Welcome to Refinery29’s Feel Good Diaries, where we chronicle the physical and mental wellness routines of women today, their costs, and whether or not these self-care rituals actually make you feel good.
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Today: A woman with a new morning yoga routine finds joy in cuddling, eating burritos with her grandmother, and learning TikTok dances.
Location: Ithaca, NY
Salary: $650/week unemployment check
10:30 a.m. — I’m up early for me. Yes, 10:30 a.m. is early, please don’t judge. I have an interview at 11:30 a.m. for one of my top law schools. I’ve always wanted to go to law school, and after being laid off from a job that I loved due to COVID, I knew now would be the right time to pursue it.
I started my morning routine with a decent amount of time to get ready — shocker. I normally just roll out of bed to then roll onto my computer. Not having to look like anything for anyone. Today, I did. I had to look presentable. Something I genuinely think I’ve forgotten how to do. But after taking a 20-minute shower and managing to actually floss, I did my hair, makeup, and put on a nice top. I felt good. I felt like there was more to life than my refrigerator, couch, and bed.
1 p.m. — I just got an admissions offer from the school I interviewed with! I’m over the moon. I’m stressed too. I thought for sure I would attend another school, now I’m back to weighing my options. I’m in what my mom has so elegantly coined for me as a “good-nado”. Essentially, I’m overwhelmed from good things and the decision process has me spiralling into a little stress tornado. So cute. This time though, it’s coupled with a deadline. I need to decide tonight about what school to attend, and I just found out about this new option. My mom took my hands in hers and told me we needed to pray. I don’t know if it was the prayer or my mom’s hands that made me feel so at ease. Maybe it’s both.
3:30 p.m. — We’re still weighing the options, and I’m getting anxious as time winds down. We decide to head out to the shopping outlets. Why I chose to go to the mall at 3:30 p.m. instead of choosing a school, I don’t know. I’ll chock it up to twisted priorities right now. I’m currently visiting my mom and two sisters in Texas, and the state isn’t in the best of shape in terms of COVID, possibly due to the fact that everything is open. Right now, where I live in upstate New York, there aren’t exactly impressive shopping options. I hadn’t seen the inside of a store in months.
Before we leave, I notice my dog Cudi keeps hitting his water bowl and it’s not helping my thought process. I go over immediately to get him more water and start petting him. It started to make me less anxious. He’s a pretty rambunctious pup, so having him calm while I lay my head on him is nice. I knew petting my dog was good for me, but I had never felt instant effects like that before. That big ball of fluff helped me center my thoughts and take a huge step towards the future.
At the outlets, I buy a face mask ($15) and a new pair of Vans ($55) and realize that there’s a buy one get one free deal. I give my little sister my free pair and feel nice for doing so.
Daily total: $70
12 p.m. — My sister freaks out as soon as I crack the door open to my room, talking about how she has a new TikTok dance trend she wants to teach me. That’s right, I woke and tok’d. Ashamed? Maybe. Regrets? None. Pre-quarantine I used to be a dancer. It was more than just a pass time, it’s a part of who I am and always has been. It’s also one of those things that I didn’t realize I needed until it was gone. I know I don’t take dance itself for granted, but I’m realizing I possibly underestimated how it serves as an outlet for me. I am an overthinking, stressed out ball of anxiety at least five days out of the week. My mom tells me that my body has had the same stress reliever, the same way to escape my anxious mind for years, with dance. I knew dance was my exercise but I’m now truly realizing how much more it is. Learning 30-second dances with my sisters makes me forget about everything going on in my world for just a moment. And that moment when my mind is at rest, is priceless.
4 p.m. — After starting my day learning dances, I must have given my sisters the false impression that I wanted to remain active. But I only have another day left during my visit, so I’ll indulge. Now they’ve decided to try and teach me how to flip on the trampoline. I told them I didn’t know how, and they made me try anyway and my toe ended up getting stuck in a hole in the net that my dog Cudi had put there last summer. Not at all what my sisters bargained for, but we laughed nonstop for a solid five minutes. Then we spent the next 10 trying to recreate what exactly I did to have that happen. Laughter is sooo important to my mental health, and I’m grateful for that huge dose with my favorite girls.
