Millennials on Wellness and Self-care

by Shameyka McCalman

Wellness isn’t a one size fits all concept.

Every day millennials know that finding a routine takes time and patience as well as trial and error. Sometimes, it can take a handful of DIY remedies before you realize that the ingredients in your pantry don’t make ideal conditioners, moisturizers or face scrubs.

Routines differ from person to person and can change and evolve based on a variety of factors -- age being one of them.

Before we touch on how younger generations of women are defining self-care, Meerabelle Dey, attorney and HuffPost Contributor, offers some advice to those transitioning from their twenties or thirties and taking the next leap into their forties. Taking your vitamins, exercising daily, and adjusting your wardrobe are just a few ways to upgrade your health and beauty routine for the better.

To better understand Gen X & Y, we interviewed two women on how their self-care routines have changed over time. Here’s a look  into how they are interpreting wellness, self-care and all of the complicated realities that fall in-between.

Nikki, 31

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Stock Photo

Describe yourself. Age? Occupation? (And anything that makes you YOU?)

Nikki: I'm a Christian creative who’s trying to pursue my dreams, African American, one of five children, and a native New Yorker.

What does self-care mean to you?

Nikki: I think right now things have been so crazy for me. Between working full-time and finding time for my connect group [weekly church small group], and trying to lose 15 pounds for my sister’s wedding, it's very difficult to have time for self-care. My connect group is about health so the stuff that we do together is awesome and has done so much for me.  It’s a cycling class -- it's about an hour and afterward, the leader gives like a mini-sermon. Then we pray in a circle. We are all reminded that God is our strength but we also need to be strong to carry the good news and be healthy. Other than that, I try to rest on Saturdays and attend church as well as lead venue design on Sundays. Overall, self-care means I try to take time to take care of myself.

Explain your mental health journey (if comfortable doing so). Ups and Downs.

Nikki: I’ve definitely  experienced anxiety and feeling overwhelmed. In my head, I’m thinking about so many things. All of the tasks that need to get done. And I think about what will happen if I don’t do them. In those moments I turn to worship because it’s the only thing that grounds me. My sister suffers from bipolar disorder and depression and that has taken a toll on my family.

If I’m feeling anxious or stressed it can take a toll on my body - which causes me to sometimes say no to different events and tasks, even upcoming venue design events.

How would you describe your skincare and makeup routine? What is it? How extensive? Does it take place in the morning, night or both?

Nikki: In the morning I wash my face with Botca, from Sephora.  I’ve been using it for 10 years now. I’ll spray my face with rose water toner from Trader Joe’s. I don’t know if it’s adding anything besides the fact that it smells like roses. And I use bio oil -- a bottle will last me a year and a half. Then I use mascara,  lipstick and I’m ready to go! I do a similar routine at night. If I don’t sleep well or take care of myself I get little bumps. I’m never connecting my skincare routine to self-care. It just feels like what I need to do. I actually paint my nails and do my toes and that feels more self-care to me. And if I have time I like to make my food myself. I know what’s in it, I’m very picky about what I eat. And I know I’ll like it for the most part.

What's some advice or tricks you’ve learned from other generations? (Examples: mom, grandma, past cultural beauty traditions)

Nikki: No, I felt like they didn’t give me any. I feel like my grandma didn’t start taking care of herself until she had a heart attack. We’re very southern. We ate southern food and then we changed our eating habits. My mom had gone up and down with her weight because of thyroid issues. She never taught me about health and never really worked out. I’ve never had any examples from others in my family. When I went off to college and came back I gained weight and tried to lose it. Not in the best way -- I ate Special K for two years. Two small bowls of Special K and then one meal a day. Special K has a lot of sugar and eventually, I learned what was right for my body. I’ve actually have introduced alternative meal options to them. Right now they’re using 2% milk but are not yet open to almond milk -- It’ll take some time.

What are some tips you can offer to others when it comes to balancing self-care, faith, and life in your 20s?

Nikki: It’s okay to say no. Right now my sister’s wedding is coming up, I just started a semester at school and I’m leading venue design. There are times where I lean on co-leads that report to me so I’m not stretched thin. I know God has put me in a place where I can keep moving forward. And have people around you who can let you know when you might need a break. Prioritize, write things down, get a calendar, be mindful, and remember why you like to do things. And God gives you these moments where he’ll provide answers to these questions.

