Some women—women like Glennon Doyle—are like human meditations. A dose of their presence is its own form of self-care, helping you feel soothed, more connected—you know, like you could get through a pandemic without losing it. If there’s a secret to projecting calm in these wild times, women like Doyle seem to have found it.
In March, the New York Times best-selling author, advocate, and professional dispenser of wisdom, released her third memoir, Untamed. Then the wrecking ball that is the coronavirus took a swing at the U.S. crashing through our collective 2020 plans—including the whirlwind press tour that typically comes with the release of a number one best-seller. “This is probably the most intense and widely exposed my career has ever been, during a time where I'm not leaving the footprint of my home. I've done more interviews, more TV shows, more all of it, and never in my life would I have expected that all of this would be done when I'm not even putting on pants,” Doyle says.
In these high-anxiety times, Doyle has a reputation as exactly the kind of guru you want to look to. The kind that has, to put it bluntly, seen some shit—bulimia, addiction, infidelity—all of which she’s chronicled publicly in three memoirs. Staying steady through waves of uncertainty is kind of her superpower. “I've been managing how to keep showing up and how to function while being afraid since I was 10,” she says. “I am someone who has lived with chronic anxiety my entire life, and when you're the only one who's screaming that the sky is falling and everyone else seems relaxed, it's like this double paranoia. But now there’s this feeling of, Oh, now everyone's joined me.”
In other words, she’s spent almost her whole life training for the shit show that is 2020. “My entire job is to not lose my shit all the time,” Doyle says. “My job is to write and feel and notice and connect and not quit. That's it. In order to not quit, in order to deal with being me, in order to deal with being someone who is highly sensitive, who is not just surviving, but thriving with mental differences, self-care might be my most important job.”
When I speak with her on a rainy Friday morning, self-care looks like having a quiet morning in bed with her wife, Abby Wambach, instead of going through her prequarantine grooming routine. “I'm hoping that one of the results of this quarantine time will be that women discover that, actually, they can just show up however the hell they look. Which will save them time, energy, and money to participate in real self-care, which is care of the inner selves,” she says. “Like, what the hell do I need to get a little more rest, a little more energy, a little more peace? It took a pandemic. That's what the world had to do. Like, maybe she'll stop putting on seven layers of mascara if I send the global pandemic.”
We asked Glennon for her self-care gospel and for her advice on weathering the storm.
Glamour: What has been the most challenging part of this time for you?
Glennon Doyle: With everybody doing all of their Zooms, it's a time where we're more isolated and more exposed in some ways. So I guess that's been the trickiest thing, is figuring out how to be home but more exposed than I've ever been.
How would you compare your stress and anxiety levels now to what's normal for you?
It's so interesting that you asked that because it's something that Abby and I have been talking about since day one of quarantine. What Abby noticed in the beginning is that I am somebody who is constantly anxious. And as soon as the pandemic settled in, I became the least anxious person in my home, the least anxious person in my community. I was able to start showing up for my online community every single day. And I think it's because anxiety can be very lonely. But now everyone's joined me in my high levels, which is a less lonely feeling.
And then also I felt like, Oh, I know how to do this. A lot of people are just beginning to feel this anxiety for the first time, but I've been doing it my whole life. So I have an opportunity to show up and show people how to continue to function with some hope and some shred of dignity while being scared shitless. I've been talking to a lot of my friends who also struggle with mental stability and they're telling me the same thing. It's fascinating. All we needed was, well, we needed to be right. We’ve been trying to tell you!
I will tell you one thing that I find a little tricky is it's not the anxiety, but I have dealt with depression throughout my life, and I think it is hard for people who live with that fear of the clouds coming. I have days where I'm like, Oh God, I'm starting to feel it come on. But I don't think it really is depression; it's just that life is just actually that hard right now. So trying to figure out what is mental illness approaching and what is just reality is a little trickier, I think, when it comes to depression.
How are you protecting your mental health?