9:30 p.m. — Wow, I really feel like I did a lot today. That was a lot of movement for a girl whose daily routine consists of rolling out of bed to the refrigerator or to roll over to look at some sort of screen, then repeat. I’d say it’s time for a little R&R, which specifically consists of: a long shower, the face mask I bought at the outlets, a glass of wine (with the bottle close), a lit candle, kettle corn poured into a bowl because the bag just isn’t as tasteful, and Sex and the City. Man do I love me time.
Daily total: $0
8 a.m. — Today, I’m seriously starting out with a wellness check — a visit to the doctor ($30 co-pay). Before I leave I make sure I grab something to eat on the road from the fridge. This morning it’s yogurt and a banana. Today is about the physical, but I need to remember to remain calm mentally. I tend to think the worst so I’ve decided to use the breath app on my Apple Watch a few times this morning. “Be still, and focus on your breath” — that’s what it says every time before the pulsing vibrations start. So I focus, and I let my head get quiet for one solid minute. And then I’m off.
1 p.m. — I ordered two pairs of leggings, one pair of biker shorts, and a pair of shorts for my boyfriend during a rare Lululemon sale and chose the pick up in store option to save some money on shipping ($250). Now that I’ve added yoga to my wellness routine, I need some workout gear to match.
8 p.m. — The phrase “look good, feel good” has never been more apparent in my life until now. Being a Black woman whose protective hairstyles require an assortment of products and big-time professional or familial help, I couldn’t be more excited to finally get it done. For months I’ve struggled with an old weave that’s lost almost all range of motion and has grown back so far my headband can’t even cover this tragedy. I’m used to getting my hair done once a month, but due to quarantine, the Black beauty supply stores and salons have remained closed for the most part. And let me tell you… I can’t just go to any salon, lest I’m willing to risk all of my positive hair growth on a stylist who doesn’t know my hair. But thankfully I’m with mom now. She is by far my best option, as she’s known this scalp from day one. Now all I have to do is sit here for three hours while she does my hair in braids with the hair she bought from the beauty supply store ($25). My sister and I decided to watch Clueless during the process. I feel free of this itchy weave burden even as I’m just starting this hair transformation, and I know I’ll feel like a new woman once this is done.
Daily total: $305
5:15 a.m. — My flight (which was only $25 one way, paid for by my mom) boards in ten minutes and I’ve only just arrived at the airport. Stress level is at 100, but I thank God that my family is with me. I forget what airline it is, but the last time I was late with a bag to check they told me I only had until ten minutes before the flight boards to get my bag on the scale or it’d be left behind. That’s all that kept running through my head: ten minutes. It’s a 6 a.m. flight, but boy was I wrong to underestimate how many people would be there this early. The lines were so long at check in! Soon, my ten minutes turned into five and five turned into zero minutes before boarding. I got up there and said frankly, “Hi, my flight leaves like…. right now. What can I do?” The worker was sweet and simply said, “Well, you’d better give me that bag.” Sometimes it takes the smallest acts to make a person’s entire day. I’m honestly kind of thankful I was running late. That way, I didn’t have enough time to be anxious about traveling during COVID. Everything happens for a reason.
11:30 a.m. — Once I landed, my grandmother insisted on picking me up. My mom and I wanted to make sure we were properly distanced, so I put my bags in the backseat and made my way to the trunk. I haven’t seen her in months thanks to Ms Rona, but I was nice just being able to talk and laugh. I want so badly to hug her or even just squeeze her perfect old lady hands — you know the ones, wrinkled but soft. To make up for it we decided to stop and pick up food at our favorite burrito place, El Diablo, and eat on the porch of her home. She later brought out snacks and insisted I take them with me since I couldn’t stay long. It was the most comforting feeling of being home. I started the drive back to upstate New York with an already full tank of gas and a Dunkin Donuts coffee to hold me over ($5).
6 p.m. — I’ve only been back in NY for a few hours, but it’s great to be where my boyfriend and I call home. We moved here together a few months ago from New York City after I lost my job and he started working remotely. For the little bit of time I’ve been here, it’s been spent laying on him. I know it’s gross but cuddling together is a big part of my day, and I’d been missing it while I was away. There are so many people I want to hug and want to see but I can’t. He’s the one person I always can. So as soon as I got back, I fell into his arms and instantly felt warm.
