skincare routine—cleanser (Neutrogena Acne Stress Control), toner (Skin & Co Truffle Therapy Face Toner), moisturizer (Pond’s Clarant B3). Nothing fancy — and I’m in bed before 10 to read. Right now, I’m reading Skyhunter by Marie Lu. I check out ebooks from my local library on my iPad, so it’s all free! I love fantasy and sci-fi novels, especially, and I enjoy escaping into someone else’s world before I fall asleep around 10:30.
Daily Total: $0
6:45 a.m. — Another cold weather 5K. The wind chill is around 20 now, and there’s snow on the ground. It’s hard to motivate myself to get out there, and this morning, my body is struggling to keep up my usual pace. I’m relieved once I get back inside and shed several layers of shirts.
7 p.m. — I brew a cup of decaf chai (Toothless Tiger Chai from TeaSource) and Skype with a friend from high school. Her work puts her in a high-risk category for COVID-19, so we haven’t seen one another in person since February. But since we live across state lines anyway, we’re well-practiced at keeping up without meeting up in person. Still, I look forward to the day when I can make the drive to her place and watch rom-coms together.
9 p.m. — I spend five minutes practicing mindfulness meditation with the Calm app (I use the free version). It’s tough today — my brain is impatient, always trying to think ahead to all the work I need to get done tomorrow. But that’s the point of mindfulness: to recognize when your mind wanders off and gently bring it back to focus on the present. Today, there’s a lot of patience required in the process.
Daily Total: $0
7:45 a.m. — It’s Friday, which means I take an extra-long self-care shower after a HIIT workout. I first shampoo my hair with Neutrogena’s anti-residue clarifying shampoo. It’s the only thing that keeps my hair from feeling greasy in a building with hard water. Then I use moisturizing shampoo (OGX Argan Oil of Morocco), followed by a strengthening conditioner (OGX Anti-Breakage Keratin Oil). I have long, thick hair that takes several hours to air dry, so in lockdown I trained it to only need two washes a week.
3:30 p.m. — My Instacart order arrives for the coming week. I’m planning a seasonal tart (groceries I bought: squash, sausage, pastry sheets, onion) and homemade ramen (plain ramen noodles, sesame oil, eggs), among other things. I also bought baking ingredients for my dad’s upcoming birthday (chocolate, sour cream, flour). I usually spend about $40 to 50 shopping once a week with occasional small trips if I run out of a staple midweek, like eggs or pasta. $40
6 p.m. — My boyfriend comes over, and we have a leisurely dinner of Chinese takeout while we split a bottle of prosecco and talk about our weeks. We get increasingly giggly with each glass of prosecco, and it feels to relax and let loose a little even without going out. Eventually, we end up on the couch, where we watch a few episodes of Futurama before heading to bed around 11. $30
Daily Total: $70
9 a.m. — After an hour of me reading in bed, my boyfriend finally wakes up. We make a big breakfast of eggs and sausage, along with bananas and the last of a leftover pumpkin bread loaf I made last weekend. He has a cup of Earl Grey, and I opt for coffee. It’s another leisurely meal where we spend 10 minutes eating and 45 minutes talking. After breakfast, we bundle up for a short walk around the block before settling in for his homework and my writing.
3 p.m. — My boyfriend heads back to his place, and I head to my parents’ house to celebrate my dad’s birthday. While my parents and brother work on assembling ingredients for a massive paella with chicken, shrimp, and sausage, I whip up a frosting for the chocolate cakes I baked yesterday. Once I’ve assembled a towering double-layer chocolate cake slathered in frosting, I add some colorful sprinkles for good measure. We enjoy it with some vanilla ice cream after we’ve scarfed down the paella (and portioned out an ungodly amount of leftovers among the four of us).
11 p.m. — I get home late, but sometimes I find it difficult to fall asleep after a social event. I just bought Clinique’s City Block purifying mask, so I use that and scroll Pinterest before falling asleep.
Daily Total: $0
8 a.m. — I get out of bed, make a smoothie, and allow myself a slow morning to finish the latest episode of The Great British Baking Show. Then I do a 30-minute yoga practice with a video from PopSugar Fitness.
4 p.m. — SOURDOUGH BAKE. Yes, I tried a quarantine sourdough starter back in April, and yes, it’s still going. I’m still trying to perfect the process, but it’s so satisfying. Just flour, starter, water, and time! I keep my starter active, so I threw together the dough yesterday evening and let it rise overnight. This morning I worked it and stuck it in the fridge. Now it’s baking and my entire apartment smells like fresh bread, which is worth it even if the loaf doesn’t turn out.
6 p.m. — I try a new recipe: lemon Brussels sprouts and gnocchi from The New York Times Cooking. I subscribe to the Times’ Five Weeknight Dishes newsletter, which often links to recipes that are temporarily in front of the paywall. It takes me a little longer than the 20 minutes the recipe claims it should, but it’s worth it! The nuttiness of the cooked butter is so nice and comforting with the gnocchi. I also added sliced mushrooms for good measure. Later that evening, I finish out the weekend with another meditation session, a few episodes of Veep, and a glass of red wine. I try to keep my Sunday nights as relaxing as possible to prepare for the week ahead.
Daily Total: $0
Weekly Total: $111.49
Reflection: Routine is important to me, and each of the things I do serves a purpose, whether it’s helping me feel calm, keeping my body healthy, or keeping me connected to the people around me. I’m not the kind of person who does wellness spur-of-the-moment; I’m the kind of person who plans in advance and generally does the same things each week.
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