Lesley LeRoux
July 27, 2016 6:33 pm

Over the past year I’ve become more and more familiar with the term “self-care.” It’s something my yoga instructors have advocated, whether it includes a regular yoga practice, meditation, aromatherapy, or other self-care methods. While these small acts all have the potential to help someone maintain a sense of balance and calm, I’ve learned it’s important not to get too caught up in following a prescribed routine. It’s counterintuitive when the thing that’s supposed to relieve us becomes a source of stress itself.

It’s why I paint my nails.

I was never too concerned with nail care growing up, and often tossed aside any manicure kits I received as gifts. I kept things simple, cutting my nails short and leaving them bare. I thought it was easier that way, and I never cared that my nails didn’t look as pretty as some of my peers. I just couldn’t be bothered.

I started to focus on my nail care during a particularly stressful time. A storm of things, from exams, to a breakup, to getting sick during said exam period, pushed me to find something – anything – that I could indulge in for a brief pause.

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I’d started getting cluster headaches and was looking for a mindless activity to soothe my often-overactive brain one evening when I picked up a nail polish bottle my cousin had given me.

The resulting manicure was sloppy, and I’d let some of the polish spill over my cuticles. But I liked the other, less evident result: for about 20 minutes, my mind had gone completely blank, focused on one sustained task without interruption. I didn’t know it then, but I’d stumbled upon what I’ve found to be one of the simplest ways to retreat from stress and anxiety.

Slowly but surely, I’ve begun to take about a half an hour each week to care for my nails. It’s evolved from simply polishing, to filing (which used to make me cringe, but for the health of my nails, I’ve converted), and applying base coat, polish, and top coat. I haven’t ventured into cuticle oil territory yet, but I’m sure it’ll make its way into my routine like the other components have.

While this may sound frivolous, it’s important to consider all the tools we have at our disposal to practice self-care, without overcomplicating things.

Nail care routines — particularly manicures — are often coded as feminine in a derogatory way, and suggest that we are wasting our time to serve a purely aesthetic function is harmful.

However, as we’ve recently heard, women are significantly more susceptible to anxiety disorders. So we need to hold on to the rituals that allow us a reprieve from all the pressures we experience on a daily basis — whether that’s nail care or something else — without feelings of guilt or shame.

If you’re having one of those anxious days, grab a bottle of nail polish and get cozy — or do whatever works for you! I’ve never gotten a professional manicure, and I’m not sure I will anytime soon. I’ve come to appreciate my little slice of self-care time too much. I hope you find and indulge in yours.

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