Welcome to Refinery29’s Feel Good Diaries, where we chronicle the physical and mental wellness routines of women today, their costs, and whether or not these self-care rituals actually make you feel good. Have your own Feel Good Diary about how you're coping around the COVID-19 outbreak? We'd love to hear how you're prioritizing your mental and physical health at this time. Submit your entry here!
Today: A queer woman who is starting a flossing habit, thinks most workout videos are products of the patriarchy, and isn’t above Netflix and chill.
Occupation: Communications Specialist
Occupation: Communications Specialist
11 a.m. — It’s Sunday, so I get to sleep in. Thank God — I was up late last night chatting and drinking wine with friends on Google Hangouts. But today’s a new day. I decide to re-download MyFitnessPal (free). I’ve used this app before to track what I’m eating and the exercises I’m doing, but I found it was enabling body-image issues. I might skip a meal to keep my calorie points lower, and so on. I want to give it a second try, though, because I think quarantine has altered my meal habits and I want to see if I’m right.
Then, I pull up a PopSugar fitness video, which is free on their site. It’s customary for me to throw a huge fit before I start any exercise. Sometimes it feels that I’m only working out because of societal pressure. I know a lot of women find joy in exercising, but for me it’s hard to shake off the feeling that I’m sculpting my body to fit into a beauty standard set by straight men. Whether I’m right or wrong, I do know I feel less stiff after moving — so after a short rant about this to my partner, I press play. I follow along as an instructor with a bouncing ponytail leads me through an ab- and booty-burning workout, with moves including classic lunges and bicycle crunches. Aftewards I’m sore and feel conflicted, thanks to my inner feminist spirit.
I spend the rest of the afternoon rereading essays from Calypso by David Sedaris. I received the book for my birthday many years ago. I watch as a thunderstorm rolls in. Although isolating due to the coronavirus has been tough, it’s been nice taking the time to enjoy nature. I’m usually mad about oncoming storms because I walk everywhere. Now, I’m feeling something akin to gratitude about a weather pattern I normally detest. Maybe this time in quarantine is forcing me to connect to my spiritual side. Maybe.
7 p.m. — I order in Chipotle ($15). You have to support your local restaurants, am I right? Then I video-chat with bae’s grandma, who is 93. She says we “look good.” I take that compliment to heart and decide I’m no longer using this nutrition app. Thank God. I delete it.
I decide to skip TV tonight to work on my digital work portfolio. I’m trying to take a break from all of the binge watching. The first few weeks of quarantine, I burned through three seasons of Gilmore Girls and I want to challenge myself to find other ways to use my time. Plus, although my job is safe right now, it makes me feel a little more secure having updated examples of my work, considering the current economy.
Daily Total: $175
8:45 a.m. — I wake up later than usual for my day. Luckily, I’m working from home right now, so I don’t have to commute. I do my hair and pull on a pair of jeans (I’ve worn leggings for about a month straight and have decided I need the structure that I get from rigid denim). I smear on Dr. Jart BB cream ($39). The cream has SPF 45 in it and makes my skin look better on video calls (small wins!). On top of that I apply SUPERGOOP!’s Glow Stick sunscreen ($25). I’m truly all about protection.
1 p.m. — Quarantining with your partner has its perks. I sneak away during our lunch break for a little afternoon delight. I’m a huge fan of using Dame’s hands-free, couple vibrator, the Eva II. It usually costs $135, but I won it in a sex-positive raffle hosted by Girls on Film, so it was free for me (yippee!).
My partner and I have been living together for a few years, but I was initially worried about being stuck indoors with each other 24/7 while quarantining. It’s actually been pretty great. We communicate when we need space, but, mostly, it’s been fun to have all this time just the two of us. In normal times, our schedules are jam packed with adulting duties and activities. Now, it feels we’re closer than ever (metaphorically and physically).
