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. Have your own Feel Good Diary to submit? You can do so here!
Today: A librarian whose self-care routine includes reading, using a therapy app, and practicing the traditional Jewish Sabbath.
Location: Washington, D.C.
6:30 a.m. — I usually wake up early on Sundays. I settle in for a quiet morning and make myself coffee in the French press with a sprinkle of hawaij, a delicious spice blend I make at home based on a recipe from Molly Yeh’s cookbook, Molly on the Range ($23.64).
While I drink my coffee, I do some journaling and read my favorite section of the New York Times: the book review. I’m a librarian, a voracious reader, and a self-proclaimed nerd, and this is one of my favorite ways to find reading recommendations. I gifted my husband a subscription last year for our anniversary, and we enjoyed it so much I renewed it this year for $5 per week. I already have the coffee and the spices on hand from my last trip to the store.
9:30 a.m. — My husband is finally awake, so we get ready to go to the farmers’ market, which is a short walk from our apartment. We drop off our compost there, and almost always run into friends. After browsing, schmoozing, and sampling, we get a ton of parsley, apples, and pears — they’re so fresh this time of year, and we like to support local farmers. We also hit up a local grocery store so we can meal prep later in the day. The haul, which we pay for with money from our shared “family” pot, comes to $45.
I hit the jackpot and found a spouse who, like me, is vegetarian and loves to cook. We take our time in the kitchen when we get home, and listen to podcasts such as NPR’s Wait, Wait… Don’t Tell Me! My husband makes a delicious fragrant tagine stew with different kinds of squash, and I make couscous to go with it. I also make a big pan of baked oatmeal with apples and cinnamon. It’s delicious, healthy, and saves a lot of time in the morning when I make enough for the coming week.
10 p.m. — I get a reminder on my phone to take my medication. My doctor recommended I take my antidepressant at night instead of in the morning because it was making me sleepy. So now I just take most of my meds and supplements before bed (I try to take iron and B12 vitamins from CVS, $17.77, a few times a week). I pay for my medications through the Flexible Spending Account I get through work, which saves me money on taxes.
After 10 p.m., my phone essentially turns into a pumpkin. I have it set up to automatically switch to “wind down” mode, putting the display in grayscale and the phone in do not disturb mode. I leave my phone outside the bedroom when I go to sleep, and wear an iFitness Pulse watch that acts as a vibrating alarm clock. It also tracks my sleep and steps, in varying degrees of accuracy. I got the band as a free gift through my health insurance company because I did an assessment.
Daily total: $91.41
6:45 a.m. — I tried to wake up earlier today, but instead overslept. I have a dermatologist appointment at 7 this morning, so I quickly get dressed, throw the breakfast and lunch I packed in my bag, and book it to their office. Luckily, it’s just a few blocks away. Thank goodness I got everything ready last night — good job, past me!
I started seeing a dermatologist about a year ago, partly for some medical concerns and partly for skincare advice. I feel overwhelmed by all the beauty information and products out there, and it’s helpful to have a professional opinion. I don’t have a copay this time, so I won’t know how much the appointment costs until I get my bill — isn’t the American healthcare roulette such a fun game? On the real though, I’m incredibly privileged to have a good insurance plan, and it’s absurd that this is considered a luxury that only some people luck into.
1 p.m. — Since I know the rest of the week will be fairly busy, I decide to have a quiet, not-so-sad desk lunch. If I’ve learned one thing from constantly flipping through Bon Appetit (our subscription this year is free because we were missing a bunch of issues last year), it’s that fresh herbs make everything better — especially during lunch “al desko.” I heat up my tagine in the office pantry and sprinkle it with the fresh parsley, which makes me feel fancy AF.
7 p.m. — My husband is grabbing dinner with friends from work, so that means a quiet evening watching shows that would scare the shit out of him. I slap on an Aveeno pumpkin seed face mask ($13.99), run a hot bath, and watch The Haunting of Hill House on Netflix (it’s based on a great Shirley Jackson book). Like a good millennial, I use a relative’s Netflix account.
