New Year who dis? A seismic shift hit 2020 (to say the least) and reverberated through all of us. It threw our priorities and goals and day-to-day habits into a high-speed blender. The topsy-turvy time also offered up an opportunity to reset, embrace the unexpected, and figure out how to keep going. Would 2019 you recognize the 2020 version?
Maybe not, but it’s okay. Out went packed race corrals and after-work happy hours. In came pure joy, sweating in unfamiliar ways, and treating your mental health with real TLC. Resettling into the new world was a bit scary at first, but now: The silver linings are everywhere.
Take these trends, turn ’em into goals, and soon, you’ll have your own breakthroughs to FaceTime with friends about in 2021. Try one, two…or all of them. New you, indeed.
Make Your Routine More Like Self-Care
Your skin-care rituals, whatever that means for you RN, can and should be a delight, according to Alyssa “Lia” Mancao, LCSW. Her tips for blissed-out beauty:
➪ “Engage in the activity with all senses,” whether it’s washing your face or applying makeup. Practice the five-four-three-two-one exercise: Describe five things you see, four things you can touch, three things you hear, two things you smell, and one thing you can taste (like a steamy cup of tea on the side).
➪ If you normally take 30 or 60 seconds to apply a serum or face oil, set a timer and see if you can extend it a little bit. Slowing down—especially in the p.m.—helps your brain transition to wind-down mode.
Clear Out Your Cabinet
➪ Pare down and organize your products to reflect how you want to feel on the inside (clean, in control!). “If you’re looking at a bunch of stuff that’s cluttered, that’s going to make you feel cluttered.” Touché.
Diversify Your Buys
Supporting the Black community shows allyship via your wallet. An allover glow is an added perk, and there are hundreds of beauty brands to sample. E-tailers like BLK+GRN and AMP Beauty LA exclusively curate Black-owned personal-care brands. On mainstream ground, Credo, Sephora, and Ulta beauty have added dedicated shelf space and landing pages for BIPOC-owned businesses. Companies like Mented Cosmetics, Pat McGrath Labs, and Fenty Beauty have pumped-up pigments that match a range of skin types and tones. Tower 28 beauty is sensitive skin–friendly, Sahajan draws on Ayurvedic tradition, and Topicals targets pigmentation and eczema, to name a few. And a reminder: Just because a brand is BIPOC-owned doesn’t mean it’s culturally specific.
Green Your Counter How Brooke DeVard Ozaydinli, 31, Naked Beauty Podcast creator/host, reimagined her own routine and cooked up sustainable products. “Inspired by Black women on YouTube, I started using melted shea butter and jojoba oil as a deep conditioner for my hair. Then I tackled skin care: I replaced pre-soaked makeup-remover pads with grapeseed oil cleansing. The difference was palpable. It was like eating a garden-fresh salad with real living ingredients for lunch instead of a protein bar. It was fun.”
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Steer Your Sleep on a Better Path
More time at home didn’t improve our dismal snooze stats (a third of us are sleep-deprived). In fact, the pandemic created a host of new bed issues. We’ve got hacks, from neuroscientist Claudia Aguirre, PhD, a WH advisor, to get your sleep back on track.
Control Your Temp
➪ When your body changes temperature quickly, it induces sleep progression (read: fast-forward to Drowsy Town). If you don’t have time for a nightly warm bath, try a cozy foot soak (aim for close to 98 degrees), then head to your cool bedroom (set in the high 60s).
➪ “I spray my bed with lavender or rose,” says Aguirre. Repeat every night and, over time, the scent connects with your mind and makes it clear it’s time to wrap up the day.
Do Heart Openers
➪ Tap into the relaxation response with some in-bed yoga. Lie on your back and lift your butt up slightly as you take several deep breaths (bridge pose). End with savasana (flat on your back, arms and legs relaxed). “Stretching your chest helps you oxygenate better.”
Study Your Data
Keep tabs on your body between IRL doc appointments with deets on your wrist. Something as simple as your step count can be “a wake-up call to some and an incentive for others,” says Julie Levitt, MD, obstetrician-gynecologist at the Women’s Group of Northwestern. Your perceived activity and actual movement can be very different, especially if you work remotely. The new Apple Watch model has a pulse oximeter, which can be a first alert if you have asthma or you’re feeling a little off. Sleep trackers, like the Oura Ring and any Fitbit device, can tell you if that wonky feeling is actually because you’re zonked and not getting enough quality Zs.
Embrace the Power of Plants Crystal Hadnott, 42, altered her home environment for reasons deeper than a fab Zoom background. “I have Graves’ disease, which is an autoimmune disorder. When COVID-19 hit, I became more focused on trying to de-stress via what’s around me. I had spider plants and peace lilies, and I added aloe vera plants. Tending to them truly changes how I feel. Next up: a virtual plant-mom group!”
Prioritize Your Happiness
If your house doesn’t have a sturdy foundation…well, you know the rest. The same applies to your mental wellness, as last year made crystal clear. Here’s a starter pack of ideas from Glissen Rhode, a mindfulness expert, to prioritize your mental health.
Make a Bliss List
➪ Write down all the activities, people, and things that bring you joy. Create a real hard-copy list with pen and paper or use the notes app on your phone, whichever is more accessible for you. Try to remember to refresh it often.
Check In on How It’s Going
➪ Make time to review this list in a quiet spot once a week. It’s a nice baseline to see how many smile-making activities you’re doing regularly and what you can add for more feel-good days.
Shout Your Gratitude
➪ Let people actually know you are grateful for them (it’ll benefit you too, swear). Tell them out loud, send a text or handwritten note, or write a glowing review. Counting your blessings has a positive effect on your emotional well-being, per research.
