Despite being a model with 25 million Instagram followers, Emily Ratajkowski does not rise with the sun to meditate, drink lemon water, and hit the gym. In fact, her daily approach to wellness is incredibly relatable; she's just trying to trick herself into finding exercise fun and find ways to unwind from the 24/7 news cycle like the rest of us.
“I'm one of those people who, if I go to the gym by myself, there's a 50/50 chance of me actually working out and really pushing myself, so the class environment works really, really well for me,” says Ratajkowski, who recently partnered with STRONG by Zumba, a new high-intensity program focused on both cardio and strength-training. (It's a 2020 take on the '90s dance variety of Zumba that may come to mind and retains a heavy emphasis on syncing moves to music.)
“I am also someone who, even in a class, will get chatty and [distracted]. I think that’s the great thing about STRONG — the music keeps me really focused and in the zone,” she continues. “You just feel like you're, you know, Superwoman really pushing herself. You end up working harder and it's a better, more intense workout, without even noticing.”
Rather than a way to start her day, Ratajkowski uses exercise as a nighttime self-care ritual. "For me, the way I sleep afterwards is one of the main reasons to work out. I am always on my phone working and I think that's affected my sleep. I'm also really light-sensitive. When I work out, it's better than taking a melatonin. Because my body has worked hard, my brain finally rests and I think that is so valuable in this day and age — not to sound like an old geezer, but truly I feel that way."
Broadening her definition of wellness to include mental health, too, has been a game-changer for the model recently, she says. “I feel like, at least for me, that was a very new idea in the last two years. Most of my life [physical and mental health] were very disconnected, but now I check in with myself more. Sometimes that means ordering a mountain of Thai food and staying at home and watching TV — and that can be wellness," she says. "I love eating a meal in bed on like, a Thursday night or whatever instead of going out and just being cozy, you know?" (Yes, we know.)
"I'm all about the balance of that stuff and I really, as cheesy as this sounds, truly believe that mental and physical are really aligned, so taking care of yourself physically will help you mentally and vice versa," she says.
When it comes to dealing with stress from, say, a looming unpredictable health epidemic or election, she offers up some solid practical advice: "When things in my life start to feel stressful, or I look at the news and feel like, 'Oh my God, everything is falling apart,' it can really feed into anxiety. One of the things that I don't always do and I wish I did more is sleep with the phone outside of my bedroom. I think when you know that your phone is right by you and accessible to you, even if you're asleep, I don't think you shut out all of that, on a subconscious level."
To that end, despite how active Ratajkowski is on Instagram, she's purposeful about how much time she spends on the platform. "I have time limits on my apps, so I only spend an hour on Instagram a day — and I don't get news alerts. I know a lot of friends love that and I just can't do that. I wanna choose when I see those kinds of things. That's sort of my way of taking back the control of how I ingest and take in all that that's going on outside of in the world."
While Ratajkowski isn't into meditation, ("I wish I could tell you that I meditated") she does find writing to be therapeutic. "I'm working on a collection of essays right now, and that honestly is a really great way to just be super focused and disengaged from all the noise, which is really difficult. It doesn't have to necessarily be writing, but being really mentally engaged with something that you're creating versus just in-taking can be really helpful." And with that, let's all get back in bed with our takeout, our journals, and hope for the best.