If you're celebrating yourself this International Women's Day, or any day really, why not indulge in one of these self-care practices from around the world? It's not every day we have a day dedicated to us, to celebrate our accomplishments and possibilities, and to treat ourselves a little bit better (even though we should).
Self-care has become a major buzzword over the past few years, though there's no actual consensus on what it means. For some (read: me), the term renders images of face masks and wine, while others picture a long walk outside or making time to organize a messy closet. As it turns out, the term has varied connotations throughout the world, with cultural context making a huge difference in what is considered self-care.
In addition, U.S. News & World Report highlighted that self-care often becomes "diluted" in the social media world we live in, with people focusing on supposed self-care habits that will get them likes, such as popping a bottle of champagne or eating junk food, rather than "making the most caring choice you're capable of making in any given moment." So while it might take care of you to have a mimosa one morning, it might be equally caring to let yourself sleep, make time for a trip to the gym, or simply schedule a phone call with a friend. It all depends on what makes you feel the most loved by you.
So read on to find out how people all around the world are taking care of themselves, and get inspired to try a new form of self-help.
As the Japanese Travel Centre explained, Onsens are natural Japanese hot springs used for baths that relax both the body and mind. The people of Japan have been using the water's healing properties for centuries, and taking a dip in the warmth is known to "help people recover from certain surgeries and control a number of conditions, including rheumatism, neuralgia, hypertension and skin diseases," per CNN Travel. Plus, they generally make bathers feel calm and relaxed, promoting mental and physical health.
France: Working Outside Of Work Is Literally Illegal
In 2017, France passed a law that mandates companies with more than 50 employees designate hours employees can and cannot send work emails, according to Fortune. The law is intended to encourage the French to practice actual downtime and prevent employees from working from mobile devices or home computers after leaving the office. By establishing set work hours, the intention is for the French population as a whole to better relax, promoting self-care for the entire country. Maybe take a page out of the French book and use International Women's Day to set firmer boundaries with your boss (and even yourself) about after-work emails. Très bien.
A coffee break might not sound like a self-care technique, but it is the way the Swedes do it. Fika, the Swedish coffee break, is a time for intentionally slowing down, allowing those who practice it to calm their brains amid the daily stressors of work and life. Fika is immeshed into everyday Swedish life in many ways, with people making time for the break whether they're alone or with friends; "at any Swedish office, there is always a fika break, both in the morning and in the afternoon," the Kitchn reported. Try scheduling fika into your life come the 8th.
Hammam is one of the oldest steam bath traditions in the world, and it's still popular today in Turkey, according to Conde Nast Traveler. There are specific steps to the practice that are required for optimal relaxation, including relaxing before bathing, a specific room for transitioning to the heat of the bath, a full body scrub, and a massage according to Spa Finder. It's self-care from head to toe. You can find Turkish bathhouses in the United States; New York in particular has an abundance, according to PureWow.
China: Eye Massages
Anyone who works in an office knows that the strain on your eyes from looking at a computer all day can cause discomfort, and in China, alleviating that pain and stress is seen as a self-care technique. The practice is believed to prevent nearsightedness, but there's no scientific proof the massages work as The Wall Street Journal reported. Nonetheless, the publication reported that children in China massage their eyes at school everyday, intending to tend to their eyes.
Hygge is a way of life in Denmark, defined by coziness and an appreciation for the smaller things in life. Quoting Meik Wiking, the CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen, Country Living reported that hygge is "a defining feature of [Denmark's] cultural identity and an integral part of the national DNA." The Danish see taking the time to acknowledge small, peaceful moments as a form of self-care, bringing overall happiness to the forefront of their lives.
Basically, no matter how busy you are on International Women's Day, find the time, no matter how much or little, to appreciate and do something for yourself.
Jimijilbang, aka Korean bathhouses, put a "primal tough-love routine" twist on relaxing steams, as The New York Times reported, because aggressive, deep body scrubs are integral to the practice. The houses are divided by gender, require nudity, and make use of specific materials, like jade or baked clay, to provide unique relief to those who visit, per BBC Travel. Check out YELP's list of Korean Bathhouses in the states if you want to add a trip to your self-care day.
Part of a 2,000-year-old tradition, Thanaka is a thick, white paste the Burmese apply to their faces that is used both as a medicine to protect the skin, as well as a tool to brighten skin and prevent aging, as RetreaTours reported. The paste is made by grinding Thanaka tree bark, and many in the region wear it everyday. You can order a version of the paste for yourself from Truly Thanaka.
Iceland: Blue Lagoons
You've probably heard of the geothermal lagoons in Iceland, or at least seen photos of the Kardashians enjoying a dip in the waters on PEOPLE. But you might not know the toasty waters help control acne, prevent aging of the skin, improve respiratory conditions like asthma, offer pain relief, improve circulation, and increase endorphins, as BioEffect reported. Definitely add a soak to your itinerary if you're headed to the Northern Lights any time soon.
Russia too has a long history of bathhouses in their banyas, which date all the way back to 440 BC according to The Global Dispatches. Banyas are characterized by a steaming rituals and a "beating" of the body with special tree branches called venik that are supposed to calm and heal the skin, as Culture Trip reports. Russian bathhouses are pretty popular in the U.S., though you'd need to cross the pond to get a really authentic experience.
Australia: Beach Day
News.com.au reported that a day at the coast is actually good for overall health, which probably explains why Australians spend so much time at the beach. In fact, Byron Bay hosts Detox Retreats that make dips in the ocean part of a restorative package intended to restore people's natural balance and happiness. So make like an Aussie and find your way to some waves to relax.
America: Face Masks
Face masks have never been more popular in the U.S., with The Guardian reporting that the moisturizing pads reached their peak sales in the American market in 2018. Celebs started posting photos of themselves wearing the trendy skin care items on social media, and the beauty product quickly spread to the masses. I personally own at least 12 right now. There's not a ton of hard evidence that skin masks make lasting changes to your skin, but they definitely feel like a treat. You can buy them at pretty much any drugstore these days.
The world has made strides in terms of normalizing therapy as a necessary medical practice, but most of the planet still has catching up to do with Argentina, which is "home to more psychologists per capita than anywhere else in the world" as CNN reports. The majority of Argentinians, particularly residents of Buenos Ares, are in therapy, and there's no stigma around the practice like there is in so many other countries.
Considering 300 million people throughout the world suffer from depression, as reported by Very Well Mind, this might be the most important self-care practice you could adopt. So hit up a therapist March 8, and get in the Argentinian spirit. Sounds like paradise to me.