All self-care routines should have the same first step—and a lot of people don’t do it


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Photo: Getty Images/Westend61; Graphics: Well+Good Creative

If you created an equation for self care based solely on the contents of your Instagram feed, you’d be left with something like bubble bath + face mask + photogenic fiction novel = bliss. What that formula leaves out though is that, for so many of us, the decision to start taking care of ourselves is sparked by feeling unwell in some aspect(s) of our lives. But somewhere along the way for many, amid unicorn-colored bath bombs and fancy AF facials, the original intentions got lost in the self-care shuffle.

At Well+Good’s latest TALK in New York City, panelist Elisa Shankle, interior designer and co-founder of HealHaus, asked the audience: What if you audited all your self-care practices to see which ones actually provide the necessary tools to conduct deep-healing work? “I really encourage people to discover what’s good for them. To not necessarily do all of the things they can, but to really listen to themselves,” she said. “When it comes to wellness and self care and all of these things, we need to check in with ourselves.”

According to Shankle, sitting down to ask yourself what you need in every moment is the single-most game-changing habit you can add to your life. And doing this—asking yourself what part of you needs nourishing most—should be the first step of your self-care routine. The process itself is far from easy and, sometimes, what you need won’t take the form of traditional self care. “My business partner says all the time that he’s been listening to music since he was a kid. He used his headphones when he was younger, and there was lot of chaos going on around him to really plug into himself,” says the founder. “I was like, ‘do you realize that’s wellness?'”

“When it comes to wellness and self care and all of these things, we need to check in with ourselves.” —Elisa Shankle, co-founder of HealHaus

To summarize, here’s a two-step cheat sheet to identify what aspect of your life needs a self-care plan the most.

Step one: Sit with yourself. What do you actually need right now? What aspect of your life feels the most unwell?

Step two: Choose your own self-care adventure to begin the work of healing. This doesn’t have to look like something you’d see on your feeds. Maybe you need to scream into your pillow, hit the “unfollow” button (do it!), or organize a water-balloon fight (maybe wait until summer for that one).

It’s totally DIY, but whatever you decide to do in step two won’t mean nearly as much if you don’t follow step one. And let’s be honest, that’s the difficult part.

For our next Well+Good TALK in New York City, a panel of sexperts will be covering how women are redefining doing the dirty. Join us.

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