Given that "self care" has come to be defined by $150 jade rollers and Instagram-worthy face masks, it can be easy to balk at the idea that something so simple can serve such an important purpose. But according to pros, even in non-pandemic time, showers have notable mental and emotional benefits. “Time in the shower also gives you a few minutes alone to focus on your breathing and mindfulness, both of which can reduce feelings of stress and support your self care," health coach Jim Curtis, CRO at The Institute for Integrative Nutrition, previously told Well+Good. "How you wake up and what you do when you wake up can drastically set the tone for how you will think and feel throughout the day, so the way you integrate a shower into your morning routine can make or break your mood for the rest of the day."
In 2021, the moments we spend luxuriating under a stream of warm water have taken on an entirely new meaning. "Showers bring an element of our lost routine back into our lives—with schedules all whacky, keeping one part of our existing daily routines intact can help provide structure and help you focus," says Sohana Samanta, the USA marketing director at plant-based bath and body-care line, Kneipp. "We all need accessible, uncomplicated self-care solutions, and escaping to your bathroom allows you solo, quiet, restorative 'me' time." Plus, showers have the added benefit of keeping us clean, and for me, after a grocery store trip or outdoor run, these have not only helped relieve mental stress but also served to calm my anxiety surrounding germs.
While taking a few quiet minutes alone under running water is a self-care practice in itself, there are a few other things you can do to turn your shower into even more of a stress-relieving oasis. "Start with the healing power of hydrotherapy, whether that be a warm water soak to quiet your mind, or a quick cold rinse to wake your skin and re-focus your thoughts," says Samanta. "You can then enhance these benefits by incorporating aromatherapy skin-care products that feel great on the skin and feature essential oils and plants like lavender, arnica, eucalyptus or mint, which can help you breathe deeply, release muscle tightness and let go of stress."
Laure, for example, has spent the last year decking out her shower with scents that whisk her away. "Simple gestures, like using bar soaps that can help you escape reality just by the smell of them, have become daily pleasures," she says, adding that she has three different soaps in her shower that remind her of Bali, her parents (who she hasn't been able to visit in a year), and her home and Paris. "And sometimes, running a simple shower is not enough. Going through a pampering routine with a body scrub and moisturizer not only helps alleviate some of this tightness we all have, but also the touch on your body is really important," she says. "With social distancing and mask-wearing, I am missing hugs with my friends, and taking care of myself in the bathroom allows for a beauty embrace that brings positivity and also self-love."
Beauty brands have picked up the fact that our showers have begun to play an even more integral role as our stress-relieving oases. Kneipp recently launched a line of aromatherapy bath and body-care products—aptly named "goodbye stress"—that's specifically designed to help you relax. According to Samanta, the brand's Aromatherapy Body Wash ($14) is clinically proven to reduce the emotional and psychological signs of stress after a single use thanks to an infusion of rosemary and water mint. Earlier this year, Indie Lee launched its own "De-Stress" line, featuring a body wash and oil that combines the soothing scents (and skin-nourishing properties) of patchouli, lavender, rosemary, and eucalyptus. And most recently, Native partnered with Jungalow designer Justina Blakeney, on a collection of body washes meant to mentally transport you to a dreamy vacation destination far, far away from your apartment bathroom.
"I'm very low maintenance when it comes to my beauty and self-care regimens, so those moments when I am indulging in something as simple as taking a shower and putting on a body wash that I love the feel and smell of, can really set the tone for the rest of the day," says Blakeney. "It leaves me feeling cleansed and refreshed and helps me start the morning the right way."
For those of us who spend most of our days in our living rooms, parked in front of Zoom screens, wearing noise-canceling headphones to try and drown out the sound of whoever we're quarantined with (in my case, my mom and two very loud puppies), the shower has become one of the few places we're able to find peace. And whether that means luxuriating in a decadently scented body wash or just simply taking a few minutes to stand under the jet streams and taking a few deep breaths, it's a treat worth taking the time for.
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