Daily Total: $13.99
6:15 a.m. — I wake up before my alarm, and pour myself some coffee. Instead of immediately scrolling through my phone, I’ve been trying to just sit and enjoy my warm drink while zoning out, meditating, and easing into the morning. I get dressed, hop on my bicycle, and head to work. It’s about three miles each way, and it’s a gorgeous ride through the National Mall. I commute by bike every day, unless I know it’s going to rain. This is a free way to get in exercise and fresh air. I don’t use my phone or headphones when I bike, so I have some peace and quiet to get ready for the morning or reflect on the day.
7:15 p.m. — I don’t normally do workout classes on days I bike to work, but there’s an “antigravity yoga” session tonight that I love. I book it through ClassPass. I have the “Lite” plan, which costs $15 per month. The instructor helps us use aerial silks that hang from the ceiling to stretch and do inversions. It’s a lot of fun, but I’m definitely out of practice — all the hanging upside down eventually gives me a headache and makes my tummy unhappy. I head home, take a hot shower, and drink some diet ginger ale. This is an important reminder not to push my body too hard.
10:30 p.m. — I know my husband will be up late watching political news, so I turn in and pick up the book I started earlier in the week, The Snakes by Sadie Jones. The book is free from the library because duh. I try to read in bed for 20 to 30 minutes before I go to sleep, which helps me wind down. It works like a charm, and I’m out like a light by 11 p.m.
Daily Total: $15
8 a.m. — When I get to work, I eat breakfast at my desk and pay my boss for our “office water club.” We voluntarily pay for access to a filtered water cooler, although there are various fountains around the office that we can use for free. I think of it as an investment in staying hydrated; plus there’s a hot water tap for when I want to have tea. This month we each owe $6.80. I’m normally the kind of person who disdains the idea of paying for something that’s usually free, but the regular water fountain tastes gross, is room temperature to lukewarm, and is much farther from my desk than the cooler.
12 p.m. — Time for practice at my local choir. I love singing and have participated in various choirs consistently since high school. I think of it as self-care for my brain. My office has one that rehearses on weekdays during lunchtime, and we’re gearing up for our holiday concert. Dues are $10 for the season.
5 p.m. — I meet a friend at the coffee shop Joe & the Juice after work. I haven’t seen her in a few months, and truly missed her. It feels so good to catch up over smoothies, and I insist on treating since she paid the last time we met up. The total comes to $14.80.
Daily Total: $31.60
6:40 a.m. — I get up between my first and second alarms and have oatmeal and coffee at home. It’s supposed to rain today, so I decide to take the bus to work. I listen to NPR’s Up First podcast, which is the exact length of my walk to the bus stop.
During the ride, I spend some time on Sanvello, an app that’s billed as “on-demand help for stress, anxiety, and depression.” It’s designed around principles of cognitive behavioral therapy, and I have it set to send me a notification at a random time of day asking “How are you feeling?” I can rate my mood and get suggestions for different activities, including journaling and guided meditation. It also helps me track my “self-care” activities. While (for me) it’s not a substitute for talk therapy and medication, I’ve found it to be a helpful tool to navigate my anxiety, identify triggers, and build coping mechanisms. The app is free to download and you can pay to access all the features. My in-laws (who are retired therapists) gifted me a year’s premium subscription for my birthday.
10:30 a.m. — I hit a slump during a long training at work and decide to snack on some salted nuts. I pay 16.08 a month for a deluxe subscription to the snack box company Love With Food. It’s a fun way to mix up my food options between meals, and I like that I can count on the delivery monthly. Plus, the company donates a meal to a food bank for every box you get.
12 p.m. — During lunchtime there’s a free yoga class in my office that’s led by fellow staff members. Today’s class is a great vinyasa flow, finishing off with some stretches and restorative poses. It’s a really nice break during the day, and I go back to work feeling relaxed and recharged.
6 p.m. — My husband and I are hosting a dinner party tomorrow night, so tonight we have our own little cooking rendezvous. We’re planning to make Challah bread, salad, butternut squash and apple soup with red lentils, and an oven polenta with roasted mushrooms and thyme.
