Do popular self-care practices work? A non-believer tries meditation app Headspace, healthy eating, and Strip’s anti-ageing vulva treatment

Do popular self-care practices work? A non-believer tries meditation app Headspace, healthy eating, and Strip’s anti-ageing vulva treatment

To the test

Text: Emily Heng

Image: Instagram | @barbiestyle

If it appears as if I'm deep in thought (a rare sight, according to my colleagues), it's probably because I'm pondering one of life's greatest mysteries. These days, I'm wondering what the eff is self-care. According to wellness guru, Gwyneth Paltrow, it's centred around sex pillows, detoxifying powders, and psychic vampire repellant. You can't see me, but I'm saying this with a straight face. Multinational toy manufacturer, Mattel, on the other hand, defines it as bubble baths, face masks, and yoga pants. That is, if their latest Wellness Barbie range is anything to go by.

Suffice to say, self-care comes in many forms. For those looking for a straightforward explanation, they are activities we engage in to care for our mental, physical, and emotional health. And while there's nothing inherently wrong with that — heck, I love kicking back with a bath bomb after a long day — it's the new-age practices that have me feeling a tad iffy. Somehow, I find it hard to believe that going on a goat milk cleanse, sipping kombucha, and scenting my sacred space with a vaginal candle is going to make me feel rested and recharged.

Maybe it's me, or maybe it's because I haven't drunk the Goop flavoured Kool-Aid just yet. Either way, my 2020 new year's resolution is all about putting myself in uncomfortable situations. Bearing this in mind, it seems only apt that I set forth on a self-care journey comprising the latest and greatest in wellness. I detail my experience, below.

Day one: I take a meditation app for a spin

Call me crazy, but clearing my head to facilitate deep, focused thinking doesn't sound like all too difficult a task. I do it regularly, unprompted, except I call it zoning out (see: the vacant expression I wear any time after 5pm on weekdays). It's probably why I wasn't nervous about downloading meditation-made-easy app, Headspace. Unlike high-intensity workouts or detox diets, there was no pressure or prep required, so I was feeling pretty relaxed when it booted it up.

The interface is easy to navigate, and, as it turns out, there are different techniques and methods of meditation depending on what you hope to achieve. I landed upon sleep, after much deliberation. Once everything was in place, I lay back, hit play, and was prompted to take slow, deep breaths. Piece of cake — or so I thought. Within five minutes, I'd lost track of my breathing, was bothered by the incessant whirring of my air-conditioner, and managed to get my headphones tangled around my neck. Swell.

By the end of the full session, I felt more irritable than I did zen. I also felt compelled to give my air-conditioner a thorough examination, which cost me precious hours of sleep because I spent most of my night Googling a fix. A more patient person would have persisted until they've learnt how to quieten their minds. Unfortunately, I'm not one of them. In sum? 0/10, would not repeat. Next!

Day two: I try an anti-ageing facial for my vulva

It's no yoni egg but it does come close. Jokes aside, vulva care has been on my mind since the inception of Two L(I)Ps, Spa Esprit's intimate care arm dedicated to the grooming and maintaining of your nether regions. I decided on Strip's Rosebud Vajuvenation after perusing their comprehensive menu, so aptly named for its labia firming, tightening, and rejuvenation capabilities.

In the interest of time, I opted to combine it with my AFT Hair Removal session. Was I was counting on emerging baby-smooth, soft, and wholly confident in my lady parts? Yes. Thankfully, Strip didn't disappoint. Sure, no amount of Brazilian waxing appointments is going to eradicate the bout of self-consciousness I feel every time someone starts wiping down my privates, but a skilled, experienced team of technicians certainly does help.

I dozed off within minutes, and was gently roused by my therapist an hour and a half later — sans bush and sporting a brighter, smoother mound. At that moment, I'm suddenly gripped by the thought that I, too, would name a candle after my hoo-ha if it looked this good all the time. Perhaps Gwyneth Paltrow is on to something, after all?

Day three: I consume a healthy lunch

Eating clean might be the norm for some, but it's far from my reality. Case in point: my typical post-workout meal constitutes a burger and fries (AKA a congratulatory feast for not bailing on the gym). In the name of self-care, though, I elected to get a salad instead. Surprisingly, it's not too hard a pill to swallow. Newsflash, folks: fresh greens still taste delicious even when they're not sandwiched between a delectable meat patty and buns. Who would have thought?

In conclusion...

TL; DR: Exercise selectivity when it comes to self-care. Tempting as it might be to be swept up in fads comprising gold-plated weights and Tik Tok tutorials, ultimately, it boils down to what works for you. If the thought of going to spin class is akin to getting teeth pulled, skip it. Ditch manicures and meditation if you don't find peace from them. And for the love of God, throw that punani-scented candle away if it's giving you the sniffles. In short: you're only doing self-care wrong if you're not doing what you love.