I live in Los Angeles, a.k.a. ground zero for every health-and-wellness trend there is. It’s the polar opposite of my hometown of Winnipeg, which I left 18 years ago to kick off my career in health and fitness. While I love my adopted city, it has been nearly two decades of kale (since before kale was a thing), cold-pressed green juice, power Pilates, butter coffee, cryotherapy, Zumba, trampolining, pole-dancing classes, CrossFit workouts and indoor cycling. 

Recently, at a yoga class that was a stretch to squeeze into my schedule, I found myself counting down the minutes until the instructor said “Namaste.” It got me thinking: When did “relaxing” start to feel like work? Between the meditation apps that keep pinging us to chill out, the two-hour (if you count the drive in heavy traffic to get there) barre classes that don’t leave us enough time to go grocery shopping for an organic, grass-fed, ethically butchered chicken to sous vide for dinner and biweekly meetings with an anxiety coach, “wellness” has taken over our lives. 

But if self-care feels like a chore these days, it’s very likely not the care YOU need. Wellness is not one size fits all. That’s why I never went back to that yoga class. I also uninstalled that annoying meditation app on my phone and discovered that I Zen out best while running on a treadmill to my favourite Spotify playlist. And, yes, sometimes the best thing for me is to drink some coffee and binge-watch Scandal, and that’s perfectly okay too. Here’s my advice:


1. SELF-CARE REQUIRES SELF-AWARENESS. Ask yourself: “What am I getting from this?” If you secretly hate that smelly goat-yoga class, re-evaluate why you’re taking it. Is it because you saw it on Instagram? Or your friends convinced you it was the cool kids’ workout? I know it’s tough, and the pressure to stay in the loop feels real, but try not to let the hype throw you off what’s best for you. It doesn’t matter if your self-care solution is taking a nature hike or getting that massage or pedicure you’ve been too busy to schedule. What really matters is that you do something, anything, that makes you feel better than you did before.


2. MAKE IT A PART OF YOUR ROUTINE. For me, effective self-care is all about developing positive habits. I’ve found that when I start my morning with healthy practices, it helps keep me on track for the rest of the day. For example, even though water isn’t always my beverage of choice, I know it’s good for my body, so I keep a bottle by my bed and drink a full glass before my feet touch the floor every morning. I also make fitness a priority every single day. Having badass body goals is awesome, but I stick with fitness for the mental benefits. I’d rather feel like a badass than look like a badass, and with fitness, I can have both. 


3. STICK WITH IT. Whatever you find that works for you, make it mandatory for yourself and commit to doing it. Once you start doing something positive on the regular, no matter how big or small, I guarantee that you will feel better about yourself. Positive habitual actions will leave you feeling more confident and happier. † 


Jennifer Cohen is a wellness coach and the author of the new fitness journal Badass Body Goals. This article originally appeared in the November 2018 issue of ELLE Canada.