There's something about the crisis time that is just really good at clarity. I have been unfollowing people like it's my job. I don't understand what I've been doing before this. I have been following people who make me feel like shit for a decade, and suddenly I'm just editing what I consume like nobody's business. I used to feel like, well, this person makes me feel bad about myself, but it shouldn't. It shouldn't make me feel bad, so I will keep following this person. No more of that. I'm not explaining why; I'm just like, Unfollow, unfollow, unfollow. Which helps so much, especially right now, because the only exposure we have is our feeds. You have to be so careful that you're following people that challenge you in good ways—not the wrong ways.
I do yoga every single day. Yoga is the only thing that I can do exercisewise that makes me feel loving to my body and not that I'm punishing my body. I have all kinds of body issues, and yoga is the only thing that makes me feel like I'm taking care of myself and not just beating myself into submission. I do Glo for yoga. I found this guy, Taylor Harkness, and Abby and I are obsessed with him. I can't stand how sweet he is. Katherine Budig, we do a lot of her classes. We love Seane Corn. We just find teachers that we trust. I also really feel strongly about easy yoga. I don't want to do hard yoga. Abby likes hard everything, and so she starts these classes and I'm like, "This is not what I'm doing. I'm not trying to go for a run. I just want to sit and breathe."
The only thing that's ever worked for me to help anxiety is meditation—well, also Lexapro, that's a given—so that has always been as important as it is now in quarantine.
So what does self-care look like for you right now?
I think we tend to think of self-care as things we're doing to our outer selves. Like self-care as manicure, self-care as face mask, self-care as hair mask. My nails always look like shit. My hair, I cannot bring myself to blow-dry it. It just seems so ridiculous. So my hair is just like, well, it's three inches of black and gray and then bleached yellow, because all the good blond is gone, so it's just like straw. And then putting on eye shadow and eyeliner suddenly seems so ridiculous that I can't deal with that either. So I'm just showing up on all of these things just looking like my damn self.
I am finding it so fascinating to think that all of the things I used to think I needed to do to my face to make myself look—what? Professional? Presentable? But these are none of the things that men do. So men's faces are just okay and ours aren't? I have been showing up like a man to all of my interviews, which just means, like, Here I am. The opportunity cost of that hour I would have spent is reclaimed, which allows me to do actual self-care, which is taking care of the inner self—relaxing a little bit more, reading a book, doing some writing.
And all it took was a global crisis.
Isn't it fascinating? Clothes are one of the hardest things for me. When people ask me, "What's the hardest thing about being a writer and a public speaker?" I say one thing, but the answer is really clothes—I do not know how to dress myself every freaking day. And so I have 30 J.Crew black tank tops. Thirty—I have 30 of them. And I wear them as a uniform at home so I don't have to think about what to put on my body. Which is, P.S., another thing men figured out a long time ago. With the pandemic, I realized I'm just going to keep doing this. I'm going to wear the black tank top for all of my interviews, for everything. From now on, no matter how fancy the thing is, no matter what I'm doing, black tank top, black tank top, black tank top.
How has the way you prioritize self-care changed?
Well, the truth for me is that it hasn't changed. I think that Abby would say most of my day is self-care. Most of my day, every day. I start to feel weird if I'm not connecting with my family, so that's self-care for me. Writing is for sure self-care for me. Being with my community online, because those are my people. That is self-care. Because I'm a writer, my life hasn't really changed all that much during this quarantine.
How are you finding joy and silver linings during this time? There are obviously so many things that we're grieving as a society. But a lot of really beautiful moments are also emerging from this period of isolation.
Yes. It's such a contrast for me. I run a nonprofit, Together Rising, that serves women and children in need, and because of that, the needs right now are just...the letters we're reading every day from people who have lost loved ones, lost jobs—it's just so freaking intense.
So that, for me, is contrasted with this part that I almost feel a little bit embarrassed by or like I shouldn't say: I have loved so much of this time. My kids are at this really great age where they're old enough to be on their own a lot—I do not know how anyone with young children is doing this—but for us, we have this amazing situation where they're old enough to do their stuff, and then we hang out in the evenings together. My kids are stuck with me.
I have this hunch that when the kids are older, I will look back at this time when we were all stuck together and think, Damn, there was some major magic in that.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
Originally Appeared on Glamour