September 23, 2021
The concept of self-care has been around for decades, but it’s taken off in recent years as a mode adopted by individuals, especially in the millennial generation. The coronavirus pandemic further popularized the idea of taking care of yourself as millions faced the unprecedented challenges of navigating a pandemic, quarantines, and caring for others that came with it.
What does it mean to practice self-care? Any discussion related to self-care needs to start with the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense. While the term “self-care” was used in medical circles as a concept for patients to take care of themselves, it was the leaders of the Black Panther Party who reframed “self-care” as a practice to both survive incarceration and the broader harm that a racist society wroughts on the physical and mental health of Black people. Nutrition, yoga, exercise, and meditation became concrete activities taught by Black Panther leaders in service of the party’s Ten-Point Program, written in October 1966.
As it gained in popularity, self-care was absorbed into training and practices for jobs that are especially stressful, exhausting, or traumatic, such as social workers and some workers in medical professions. The idea behind self-care in this sphere evolved into caring for yourself so you are able to continue doing difficult work. This same ethos is practiced by activists and organizers who use the tenants of self-care as a way to cope with the important but draining work of leading social movements on the ground. You can’t sustain such work, the argument goes, if you don’t also take care of yourself. Audre Lorde summed it up well in 1988 when she wrote, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation and that is an act of political warfare.”
Today, self-care is a well-known term that’s been incorporated—some might say appropriated—into the larger health and wellness industry. Millennials may be more into self-care than older generations because they are also more attuned to their mental health, and self-care plays an important part in a healthy mind, especially for those dealing with mental and chronic illness.
While it may have strayed from its radical roots, self-care can still be a way take care of yourself in an unjust system—treating the symptoms of a society so we can move through it with at least some happiness, and maybe a little energy left to do the things we love, take care of each other, and work to make a system that benefits everyone.
While celebrities don’t typically face the struggles that self-care was originally designed for, their influence often sets trends, and that can be a good thing when it comes to paying attention to our mental wellness and learning about self-care. Sunday Citizen compiled a list of 15 ways celebrities practice self-care, using interviews and blog posts. From meditation to cooking to therapy, read on to find out how some of your favorite celebs show themselves a little love.
Jennifer Aniston: Meditation and journaling
Jennifer Aniston has been vocal about the various ways she cares for herself for decades, long before it was a trend or hashtag. While her routine has certainly changed a number of times over the years, she broke down her current habits in a June 2021 interview with E! News. Aniston told the outlet her #1 priority is “meditation, that’s a no brainer.” During the first hour of her morning, she stays away from her phone completely—that means no emails, and no social media—choosing to start her day in a more focused way: meditation, journaling, and time with her dogs Clyde, Sophie, and Lord Chesterfield. The “Friends” alumna said these practices help her “gear up for the day ahead,” stay mindful, and feel as though she’s thriving mentally, psychically, and spiritually.
Photo Credit: gotpap/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images // Getty Images
Prince Harry: Meditation
Jennifer Aniston isn’t the only celebrity who turns to meditation to care for herself. Prince Harry revealed on a podcast he also practices meditation daily, and he often utilizes it to deal with negative press and social media abuse. The former senior royal said, “The importance of creating time in your day to take a breath and focus on the things that really matter, that builds up a certain amount of resilience.” Meditation, the process of training your mind to focus and redirecting your thoughts, has been scientifically proven to reduce stress and anxiety, lower blood pressure, and enhance self-awareness. Essentially, the practice balances your body’s systems and forces them into a more relaxed state, which then allows you to experience more positive emotions like happiness and calm.
Photo Credit: Kirsty Wigglesworth // Getty Images
Demi Lovato: Aromatherapy
Demi Lovato’s self-care routine involves a host of small things, from meditation to music to massages, that add up over time. In an interview with Apple Music, one unique method they discussed using is aromatherapy. While the scientific benefits of essential oils aren’t yet fully understood, studies have shown they may be able to help elevate moods, lower anxiety levels, and improve sleep. The oils can be used in a variety of ways, like in diffusers or aroma sticks, but experts agree the best and safest ways to use them are as body oils or in aromatherapy accessories. Lavender oil, tea tree oil, peppermint oil, and lemon oil are some of the most popular varieties and are often the easiest to find for beginners.
