There are an infinite amount of reasons why fashion and beauty are valuable to me. Besides being able to marvel at the art of all things sartorial and the empowering powers makeup can have, my beauty routine has been helpful in helping me manage my anxiety disorder. This may seem unbelievable to some, but if you truly believe in the transformative powers of makeup and beauty in other realms (like art!), then is it so impossible to believe something like purple lipstick could have an effect on mental health as well?
For years, I've been going to therapy on and off to address the trauma-based anxiety I developed from some negative experiences in my young life, including having a long term medical condition and being sexually assaulted. Oftentimes, I wake up feeling anxious, which makes setting a positive tone for the rest of the day pretty crucial. Following my therapist's advice, I decided to try to establish a set morning routine to try to combat the symptoms. By forcing myself to get out of bed and go through the motions of normality, I thought I could begin to kick the depression in the butt.
It soon became clear to me that part of my self care routine would be to establish some kind of stricter beauty routine. Usually when I'm feeling depressed or anxious, I neglect myself by not brushing my teeth or washing my face. It can feel impossible to partake in these simple acts of love for myself when I'm so debilitated by fear or sadness. Ultimately, however, I end up feeling way worse when I listen to those anxious voices in my head that discourage me from freshening up in the bathroom. The bottom line is that if you don't remind yourself that you are worth taking care of, then you can't properly help yourself. And so my mornings got a makeover.
I began starting the day by indulging in some Fearless-era Taylor Swift while reading a bit from my Rookie Yearbook 3. This was often accompanied with rose tea (rose is only my favorite herbal ingredient ever). The box it comes in boasts "magical properties," which I can almost feel as the delicious stuff warms my throat and floods my body with fragrance. With my whole being humming from this calm beginning, I'd be off to the bathroom for phase two.
After brushing my teeth, I gently wash and tone my face with my all natural S.W. Basics products. The time used to rub the fragrant waters over my face is incredibly calming and makes me mindful of how the little things I do to take care of myself always make me feel more connected to my body and my natural state of serenity. In these moments, my body does legitimately feel like a temple, and a spritz of calming face mist or a swipe of mascara help remind me of my own divinity.
Using fashion and beauty to help love yourself might sound a little problematic when you consider issues of material vanity and body negativity that bubble to the surface. But what makes this routine work is the way I've broken down the negative definitions of what it means to be "beautiful" and perform "femininely." Putting on makeup or going through my skincare routine are nothing but centering activities for me. I'm not doing them for anybody else, and have no one's expectations but my own in mind.
The very act of putting on lipstick makes me feel more at peace and reminds me that I deserve to feel like my strong and sexy self at all times. Lipstick is so powerful that I often carry around every tube I own in my tote bag or backpack. Obviously I'm not going to be changing lipstick colors throughout the day (although sometimes I do), but their mere presence is a comfort. When I reach into my bag and see them all, they call to mind my validity and promise an escape should I need it.
During finals week, for example, I was super stressed. Out of sleep deprivation-induced insanity and the need for a break, I would duck out of classes and study sessions every now and then to put on a different lipstick and take a bunch of selfies. The utter off-the-wall-ness of this act made me laugh so much, plus I got some pretty great selfies from it as well.
This was one of the most successful methods I found to help balance my stress levels at school, especially during busy exam weeks. I've always been a bit wary about trying anti-anxiety medications, even though I know they have changed the lives of many sufferers. But I believe that my bag of lipsticks served me in the same way a bottle of Xanax might serve someone else, and I was grateful to discover I had powerful medicine right at my fingertips already.
And so, my plethora of beauty products, which greet me every morning whenever I rise to wash and tone my face, are undoubtedly a toolbox for anxiety reduction. By simply clutching onto my favorite lippie or spraying myself with my prefered fragrance, I can stop an exhausting, vicious cycle of fear and self doubt. Makeup tells me I am worth of my own love, and is no less than a fun distraction when I'm at the verge of a nervous breakdown.
I'm not saying makeup will cure your anxiety disorder. Of course it won't. Anxiety is complex, and takes a commitment to a multi-part routine to help combat and treat it. But for me — and maybe for some other people with anxiety and a love for beauty products — makeup and skincare help create soothing rituals. They're a wonderful addition to my self care routine, which also includes journaling, meditation, and self affirmative mantras. The latter three are obvious coping mechanisms that therapists often recommend for managing anxiety. But to my surprise — and to the surprise of others around me — my makeup bag has an equally strange way of making me feel stable whenever I'm off balance.
Images: Meg Zulch