The Little Thing I Do To Calm My Anxiety

by Erin Mayer

The term "self-care" gets thrown around a lot these days, especially in the wake of an election season that has been painful for many. We are living in politically and environmentally fraught times, and it isn't trivial to put thought into how we keep ourselves sane. My anxiety and depression has flared dramatically in the months since Donald Trump was elected president — and there's one little thing I do daily to help me stay calm.

I'm a beauty editor, and therefore makeup is a huge part of my day-to-day life. While it might seem trivial to some, I use beauty to help cope with my mental health issues. One product that's always been a source of comfort is lipstick — and not the super long-lasting liquid lipstick that everyone's obsessed with lately.

Liquid lipstick is everywhere, and for good reason — unreal color payoff, amazing staying power, that buttercream scent they all seem to have been infused with. I can see the appeal, but honestly give me a classic (ideally non-matte) formula any day. I seriously prefer a lipstick that isn't long-lasting.

I have nothing against a liquid lipstick. In fact, I do wear them on occasional nights when I don't want to think about what my makeup will look like after a few glasses of wine. But on any given morning when I rifle through my fairly extensive lipstick collection in search of the perfect shade to toss in my bag that day, I'm more likely to grab your standard, creamy, bullet-shaped tube, the same kind my mom and grandma wore long before the phrase "doe-foot applicator" was first uttered by beauty gurus on YouTube.

I'm not old-fashioned when it comes to makeup. My loyalty to the kind of lipstick that fades when you eat an oily salad and leaves a bold imprint on the side of your coffee cup doesn't have to do with a fear of change. I prefer to have my bold brown or red color fade for one simple reason: I enjoy reapplying it over the course of the day.

It might seem like finding the perfect "set it and forget it" formula so that I am free to swipe it on and go about my business without obsessing about whether or not there is lipstick on my chin after I eat a sandwich would add some comfort to my routine. But here's the thing: I will obsess over my lipstick no matter what. I obsess over everything — it's who I am. I have anxiety and it causes me to worry about small things (whether my lipstick looks crazy) and big things (mortality) in roughly equal measure.

Reapplying my lipstick provides a calming anchor to my day. Every few hours, be it after I drink a beverage, eat a meal, or simply need to stop thinking for ten seconds, I carefully re-draw my lipstick so that it looks fresh. It resets my mood, brings me back to that confident "freshly applied" feeling that I possess when I leave my house in the morning, and puts an extra bounce in my step.

Even when my concealer dissolves under my eyes and my mascara is smudged, I can rely on my lipstick to remain crisp and pigmented — not because it clung to my lips for dear life for hours, but because I carefully and lovingly took the time to touch it up.

The way you present yourself to the world is important and, as my Bustle colleague Olivia Muenter points out in a recent article, can be downright revolutionary:

"Making fashion and beauty choices as a woman in Trump's America is an opportunity. It is remembering that 50 years ago, a woman not wearing stockings was considered revolutionary. That 23 years ago, women still weren't allowed to wear pants on the Senate floor. That five years ago, a full collection for plus size women had never shown at New York Fashion Week. That we're still fighting today. It is in those tiny moments — those small slivers of self-care that live in how we apply lipstick, or wear our favorite suit — that we take back power."

Reapplying that faded and decidedly not long-wearing lipstick two, three, four times over the course of the day is my own small way of reclaiming power and control over my life. When I feel run-down or anxious or depressed, I smear on a fresh coat of pigment and viola! I'm renewed. It might only last until my next sip of coffee, but that's part of the appeal of a regular 'ole lipstick — it gives me the chance to start fresh.