Healthy Mind

Post-Shower Towel Time Is a Psychologist-Approved Form of Self Care—Here’s Why

Mary Grace Garis

Photo: Getty Images/FreshSplash
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Towel time. After reading those two words, you either know exactly what I’m talking about on a soul level (“ah yes, towel time,” you may sigh to yourself with your eyes closed), or you’re wondering WT-ever-loving-F I’m talking about. If you fall in the latter camp, imagine a place where you feel warmly swaddled with comfort and love; protected in a cotton sanctuary; where worries melt away, like pats of butter on warm, freshly baked bread. It’s a spiritual experience. It’s a way of life.

…Or, okay, more literally, towel time describes the needlessly long window you spend scrolling on your phone post-shower while wearing your towel.

For those who are well-acquainted with towel time, it’s likely something you thought was a personalized quirk until you co-habilitated and learned you were in good company. That’s at least how I came to learn that towel time is more of a widely experienced phenomenon than a me-only thing of self-swaddling while writing articles, too tired to put on clothes because clothes are hard.

With my first post-college roommate, Emily, I would pretend not to notice her enjoying towel time when walking through her bedroom in our New York City railroad apartment to my own so as to respect her boundaries. We each enjoyed towel time, but in isolation, and we never spoke about it. With my current roommate Amber, though, neither of us has felt the need to even pretend to play coy. She routinely bulldozes into my room only to find out, as she puts it, “oh, it’s towel time.” Her casual use of the phrase communicated to me, finally, that yes, people do this—a lot of people do this.

Well+Good’s own Senior Food and Health Editor Jessie Van Amburg actually carves a clean 20 minutes of her morning routine for dedicated towel, bathrobe, and Stevie Nicks time. “I swath myself in my towel and robe while I comb my hair and do my skin-care routine,” she says. “Sometimes I listen to NPR during towel time, or play Fleetwood Mac in the background. Then, and only then, do I reluctantly change into clothes and get going on the rest of my morning.”

Ah yes, towel time and “Dreams,” perhaps the closest combination to experiencing heaven on Earth. Van Amberg adds that her commitment to a towel time practice is designed to maximize her me-time during a given day, because, well, actually showering can only absorb so many minutes.

Showering, after all, can provide for both a literal and mental refresh, and we want to hold onto that feeling.

Showering, after all, can provide for both a literal and mental refresh (there’s a reason you get great ideas in the shower, you know), and we want to hold onto that feeling. And because some experience guilt, even if not recognized, attached to the very notion of taking time for yourself to practice self care, shower time can subconsciously function as a covert form of it because it’s necessary but also often relaxing and done in solidarity.

“Although showering is essential for hygiene, it’s simultaneously a form of self care, as it is soothing, relaxing, and a space to think,” says Rachel Hoffman, PhD, head of therapy at mental health provider Real. “The fact that it doubles as a necessity for hygiene psychologically tells us that it’s acceptable. Simply put, when things feel good, we want to extend it for as long as possible.”

The resistance to suiting up in real clothes after ending towel time makes sense, too. “Once the shower and towel time ends, it signifies a resumption of reality, where attention to self care once again can feel selfish and unproductive,” says Dr. Hoffman.

She also adds that wearing clothes can feel constraining, especially after a shower, and your TT is the perfect intermediate stage between being full-on naked and not feeling vulnerably on display before you feel the need to shimmy into your garments. “I hate, more than anything, my clothing feeling wet,” Well+Good Designer Ems McCarthy tells me while we gush on the joys of towel time. She books a solid 45 minutes of toweling, even going to bed in a cozy textile cocoon. (Love a good towel bed.) “And sometimes you just need to decompress and think about how great that hair wash was,” she adds.

But is there a dark side to towel time, something twisted in this sloth-like practice? Eh, probably not. “If it’s causing problems, like making you late for work a lot, or if it’s fueled by depression, that’s different,” says clinical psychologist Aimee Daramus, PsyD. “A lot of the time, though, there’s something healthy about just letting yourself be.”

These days, it’s no small task to be able to catch a break to be present and feel calm. So if you can take a nurturing moment to put on The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, lie still on your bed, and burrito yourself in self love, do it.

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