According to 2017 data from “lifelog” app Foursquare Swarm, Americans may be spending more time and money on self-care. There were meaningful increases in mentions of self-care activities over 2016: a 34% rise in morning yoga, 19% rise in morning walks, 16% rise in meditation, and, least surprisingly, a 17% rise in therapy. This data resonates with me and, perhaps, with you—if you’re among the increasing masses needed extra TLC in the current political climate. As Jia Tolentino recently wrote in the New Yorker: “Over the summer, in one of many small, ridiculous attempts to affirm to myself that I will outlive the Trump Administration, I decided to incorporate both retinol and sunscreen into my daily skin-care routine.”
This year, I also wanted to become both healthier and physically stronger (with better skin as a byproduct, if possible) so that I would have more energy to deal with the world every day (contrary to what Trump thinks about finite energy stores in our body). So, I began supporting women-owned self-care brands that were both stridently feminist and support social movements. If I was going to spend my money on the accouterments of self care (face masks, manicures, yoga classes, etc), I wanted to be sure that my money was going to brands that supported me, a woman of color.
One of my coping mechanisms has been obsessively attending classes at 305 Fitness, a boutique fitness class that is basically drunk dancing without the alcohol. “Unfortunately, [self care] has become really a symbol of privilege,” 305 Fitness’s founder, Sadie Kurzban, said, “Even though it does not have to be, and it should not be. We want self care to really be a time that you can refuel and recharge, so that you can come back into society to be a better, stronger person.”
Some of 305 Fitness’s activism efforts involve instructors participating in a number of Black Lives Matter marches after Election Day and selling “Nasty Don’t Quit” tank tops to benefit Planned Parenthood. The studio also offered a free class to anyone who made five calls to their government reps using 5calls.org.
“I don’t feel better after going to a rally. It puts it right there in my face,” says Elyse Fox told me as we crouched on the floor in the dressing room of The Wing, where she does in-house film-work. Fox founded Sad Girls Club in February to create a real-life community for young women of color with mental health issues. “I’m focusing on my own goals and building up my own strength.”
Like Fox, I come from a community where talking about mental health and seeking mental health is traditionally stigmatized, and self-care does not come easily—especially when its definition is conflated with indulgence. But after my first attendance at a protest against the #MuslimBan in Manhattan, I had to pull out the yoga mat. Protest is intense emotional and physical work.
Just ask civil rights activist Angela Davis. In 2014, she gave a speech on how the labor of activism has changed since the 1960s: “Self-care has to be incorporated in all of our efforts. And this is something new—this holistic approach to organizing is, I think, what is going to eventually move us along the trajectory that may lead to some victories.”
Of course, you don’t have to spend money to participate in self-care. As health care premiums are expected to rise in 2018, you may be better off saving your money for an annual physical. There are resources for self-care that don’t involve curating an Instagram-famous life—particularly if those IG feeds look nothing like you.
“As a woman of color, I subscribe to so many of these self-care or wellness newsletters and I have never, not once, seen myself in any of them,” Alisha Ramos, founder of Girls Night In, a brand dedicated to fostering inclusivity in self-care for women, told me recently. “It’s not just about making it to yoga—it can be something deeper and more meaningful too, like making sure you’re calling or FaceTiming your friends every once in a while.”
Similarly, Amber Discko, founder of Femsplain’s Aloe, launched her self-care community and newsletter on Inauguration Day. For $5, readers can support Aloe’s editorial staff and gain access to a private Slack community to share and discuss self-care tips. “I personally don’t think that there is no one way [to self care], it’s not one size fit all, so we’re offering all these different tools for people,” she tells me. “That’s really what self care is, just remembering that you have all these other things to do, but that you are the vessel that needs to be maintained in order to do those things.”
“Especially if you’re an introvert, trauma may make you draw inwards even more,” Samantha Boardman, MD, founder of Positive Prescription noted at a talk called “Depression and Anxiety in a Post-Trump World” at The Wing. “But it is important to do things—with other people!—and to look to people that you admire for ways on how to cope.” The talk turned into a group therapy session as we went around the room sharing our reasons for being there. The one thing we had in common was that we all paid about $2000 for annual membership to The Wing. Boardman told us that feeling guilty for indulging ourselves would do us no good. Instead, we should think about what it takes to strengthen ourselves without losing sight of the political climate.
So, the Trump administration, which often boasts of boosting the economy without substantial evidence, may have inadvertently boosted the self-care market—we’re practicing yoga, meditating, and visiting our therapists more often since 2016. These are acts of self-preservation. Meanwhile, President Trump is still eating KFC and drinking 12 Diet Cokes every day.