Photo Credit: Rich Fury // Getty Images
Serena Williams: Video games
Balancing motherhood and being the greatest tennis player of all time certainly isn’t an easy feat. In order to make sure she’s giving her best to both roles, Serena Williams makes a concerted effort to carve out some self-care time at least once a week. Her go-to activities vary, but one mainstay is playing video games on her Nintendo Switch. While gaming may not be the first thing that comes to mind for many of us, there are proven mental health benefits that stem from an absorbing session. Namely, while playing video games, the brain enters into something called a flow state, which is similar to meditation. While in this state the brain becomes hyperfocused on the task at hand and ceases to generate other intrusive thoughts, allowing us a reprieve from the chaos of regular life.
Photo Credit: M. Caulfield/WireImage for Harrison & Shriftman // Getty Images
Lady Gaga: Gratitude
Lady Gaga has been open and honest with her fans about her struggle with mental health throughout her years in the public eye. She’s also been vocal about the practices, like gratitude, that help her cope with mental illness and allow her to care for herself at her lowest moments. Practicing gratitude, or showing thankful appreciation for the tangible and intangible things we receive, has been strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness, according to Harvard University. It also has a major impact on physical health—improving sleep, boosting immunity, and decreasing the risk of disease. Keeping a gratitude journal, counting your blessings, or writing thank-you notes are all great ways to begin practicing gratitude in your own life.
Photo Credit: Jason Koerner/Getty Images for Oprah // Getty Images
Laverne Cox: Therapy
Actress and activist Laverne Cox’s most important self-care practice? Therapy. She told Parade magazine that she’s been in and out of therapy for 20 years, and has kept up her weekly appointments via video chat during the COVID-19 pandemic. A good therapist helps you develop tools to deal with tough emotions so that you can live a more happy, healthy, and balanced life. The work isn’t always easy—it’s certainly much harder than applying a face mask or sitting for a pedicure—but it can literally be life-changing for those who commit to the process.
Photo Credit: Joe Scarnici/Getty Images for Netflix // Getty Images
Emma Roberts: Sound baths
Emma Roberts may be known for being a bookworm—check out her online book club, Belletrist—but diving into a great novel isn’t the only way the actor practices self-care. Roberts told British Vogue she became obsessed with sound baths during her COVID-19 quarantine, and she does them regularly as a bit of meditation. For the uninitiated, a sound bath is exactly what you think it is: waves of soothing, echoing sound that come from traditional wind and percussion instruments. The vibrations that are played during a sound bath are thought to help with the symptoms of stress, fatigue, and depression. While experts are quick to say that sound baths shouldn’t be used in place of more traditional treatments, they agree that the auditory exercise can be an excellent complement to more proven methods.
Photo Credit: BG028/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images // Getty Images
Michelle Obama: Regular exercise and good sleep
Former first lady Michelle Obama knows a thing or two about busy schedules and work stress. But rather than succumb to the pressure, these realities have pushed her to be more vocal about the importance of prioritizing yourself and your needs. While speaking at the 25th Anniversary Essence Festival in New Orleans in 2019, she said “We have to start having conversations … about why it’s so hard for us as women to put ourselves first,” noting, “If we don’t have our act together as women … we aren’t going to be able to get our kids on track.” She revealed on Instagram that her go-to methods of self-care include regular exercise, good sleep, and time to recharge. While researchers have long agreed that regular exercise can help with conditions like depression and anxiety—thanks to the release of chemicals in the brain like serotonin—new studies find that it also is a mood booster. As little as 10 minutes of activity a day, like walking or jogging, has been demonstrated to raise folks’ levels of joy, happiness, and contentment significantly.
Photo Credit: Rick Friedman/WHITE HOUSE POOL/Corbis/VCG // Getty Images
Adam Levine: Yoga
Like Michelle Obama, Adam Levine cares for his overall well-being by moving his body regularly. The Maroon 5 frontman prefers yoga to all other forms of exercise, writing on Instagram that “It has had such a profoundly positive impact on my life over the years.” He reportedly spends at least an hour a day on the practice and even takes it with him on the road.
Dr. Natalie Nevins, a board-certified osteopathic family physician and Kundalini Yoga instructor, knows a thing or two about the benefits of yoga. She told the American Osteopathic Association, “Regular yoga practice creates mental clarity and calmness, increases body awareness, relieves chronic stress patterns, relaxes the mind, centers attention, and sharpens concentration.”
