Take inspiration from these self-care practices from around the world, including afternoon naps, embracing laziness and drinking in your underwear.
Life as we know it has been turned on its head this year, with the global pandemic forcing governments around the world to impose various restrictions. As we adjust to our new reality, managing stress and staying on top of self-care is a priority. From simple tips to long-held traditions, take inspiration from these wellness rituals from around the world and practise some lockdown self-care.
With all the extra time we’re spending at home, a lot of us are feeling the pressure to keep ourselves busy by learning new skills or following rigorous fitness regimes. Keeping busy might work for some, but it’s more than OK to use this time to slow down and enjoy the sensation of simply being. In Italy, there’s a phrase that focuses on the art of doing nothing – il dolce far niente. It’s a philosophy that’s ingrained in the Italian way of life, one that encourages enjoying the moment and finding pleasure in idleness. In our new reality, reframing our idea of laziness as an act of self-care and living il dolce far niente could really take the pressure off.
In China, drinking hot water is a healthcare practice with its origins in ancient Chinese medicine. From regulating body temperature to aiding digestion, the health benefits of hot water are seemingly endless. Siukei Cheung, a former commissioning editor at Culture Trip, says she drinks a glass of hot water first thing in the morning, as doing so is thought to kick-start your digestive system and detoxify your body. If you’re struggling with anxiety during the crisis, replacing your usual cup of coffee with a mug of hot water might be a good idea.
Ever heard the phrase “laughter is the best medicine”? It’s a theory put into practice with laughter yoga, a movement started in India by Dr Madan Kataria in 1995. As you’d expect, laughter yoga involves a series of stretching exercises intended to provoke fits of giggles. The stress-busting benefits of laughter – even fake laughter – have been proven time and again; laughing is a simple way to naturally release endorphins and trigger feelings of elation. You don’t need someone else around to crack jokes, either, as there are plenty of laughter yoga tutorials to follow online.
The rituals and regimens of Ayurveda, a holistic healing practice with origins in ancient India, can prove to be a great way to establish order and routine in your day during quarantine. Its core principles involve waking up before the sun, meditating and practising self-care rituals such as oil massages. “I practice a few Ayurvedic rituals every day, like drinking lemon in hot water,” says Josephine Platt, commissioning editor at Culture Trip. She also practises oil pulling, whereby you swill your mouth with coconut oil. It might seem like a strange thing to do, but as with many Ayurvedic practices, it has health benefits and is thought to strengthen your gums and whiten your teeth. “My boyfriend thinks I’m very odd,” she says.
If you’ve ever got home from work, slipped into comfy clothing and cracked open a beer, you’ve practised a Finnish tradition known as kalsarikännit. The word literally translates to “underwear-drunk”, and while it might seem like an unusual philosophy to live by, at its essence it captures the feeling of relaxing in your most comfortable, natural state, and throwing inhibitions out the window. It’s an easy ritual to practise, particularly in the era of isolation: achieving kalsarikännit relies on only you, your favourite spot on the couch and your beverage of choice.
From the Japanese inemuri to the Spanish siesta, taking a midday nap is a lifestyle habit observed in many cultures across the world. It might seem counterintuitive to get back into bed when you haven’t even left the house, but according to native Andalucian Silvia Chiclana Chaves, the siesta is proving a comforting practice in times of uncertainty – and is even helping with productivity. “For me, siesta is a really productive and comforting thing when your mind is busy and overwhelmed, especially during these times of stress in quarantine,” she says. “A short 30-minute rest can reset your mind and well-being; some people will have a coffee, I will have my siesta.” Timing your siesta is key, however. “Any longer than 30 minutes, and you will be tired for the rest of the day.”
Sometimes, something as simple as a cup of tea can do wonders for calming nerves and bringing a feeling of warmth and wellness to your day. The British are the biggest proponents of the comfort provided by a humble cup of tea, drinking over 60bn cups a year. Taking a break for tea and biscuits in the afternoon is a custom that’s been observed in Britain since the 19th century – for many Brits, there’s nothing that can’t be solved by a good cuppa.