2019 Was the Year I Realized the Idea of a ‘Perfect’ Wellness Routine Was Total BS
As a millennial woman—who happens to be an editor at a wellness website, no less—this has long been a deep, dark secret of mine. I’d always felt like admitting I didn’t like the MOST quintessential wellness-associated food there is meant that I was failing at it, so for years I just sucked it up and ate them. The few times I was brave enough to ask for an avocado on the *side* of my overpriced salad, I was met with shocked, horrified questions from people wondering, “WHY?!” and telling me “but they’re so good for you!!!” And as we all know, they are—it's not as if millennial women suddenly picked up the ugly green fruit and deemed them trendy for no reason. They've been a healthy-eating staple for many for centuries, and are admittedly packed with all kinds of nutritious goodness like vitamin E and potassium. So in fairness, the WTF feedback I received was at least a little bit warranted, which made it easier to just eat the damn things and pretend like I wasn’t cringing at every bite.
I realize now how ridiculous that sounds, but until recently, I was under the impression that the only way to do wellness “right” was to do it perfectly. I assumed that you had to go about it with an all-or-nothing mentality that required you to do things like meditate and go to hot yoga and spend $19 on an açai bowl at least once a week. So I did those things—all in the name of "self-care"—despite the fact that I hated them just as much as I hated avocados.
With that in mind, I started this year full-steam ahead with my healthy wellness routine—as a newly minted Well+Good editor, I figured that was what I was supposed to do. I quit drinking, doubled down on my already-very-clean eating plan (which, yes, included avocados), and challenged myself to workout, journal, and meditate every day, figuring this would be the best way to set myself up for *~*perfection*~* for the rest of the year.
By January 17th, I was miserable and exhausted. A journal entry from that day, in fact, reads "f**k this." My body was breaking down from too much exercise ("#nodaysoff" is a terrible way to live, you guys), my bank account was begging me to stop buying so much pricey artisanal food, and the routines I had committed to took such a hefty chunk of time out of my day, so much so that I was skipping out on sleep to get everything done. Also, I really missed wine. Instead of making me feel good, the way I assumed this sort of perfect wellness routine was supposed to, it burned me out.
The irony is not lost on me that this all went down a mere month after we called "The Death of Performative Wellness" as one of our 2019 trends. I became living proof that it was possible to have too much of a good thing when my self-care to-do list became central to my stress, and I decided that the best thing I could possibly do for my mental, physical, and emotional health was to actually cut back on my approach to wellness.
If this year taught our collective culture anything, it was that adult-ing already requires enough burnout-inducing things from us (like work and errands and the ever-dreaded online shopping returns) without having to add mandatory self-care practices that we don't enjoy to the list. And so, while everyone else was busy Marie Kondo-ing their apartments last winter, I did the same to my wellness regimen. I cut out all of the things that I hated (hot yoga, meditation, avocados) in order to leave room exclusively for the ones that I love (dance cardio, my 10-step skin-care routine, journaling), and it completely changed my relationship with wellness by reminding me that a healthy wellness routine does not necessarily have to be a perfect one.
I know what makes me feel good, but that doesn't mean that I always do it—and instead of feeling bad about myself for that, I now know that that's perfectly okay.
Because perfect, I sure as hell am not. There are some mornings when I hop out of bed at 5 a.m., skip out the door to a workout, then come home to drink a green juice, meditate, and organize my life (all while blasting Lizzo, of course) while the rest of the world is still asleep. Other days, though, I lay in bed until well past 9 o'clock scrolling through Instagram, then sprint to the office with dirty hair and 200 unanswered emails. I know what makes me feel good, but that doesn't mean that I always do it—and instead of feeling bad about myself for that, I now know that that's perfectly okay. Sweating out a hangover on a Sunday morning is almost always going to make me feel better than ordering pizza and watching nine hours straight of Grey's Anatomy, but sometimes, the couch wins out... and that counts as "self-care," too.
Yes, there are certain elements of a healthy wellness routine that should be non-negotiable—like going to the doctor, moving every day, and taking care of your mental health—but anything on top of that should feel like a bonus, not a requirement. Wellness doesn't mean torturing yourself through practices you hate or depriving yourself of something you love because someone says "it's good for you." It means, simply, doing what you need to do to feel good; and that doing the best you can (even if some days, that's the bare minimum) is enough. For me, it's enough to journal and meditate "as needed" instead of every single night, to skip workouts in favor of fun nights out with my friends (or, more importantly, a few extra hours of sleep), and to say "hell, no" to any and all avocados—both literal and metaphorical—that life puts in my path. And for what it's worth? I've never felt better.
If you think you might be feeling burnt out but aren't sure, check for these some not-so-obvious signs. And if you need a mood boost, this is what what a happiness expert does to seamlessly snap out of a bad mood.
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