A personalized self-care routine is a lot like a fingerprint—no two are exactly alike. Unlike your biology, however, the rituals that make you feel like your most holistically-well self are entirely yours to create. For Maria Del Russo, a freelance sex and wellness writer based in New York City, sage-burning, sunrise yoga, reality television, and skillet chicken round out an invigorating me-time agenda.
As the subject of Well+Good's inaugural episode of Self-Care Nation (a video series exploring the various feel-good routines of people across the United States), Del Russo has a slow-clap deserving definition of what it means to be your own healthy advocate. "When I hear the term 'self-care,' I immediately go to the things in my life that either keep me maintaining a certain level of de-stress...and also the things I know I can reach to in like a moment's notice when I am having, like, a particularly bad day. So it's kind of a two-pronged approach," says Del Russo. She breaks down her routine into seven non-negotiable rituals:
1. Lighting a candle: According to Del Russo, lighting a candle adds an instant dose of coziness to her space. She also has a high-tech diffuser that begins emitting the scent of lavender before she even enters her home.
2. Burning sage and palo santo: "I've gotten in the habit now of saging four times a year," says Del Russo. "I sage every equinox and every solstice. It's kind of like a way to clear out the stale energy and, you know, get everything flowing again." She breaks out the herb after a breakup, argument, or a bad day at work. "Sage kind of removes all energy from a space, whereas palo santo removes negative energy and invites positive energy back in. So I kind of like to use those two things in tandem," she says.
3. Meditating: Del Russo has been meditating for about a year now and she's a big fan of hitting up the app store for help with mindfulness. "I love the Headspace app because it makes meditation super easy," she says. "It's a really accessible form of meditation."
4. Cooking: Growing up in an Italian-American household, Del Russo believes food is a way to care for others—and herself. "Cooking was kind of the way that we showed love to the people around us, and I've kind of internalized that message and started thinking about...instead of cooking just being about showing love for other people, that it's a form of showing love to myself," she says. (Genius.) Her most-treasured dish is a skillet chicken that she first started making to impress romantic interests. "I mean...I would marry me if I made myself a roast chicken," she says.
5. Wine and reality TV: "Sometimes the only thing that gets me through the day is knowing that I can go home, watch Vanderpump Rules, pour myself a glass of good French wine, and just enjoy myself," says Del Russo.
6. Walking: Last fall, Del Russo dated someone who lived a mile and a half away. Though they've since parted ways, she still enjoys a walk now and then. "After we broke up, I was at his apartment and I walked home crying... and there was something just so cleansing about it. So now whenever I feel like I need some time, I take a very long walk," she explains. By "long," she means two whole hours. "I'm literally walking away from my problems, which doesn't sound very healthy, but mentally, it's a really nice way to kind of gain perspective on a situation, which I feel like helps me find the solution to it that much faster," she says.
7. Yoga: Del Russo has been practicing yoga for almost 10 years. And she prefers to downward-dog at the crack of dawn. "I love the way it makes my body feel. And for me, the mat is just, like, this is my safe space and I can just fully get inside my body and get inside my mind and nothing else matters. I wake up early and do it. And I'm always exhausted, but the second I step onto that mat, I'm happy that I'm there," she says.
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