Veronica, 26

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Stock photo

Describe yourself. Age? Occupation? (And anything that makes you YOU?)

Veronica: I'm a student, currently studying to become a doctor, and my interest in the healthcare system came from growing up and watching my mom take care of her health, exercising, she was an athlete. Because she prioritized her health my siblings and I, weren't allowed to consume sweets and processed food, including soda, at home. We’re Brazilians and the people in our culture is known for taking care of our appearance, especially women.

Creating a habit around self-care is a necessity in our community.

On that note, what does self-care mean to you?

Veronica: Self-care means self-love to me.

Every morning when I wake up and look in the mirror, or I feel lukewarm water on my face and touching my skin gently, it's a touch of love, a look of love. I'm doing something to make me look healthy and being healthy means confident, it helps me to go through my day feeling loved and cared for.

Explain your mental health journey (if comfortable doing so). Ups and Downs.

Veronica: My mental health journey has been an act of self-love. A busy life leaves you with a busy mind, and a busy mind is fertile soil for bad thoughts, frustration, depression, and anxiety to grow. I manage my time wisely and efficiently and never forget to take care of my mind through meditation. I meditate at night and in the morning. It helps me be aware of the thoughts I want to have.

How would you describe your skincare and makeup routine? What is it? How extensive? Does it take place in the morning, night or both?

Veronica: My skincare routine is something that took place more intensely when I turned 25 years old.  I finally realized I was aging and my body wasn't going to be the same each morning. This is around the time I realized my severe acne was caused by processed food. Eating lots of vegetables, cutting gluten and dairy was the key to better skin. I never forget to drink water, a lot of water, drink teas as well, green tea is good in moderation.

In the morning I wash my face with the cleanser for acne, after that, I use a toner, moisturizer, and sunscreen, which is the best way to stop anti-aging. My night time routine is more extensive, I repeat the day steps but add some acids for the acne.

When it comes to makeup I keep it light, I like the natural looking glow, just my eyebrows, eyelashes and light blush and maybe a little highlighter. And of course, a tinted lip balm.

Just to look healthy every day. I only wear a full face of makeup when I’m out for the night.

Do you think your routine uplifts you and affects your mental health in a positive way? If not what does?

Veronica: YES! I do think it uplifts me, it sets the mood for the day.  Caring for myself reminds me of how loved I am by myself, my family and God. It sets your intentions for the day, we can decide what kind of day we want to have, and the person we want to be every day to ourselves and others.

What's some advice or tricks you’ve learned from other generations? (Examples: mom, grandma, past cultural beauty traditions)

Veronica: Never forget to wash your face in the morning, at night, never go to bed without removing your make-up, and also wear SUNSCREEN. The women on my mom’s side of the family are attractive and athletic --- they work out, watch their eating habits and stay hydrated -- I try to follow their lead.

What are some tips you can offer to others when it comes to balancing self-care, faith, and life in your 20's?

Veronica: Make time for yourself … We can get easily distracted by our busy schedules, but take some time to connect with your emotions, with your mind, and body, also take care of your soul, develop a spiritual life, it will connect you with love and purpose in life.

What’s your biggest “wellness fail”? (Previous part of your wellness routine that you’ve retired and will never try again)

Veronica: When I reached my mid-twenties I started to allow myself to enjoy a little of processed food, the little became a little more, and the little more turned into my body screaming: "I CAN'T TAKE THIS ANYMORE." I started to break out a lot on my face, and I had no clue that It became too much, I mean, I was just ignoring it to keep enjoying my Haagen Dazs, pizza, and chocolate. And also my nightlife affected my skin, my hair and sleep routine … I started treating the skin but from outside it didn’t help much, so you have to start from the inside out. And changed my diet, — exercise, sleep more.

Anything else you'd like to share?

Veronica: I love LOVE, so love more, be compassionate, have a word of kindness to share with someone, compliment people genuinely, drink more water, be more conscious about who you are and what you like, you're beautiful just the way you are.

Shameyka McCalman lives in New York City and writes about fashion, art, sustainability and social commentary.