We usually plan our menus around the contents of our produce from our Community Supported Agriculture produce share. We get it for $30 per week through our farmers’ market, but right now it’s out of season. To replace the access to produce, we get a Hungry Harvest produce box, which sends us “imperfect” or surplus fruits and veggies that can’t be sold in the store (yay less food waste!). We signed up for the “full harvest” using a friend’s promo code, which came to $18.50 for 10 different kinds of fruits and veggies. We get the rest of the ingredients we’ll need at Trader Joe’s for $36.60.
After we get all the ingredients we’ll need, we take a quick break before we start meal-prepping to grab dinner. It’s perfect ramen weather, and there’s a tiny place around the corner that does an incredible vegetarian bowl. We relish the noodles and broth, and even have some leftovers. We agree that I’ll take the ramen for lunch tomorrow at work, and my husband can finish the last of the baked oatmeal we made this weekend for breakfast. It feels like I won that compromise. Dinner (and tomorrow’s lunch) with tip comes to $34.40.
Daily Total: $105.58
7:30 a.m. — I’m at my desk enjoying my coffee with some Olyra Ancient Greek Grains Breakfast Biscuits from my snack box. It’s time for one of my favorite parts of Friday: reading this week’s Girls Night In newsletter, which offers self-care recommendations and reads for homebodies like me.
I’m at work extra early so I can get home before sunset. I keep a traditional Jewish Sabbath and consider it to be an essential cornerstone of my self-care practice. Every single weekend, for 25 hours, my husband and I don’t work, drive or take public transportation, spend money, or use any technology. That might sound restrictive, but it feels much more like a retreat than an obligation. Every week, I look forward to unplugging, connecting with friends and family IRL, and checking in with myself. It feels liberating and radical to say “no thanks” to the insatiable attention economy, even just for one day.
7 p.m. — Shabbat has started, and soon our apartment is full of the smell of delicious food, and the sounds of half a dozen friends. No one checks their phones (and everyone miraculously survives). We eat, talk, drink, and laugh, with the conversation spanning from campaign finance reform to The Little Mermaid Live stage show. Suddenly, we realize it’s almost midnight. After cleaning up a bit, my husband and I go to bed, feeling grateful for our community.
Daily total: $0
11 a.m. — Another benefit to keeping Shabbat? Catching up on sleep. With nothing to get up for and no phones or alarms around, it’s not uncommon for me to sleep for 12 hours Friday night, and then take an afternoon nap on Saturday. On another week, we might go to services, but we have no plans today, so we have a lazy morning of reading and chatting over breakfast.
2 p.m. — We’re starting to think about buying a place, so we walk to a few different open houses, just going wherever we see a sign for one. It’s fun to look at homes that could potentially be ours someday. It’s also nice to wander without a plan or a destination, just exploring. By the time we get home it hits us that Shabbat is over in just a few hours. My husband takes a nap, and I settle into my favorite spot: a cozy chair by the window, with a blanket, my book, and a cup of tea. As the sun sets and the sky slowly changes, I finish The Snakes, and then another book. By the time I come up for air, Shabbat is over.
8 p.m. — My bestie and I have a standing Saturday night date. She’s in the neighborhood already so she comes over and we catch up while raiding my fridge and watching a terrible rom-com on Netflix. Our decade-long friendship is one of the most important relationships in my life, and I’m so glad we live in the same city.
Daily Total: $0
Weekly Total: $257.58
Reflection: As someone with anxiety, things like exercising and getting enough rest are incredibly important to me — for both physical and mental health.
On my mental health journey, I’ve realized how important it is to practice self-care when you need it, not just when you feel like you “deserve” or have “earned” it. I’ve learned the hard way that if I try to postpone it until I’m less busy or have more time, I’ll just end up burning out.
For me, medication, talk therapy, a strong support system, and taking time for myself is crucial to my well-being. These elements not only help keep my anxiety at bay, but they also equip me with the tools to handle stressors or panic attacks when they do happen.
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