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For those working from home during the pandemic, there have been some silver linings to be found in social distancing. Namely, it liberated us from the expectations of others, thereby allowing us to reimagine our own expectations of ourselves, often to some joyful results. In the coming weeks, returning to formalities won’t just mean blindly resuming the prepandemic status quo, but rather the chance to combine the best of the before times with what we’ve learned about ourselves at home.

With nowhere to go and no one to see for the past 18 months, any notions of personal presentation were essentially moot. It wasn’t just that haircuts, manicures, blowouts, waxing, Botox and fillers were all off the table, we also no longer had the same reasons for them. And what fell away from our daily grooming routines – curling your hair or shaving, for example – opened up space for other things such as spending time with the kids, exploring new hobbies, or taking a head-clearing walk. Caring for the health of our skin and hair, rather than just its appearance, became a priority that was reflected in a sales spike. At U.K. department store John Lewis, for example, sales of skin care, body and hair products jumped 234 per cent year-on-year in 2020.

What will emerge on the other side of lockdown is an approach to self-care that’s evolved beyond prescriptive activities like bubble baths to a priority of mental and emotional health. That may still include bubble baths, but as part of broader holistic lifestyle choices – making room for rest, maintaining healthy boundaries, presenting in a way that feels authentic, treating yourself with respect. For me, the ultimate expression of self-care is living in a way that empowers me to feel my best so that I can show up for others, which as we collectively strive for racial, gender and social equality, is more critical than ever.

Reopening is not without some anxiety for those who aren’t quite sure how to maintain the best aspects of their lockdown lifestyles. But creating balance offers new opportunities for self-discovery, and that’s definitely something to look forward to.

Rehab your sleep schedule

Maybe you’ve gotten used to rolling out of bed five minutes before your first Zoom call of the day, snuggling up on the couch for a midafternoon nap or engaging in some bedtime procrastination. Eventually, we’ll have to start setting an alarm clock again, and there are some ways to ease back into a regular circadian rhythm.

Dr. Marie-Hélène Favreau, medical director at Montreal’s sleep-focused Haleo Clinic, says that getting a good night’s rest is all about maintaining healthy routines and habits during the day. She recommends avoiding caffeine after lunch and alcohol in the evenings, getting exercise early in the day and spending time outdoors. “Each and every one of these factors in isolation is important but when you combine them, this is when you’re actually getting a good night’s sleep,” she says, adding that your bedroom should be cool, dark and quiet.

If you’d like to start getting up earlier in the mornings, do so gradually, adjusting your alarm by 15-minute increments until you’ve reached your ideal wake-up time. Any drastic shifts and “it’s going to feel like jet lag,” says Favreau.

As for those indulgent midday naps, Favreau says that there is room for siestas in the new normal, so long as they’re kept to 15 or 20 minutes and done early in the afternoon.

Do you really need to start washing your hair again?

Working from home upended morning routines, and many found that their usual daily shower started happening less frequently. “A lot of what we do with respect to cleaning ourselves is more about social norms,” says Dr. Sandy Skotnicki, a Toronto-based dermatologist. “If you don’t have to get dressed up and curl your hair to go out in society, you don’t.”

In her 2018 book, Beyond Soap: The Real Truth About What You Are Doing to Your Skin and How to Fix It for a Beautiful, Healthy Glow, Skotnicki bares it all about our modern skin-care habits, overwashing in particular. “The act of washing actually damages us, contrary to popular belief,” she says, explaining that hot water and some detergents can compromise the skin’s barrier.

Skotnicki says that those who’ve taken to washing less needn’t feel pressured to return to daily showering and shampooing. “I think people will probably find a happy balance because they do have to prim themselves. It’s a social acceptance thing – smell good, look good,” she says. “On the weekends when it’s just you and your family and friends, you don’t need to be scrubbing and rubbing. Your skin and hair will thank you.”

There is, however, one major exception: “The thing you really need to wash is your hands,” she says.

If you only do one thing to look and feel better …

Take a moment midday to wash your face. It’s something makeup pro and hair stylist Veronica Chu started doing when she returned to working on set. “It feels good for me that I’m putting in that extra step so that I don’t break out after a long day of wearing a mask,” she says of her new ritual, which involves wiping off her face with a toner-soaked cotton pad before applying a lightweight moisturizer. “I think people think self-care happens only at night, or in the morning. But having something midday can really help to recalibrate your brain and give yourself a moment of you.”

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