7 p.m. — Currently tackling War & Peace, a 1,200 page monolith of a novel. I borrowed it from a relative for free. I’ve been following the virtual pandemic book club started by Yiyun Li called #TolstoyTogether, which I heard about on the New Yorker Radio Hour’s episode “War and Peace and Pandemic.” This has been a good challenge for me, considering I have plenty of time to read it these days. I’m a huge fan of physical books versus reading on my Kindle. Maybe because it feels more like a victory to carry around such a (literally) heavy read. Plus, it doubles a dumbbell in a pinch! I always feel good after spending hours reading, especially a new book (well, new to me). It’s one of the few things I do for myself without feeling guilty about it afterwards.
Daily Total: $64
1 p.m. — I pay off the last of my medical bills during lunch ($1,750). It’s a lot, but it’s nice to finally pay it off after an emergency surgery caught me off guard in February. I could rant about the current medical industry, but I’m lucky I had access to good care, thanks to my insurance. I went a long time without coverage, and it constantly hung over me like a dark cloud. Now I know I can go to the doctor if I need it, which has helped me make my physical well-being a priority.
6:30 p.m. — I try to go for a walk every day, even if it’s only to the edge of the property and back. It’s usually the only exercise I prioritize, and it allows me to soak up some vitamin D. I spend most of my time in front of a laptop — either for work, writing projects, or to binge TV, so this is one of the only times throughout the day that my body changes position. If I can’t go outside because of the weather, I try to do some yoga poses. I’ve been practicing yoga for over ten years, and I was pleasantly surprised when I remembered all the flows and sun salutations on my own, despite being separated from my local studio, which is currently closed due to the coronavirus crisis.
9 p.m. — Time for a Netflix Party with my best friend. I set this up through the free Google Chrome feature, which aligns our screens, so when I pause, her screen pauses too. Tonight, we watch Married at First Sight. So much drama. We’re both fans of reality TV, and use this opportunity to scream at our laptops like we were watching a sports game. Very therapeutic. We typically talk on the phone at least once a week, but this is time to just blow off steam rather than use each other for free therapy (although she is the best sounding board in the world — just don’t tell my actual therapist that).
Daily Total: $1,750
8:30 a.m. — I floss my teeth. This may seem like a small feat, but it’s been a years-long struggle to incorporate it into my routine. It’s gotten to the point where I have to lie to my dentist about it. (The shame!) Although I know it’s important, I never take the time for it because it’s just so easy to skip. I’m constantly cutting out self-care. I tend to prioritize spending time with friends because they bring me so much joy. As terrible as the pandemic has been, time in quarantine has forced me to carve out space for me to explore how I can bring joy to myself. Today, I’m trying to take a very small step by starting my day focusing on me (and my gums).
7 p.m. — My partner and I make our very own specialty burgers on a Hamilton Beach indoor grill ($67.99). We grill beef patties and make homemade guacamole (healthy fats!) to top it off. I understand the need to stay inside, but moments like this make me nostalgic for picnics and grilling at parks. Still, a delicious and fun dinner overall. We already had all the groceries on hand.
9 p.m. — For Christmas, I was given a MasterClass subscription, and I love trying new workshops in the evening. I watch RuPaul’s class on self-expression and authenticity, as well as a TED Talk on the lack of visibility of the bisexual community. I recently came out, but every day it’s a challenge to embrace my identity, especially during quarantine, when I can’t visit queer spaces or gay bars. It has been a long road of believing in myself and exploring what queerness means to me. Following other queer people’s experiences has helped a lot with my mental wellness. For example, the stories shared with the It Gets Better Project are uplifting reminders that I don’t have to have all the answers right now. Though the organization focuses its audience on LGBTQ+ youth, some days it feels like I’m a teenager going through sexual exploration all over again. It makes me feel less alone in my experience because there are a lot of people out there like me.
Daily Total: $67.99
5 p.m. — I order groceries via Instacart, a grocery delivery service, and put on a homemade mask to receive it from the delivery person. The bill comes to $175 for at least two weeks of food for two people. We don’t own a car, so the bulk of our groceries have come from delivery. We’re very grateful for the people who are putting themselves at risk, and try to tip with that in mind. We often shop for basics, but like to fit in at least one or two daring recipes each week to change it up.