Commit to Therapy
Can you imagine if visiting a mental health pro were viewed the same way as seeing a dentist or primary care physician? We’re getting there. Finding a therapist can be intimidating, but fortunately, the past year made it doable—a side effect we’re glad to have stick around. Industry leaders like Talkspace saw a 65 percent increase in the first month of lockdown, and the latest apps offer additional aid. BetterHelp uses a quiz to connect you with an expert. Larkr taps algorithms to pair you with a therapist based on personalized info. And Supportiv puts you in a small group with a moderator based on your specific struggle.
Lean Into Digital Connections Macala Lacy, a marriage and family therapist and yoga teacher, launched the The Well Healing community (@thewellhealing) to share support and foster collaboration. “As a queer Black woman, the mental health resources I needed—like a relatable therapist or a yoga instructor of color—were not available. So I decided to create them, launching a social media channel and workshops on topics like how to practice trauma-informed yoga. The beautiful thing about this crazy time is that there’s more access, which allows us to come together in new ways. It’s amazing to see new bonds blossom on the screen.”
Eat—and Cook—for Gut Health
Now that staying well is top priority, chatter about the microbiome is a full-on roar. This plan from Amanda Baker Lemein, WH advisor and registered dietitian, is a great gut check.
Put Prebiotics on Every Plate
➪ Probiotics break down prebiotic fiber to release the short-chain fatty acids that provide health benefits. Consuming the pre stuff—in asparagus, artichokes, bananas, garlic, onions, whole grains—means diverse bacteria will thrive. Work into snacks and meals.
Favor Fermented Foods
➪ Naturally probiotic-rich foods include sauerkraut and kimchi, kefir, yogurt with “live and active cultures,” kombucha, tempeh, and miso. Add more to your menus.
➪ Artificial sweeteners, as well as sugars like maple syrup, honey, and cane, can disrupt the gut microbiome. While an occasional cupcake won’t instantly throw off that delicate bacteria balance, be aware that they can add up quickly. So go easy on the sweet stuff.
Upgrade Your Gadgets
Make like gourmet chefs (or WH eds!) and take your tools up a notch for a difference you’ll love. The Oxo salad chopper, which looks like a double pizza cutter, pairs with a bowl to turn a pile of veggies into a plate of yum. “Having a chopped salad means you’re going to eat more veg because it looks smaller,” says Lemein. Dull cutlery can get a new life with Knife Aid, a mail-in knife sharpening service. Cuisipro Green Herb Keeper extends the life of cut plants up to two weeks and preserves antioxidants. Or go for a compact star like a Braun immersion blender to make soup. Chef’s kiss!
Elevate Your Morning Meal Why Izzy Sanchez, 28, an ER nurse in California, powers up her day with a protein-packed meal (and can’t ever go back to blah b’fasts). “I used to load up on carbs in the a.m. or just skip it altogether. Then I started working with a nutrition coach and realized that with a solid meal—whether it’s an omelet or a stack of protein pancakes—everything changes. Dealing with COVID-19 patients is draining. Hangry does not work. I have to be on my game; protein is what gets me through the day. I also add collagen powder to my coffee.”
Become a Virtual Fitness Whiz
What was once reserved for elite devotees is now approachable at all levels. A few taps get you from couch to sweat with a plethora of digital offerings. The mother of ’em all? Apple’s Fitness+. We’ve got Julz Arney from Apple’s Fitness Technologies team here to help you own your moves, even if you’re just starting.
Know That Every Little Bit Counts.
➪ For ex, Apple’s Simple and Quick shelf points you directly to 10- and 20-minute workouts chosen by trainers for straightforward moves anyone can master. Or “stack them together to create a longer session with variety,” says Arney. (Think of it as the best kind of buffet; mix and match!)
Get Fired Up With Competition.
➪ Motivate yourself to push harder by racing against others—most digital programs have a feature like this. It’s there for a reason! For Fitness+, your Apple Watch stats will appear onscreen, and the “Burn Bar shows how your current effort stacks up against anyone who has done the same workout,” says Arney. Use it to move it.
Don’t Skip the Cooldowns.
➪ “At the end of each Fitness+ workout is an option to tap for a Mindful Cooldown,” says Arney. “These are 5- to 10-minute flexibility and mobility routines along with a short meditation.” It might be tempting to forgo, but it’s time well spent: Cooldowns help you perform at your peak.
The magic of two wheels: Leisure bike sales were up 203 percent, and stationary ones exploded by 270 percent in April of last year, per the NPD Group. Get ahead of the warm-weather rush and hit up a bike shop when it’s less busy; you can tune up or get fitted for a hybrid bike, the versatile pick for newbies. Whatever you choose, “don’t put up with discomfort,” says Jennifer Sharp, USA Cycling coach. Grab padded shorts and a women’s saddle. On the road, use the Stages Dash M50 cycling computer, which shows color-coded paths. The Garmin Varia Rearview Radar adds eyes in the back of your head
if you’re nervous about riding with cars. Want to pull the trigger on a Peloton for indoor action? Be prepared to wait, but it’s #WorthIt.
Truly Enjoy Working Out Jenn Lohmann, 36, found a routine that gave her all the heart-eyes. “In March 2020, I lost access to my gym. I panic-ordered two 15-pound kettlebells and signed up for Body and Bell on the Ladder app. For a few months, it was me and my kettlebells in my apartment, and I fell in love. I’ve mastered a Turkish get-up, a snatch, and kettlebell dances. I’m way more confident; it’s empowering. I get excited when I see my kettlebells now, and I plan to continue…forever.”