Daily total: $5
10 a.m. — I went to bed last night thinking of a Bloody Mary, so we’re off to brunch to eat outdoors and make my dreams come true. Brunch is a big deal nowadays and a reason to get up and get dressed. I’ll take any of those I can get. The speaker is blasting “Modern Love” by David Bowie and I feel like I’m getting ready for a night with the girls. I love noticing little things that I took for granted before, especially because I swear to myself there’s rarely anything I did. But it’s always the littlest of things that catch me. Who knew bouncing around to 80’s music would give me such nostalgia. Brunch ended up being around $50, graciously paid for by my boyfriend.
3:30 p.m. — It’s really hot out, so a few friends decided to get together for a swim. Ithaca has the best natural lakes and springs, and the best ones always start with some kind of hike. Don’t get me wrong, I like hiking, but this one seemed especially riddled with obstacles. I was definitely having a Meredith Blake moment. No lizards on my water or anything, just looking cute in my athleisure while falling way behind. Everyone kept saying “We’re almost there,” with no end in sight. After straddling a fallen tree because my leg span isn’t long enough to climb over like my hiking buddies, we really were actually almost there. I could hear the waterfalls in the distance and couldn’t wait to hop in. That’s the thing about a good ol’ hike to these swimming areas. You’ve worked up enough of a sweat to instantly want to jump in. I laid on my back for a while and just let the water hug me. Eventually I made it under the waterfall and even slid off a super slippery rock that makes a waterslide. After my time in the water, everything felt so easy. The hike back was a breeze for me and I led the pack this time. Sometimes all we need is a refresh.
Daily total: $0
10:30 a.m. — Sometimes I like to force myself to wake up early in order to get the blood pumping and the day going. Today I choose to start with yoga. Recently I’ve picked it back up as a sort of replacement for dance. It helps me breathe, but also still manages to challenge my flexibility. I put the mat in front of our gigantic window and prop my favorite Youtube instructor, Faith Hunter, up on the radiator. After this 30-minute morning flow, I’ll be ready to go! Where you ask? Probably just Home Goods, then back to the couch.
5:15 p.m. — As my boyfriend’s long day at work and my long day of binge-watching winds down, we decide to go to a vineyard that we frequent. Two bottles to stay, and one to go ($45). After looking at screens all day, the view plus the wine is the perfect way to wind down. Not to mention it’s beautiful today and most of the wines are named after dogs, which makes it 10x more worth it.
Daily total: $45
10 a.m. — I woke up ready for yoga again. It gives me a sense of normalcy, doing the same thing every morning. Not to mention it really does get my blood pumping. Most times when I wake up, I find myself back in bed within the next hour or so. But after my morning flow, I really am ready to go! It makes me want to be more productive, and with school starting up soon I’ll need to snap out of my quarantine chill. I think I’ll have to keep this up.
2:30 p.m. — I love to just look at the clouds. There’s a patch of grass right outside of our apartment where I take my yoga mat and a speaker and just lay on my back. If it weren’t for the bugs I’d describe it as tranquil, but it’s good enough for me. This is one of those things that I like to do alone, an activity that’s just my own personal peace. Being out there and looking at the sky keeps me in touch with nature. Frankly, it keeps me in touch with myself. You know how some people will go on a run to clear their head? Since I’m not that active, I’ll sit on my butt and watch the clouds move. Crazy how something so seemingly mundane keeps me so grounded. And reminds me of how damn good it is to be alive.
9 p.m. — When looking at the clouds my mind suddenly drifts to fettuccine alfredo. So I came back inside and asked my boyfriend if he’d make some for dinner. Not only did he say yes, but it was divine. We had creamy pesto sauce made from scratch with perfectly cooked chicken breast. The wine we brought home from the vineyard was the drink of the night, and afterwards we devoured a slice of the key lime pie in our fridge with the most incredible graham cracker crust. I served as sous-chef for the evening, and while we didn’t make the pie, whoever did deserves an award. My belly and heart are both so full.
Daily total: $0
Weekly total: $425
Reflection: As I reflect on my week, I’m realizing that I really don’t have a routine. I rely heavily on the people around me to help give myself a sense of normalcy, considering most of the things I relied on in the past are currently unavailable. The most positive things I’ve done for myself are the things I do just for myself. I’m also noticing those are mostly little things. Good food and escaping reality by being wholly present within it is my center. I know I need to do more of these things for the sake of my mental health because when I’m off mentally, it affects me physically.
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