Photo Credit: MEGA/GC Images // Getty Images
Viola Davis: Cooking
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Viola Davis, like many of us, found herself with a lot more free time on her hands. So she picked up a few new hobbies, like cooking, which she’s made a regular part of her self-care routine. Cooking, whether you’re following a recipe step-by-step or coming up with an entirely new dish, is a creative activity. And creativity has been shown to improve brain function, mental health, and physical health. If cooking isn’t your speed, consider adding another creative activity into your routine, like writing, drawing, or crafting, and watch the benefits start adding up.
Photo Credit: Jesse Grant/Getty Images for GBK Productions // Getty Images
Oprah: Taking a day off
One of the busiest women in Hollywood, Oprah has had to learn to prioritize self-care in order to avoid burnout. The primary way she shows herself a little love and recharges her batteries, is by taking a day off. The mogul wrote on her website, “I always give myself Sundays as a spiritual base of renewal—a day when I do absolutely nothing. I sit in my jammies or take a walk, and I allow myself time to BE—capital B-E—with myself. When I don’t, I absolutely become stressed, irritable, anxiety-prone, and not the person I want to be in the world.” While you may not have the luxury of taking a whole day off each week, try scheduling in at least a small block of non-negotiable time to do whatever it is that makes your heart sing. You’re sure to find that you feel more relaxed and centered after the fact.
Photo Credit: Robino Salvatore/GC Images // Getty Images
Frank Ocean: A good skin care routine
Frank Ocean may be in his early 30s, but his skin looks like it belongs to a 20-something thanks to his devotion to a precise skin care routine. The musician told GQ all about his self-care practice saying, “I need the night cream because when I wake up I feel very beautiful, moisturized, and ready to have people making eye contact with me. That’s the life hack right there.” Sanam Hafeez, a psychologist, agrees with Ocean about the importance of a skin care routine, noting its value as an act of physical self-care as well as mental self-care. She told Byrdie, “A skin care routine, like any other form of self-care, can be soothing and calming. On a deeper level, it makes you feel like you’re honoring yourself aesthetically, by taking time out for yourself. Those few minutes, if spent going through the steps in a rhythmic, calm, and purposeful manner, can almost be meditative."
Photo Credit: Robert Kamau/GC Images // Getty Images
Gwyneth Paltrow: Bubble baths and Japanese whisky
As she’s built an empire with self-care products and information, it should be totally unsurprising to learn Gwyneth Paltrow has a very specific self-care routine. The actor and entrepreneur told British Vogue she “tries to carve out 20 minutes at the end of each day to draw a bath, put on a mask, and read, listen to podcasts or just text about ‘Tiger King.’ Often with a heavy pour of Japanese whiskey.” Recent studies have shown that Paltrow, and other bath-loving folks, may be on to something, as regular warm baths may have a greater impact on your mood than regular physical exercise. The theory is that warm water helps regulate circadian rhythms, which often get out of sync during stressful, anxious, and depressive periods of life.
Photo Credit: Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images for Goop // Getty Images
Mindy Kaling: Epsom salt soaks
Another celebrity who loves to wind down with a hot soak, Mindy Kaling adds bath salts to her end of the day, self-care bath. The actor, writer, and producer credits her publicist for turning her on to the trend, saying that she turns the ritual into a Mariah Carey music video, complete with rose petals, candles, and a glass of wine. Epsom salts, like the ones Kaling uses, are often recommended by integrative health specialists for their physical and mental benefits. The mineral is known to relax muscles, especially those in the shoulders, back, neck, and skull where a lot of tension is generally carried. It’s also thought to help stabilize moods and relieve conditions like depression, anxiety, and stress. As little as 15 minutes of soaking in an Epsom salt bath is enough to reap the myriad of benefits.
Photo Credit: Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images for POPSUGAR Play/Ground // Getty Images
Snoop Dogg: Manicures
On more than one occasion, rapper Snoop Dogg has shared pictures of his manicures on Instagram. The “Gin and Juice” performer seems to prefer a simple french manicure with black and white tips, but he doesn’t shy away from more detailed nail art when the occasion calls for it. He’s even defended his habit against haters, a la 50 Cent, saying “real playas keep they nails fly fresh n dipped at the tip.” Getting a manicure or pedicure at a salon may seem like a frivolous indulgence, but it can actually be a powerful way to practice self-care. The hour you spend in the chair acts as a kind of forced time out, requiring you to step back from the frantic pace of daily life and just be still while your polish dries. Couple that forced downtime with some deep breathing practices, and you can walk out of the salon feeling like a brand new person.
Photo Credit: Scott Dudelson // Getty Images