6:30 p.m. — I have been working with a trauma therapist weekly via Headway for a $35 copay. My sessions have always been virtual so the pandemic hasn’t really affected our time together. I was diagnosed with PTSD, so we tend to focus on large-ticket items like my symptoms, or we work towards healing from the past, rather than on the day-to-day. This time in the week is always massively challenging. I’m usually drained after, and looking forward to a glass of red wine.
10 p.m. — For fun, I write a short story about two friends meeting after a long time apart. I’m usually more interested in nonfiction writing, but it’s been good to get out of my head and play around with my creativity. I love writing because the characters in all my pieces — real and fictional — let me widen my understanding of the human spirit. I watch a few MasterClass lessons from the author Joyce Carol Oates on writing short stories. Then I try a few of the writing exercises she assigns, such as “Burn through a scene” where you write for 45 minutes as fast possible without stopping to edit yourself. I fall asleep on the couch with my fingers on the keypad of my laptop.
Daily Total: $210
8 a.m. — Thank God it’s Friday! I drag my laptop into bed with me to do some work before I officially start the day at 9 a.m. I’m lucky to have a job I can do remotely, and I meet daily with my team. It’s kinda nice to have a reason to put a shirt on in the morning, even if it’s just for our video calls. We spend the first 20 minutes checking in with each other, and my boss asks what we’re doing to stay sane. It’s a very supportive environment, which I truly appreciate. We then dive into what we’ve been working on and what we need from each other to complete our tasks.
6:30 p.m. — I go for a long walk after work and then stay outside to write while the weather is still good. I manage to write a very rough draft of a personal essay and even scribble about my day in my journal. I feel best after I’ve unloaded into my thin Moleskine notebook ($15 for a pack of three). I carry it everywhere with me in case I want to catch a stray thought I might find interesting later.
9 p.m. — I finish the week off with a box of mac and cheese, and the premiere of Alice Wu’s The Half of It on Netflix, which I subscribe to for $8.99 a month. The movie is brilliant. Women of color! LGBTQ+ representation! I highly recommend this romance. I really miss going to the movie theater to watch a new release, so having a flick to see on the day it’s released is a thrill I haven’t felt in a while. The macaroni is comforting, and less work than the complicated dishes we usually cook up. It’s not the same as a Friday night date — but there’s still some romance left in Netflix and chill, right?
Daily Total: $23.99
11:30 a.m. — My partner makes us omelettes with the vegetables leftover from the week, while I sit on the porch and paint my nails with an Urban Outfitters’s Saucy nail polish I bought for $5. Between each nail, I sip on a steaming cup of coffee. In our last grocery haul we bought a bag of grounded Starbucks breakfast blend for $6.99. I used to buy cappuccinos almost every day, so this new habit actually saves me money. Nothing can replace my trips to my favorite cafe, but a sprinkle of cinnamon on top eases the pain.
3 p.m. — We walk over five miles round trip to the grocery store. We try to do this on the weekend for anything we can’t get through delivery (alcohol). We spend $45 to restock our metaphorical wine cellar. We get home just before my sunscreen wears off, crack open a beer, and eat chips and dip without guilt. I figure we earned them with that long walk. Right? Right.
8 p.m. — Saturday nights have become reserved for our weekly virtual “hangouts” with friends. This quarantine ritual is something I look forward to during a time when there’s not a lot to pencil into the calendar. We usually finish a bottle of Two Buck Chuck from Trader Joe’s, which runs $2.99 a bottle. Sometimes the group plays drinking games, but mostly we just complain to each other and it’s GREAT. I love a good vent sesh.
Daily Total: $50
Weekly Total: $2,340.98
Reflection: At the start of the week, I was worried that I wasn’t the kind of person who could write a wellness diary. I’ve never considered myself a health nut and was expecting to be embarrassed by my lack of “wellness” activities. Fortunately, I was pleasantly surprised to find I spent a good amount of time prioritizing my mental health — more than I was giving myself credit for. This time in quarantine has taken a toll in many ways, but I’ve been lucky to have the space to take care of myself, cook more, write more, read more, and escape from the pressure of being constantly busy. I’ve realized that sometimes health is about the little things, like making time to floss in the morning because I wasn’t rushing to start the day. I hope I can take a few of these newfound habits back with me to the normal world when all of this is over. Fingers crossed!
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