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  • Writer's pictureMallory Warner

Self-Care The French Way


Bonne Annee, Happy New Year! It’s the time where we start fresh and set goals of what we want to accomplish in the next 365 days. Rather than making traditional New Year's resolutions, I wanted to focus my new year on self-care, the French way. In my research, I discovered Leonce Chenal’s approach to French Self-care and used it as my guide to jumpstart my new year. In a 2021 blog post, Chenal writes “For French women, self-care is all about slowing down the pace of life to enjoy the small things that they know deep down will make them happy. They just take the time to enjoy life.” She goes on to outline five strategies for French self-care: following the French diet, creating an evening ritual(s), exercising to manage stress, make your home more relaxing, and wearing comfortable clothing. This month I tried to incorporate each of these French self-care tips into my daily routine to start my new year off right.


The French Way of Eating


I know the dated French dietary stereotypes, studies such as “The French Paradox” and books like “French Women Don’t Get Fat” that posit that there is something universally healthy about the French lifestyle. Have the French unlocked the secret to the fountain of youth? What does it mean to be healthy in France and what can we learn from it in 2022? What I find the most reasonable and manageable approach to eating the French way: everything in moderation.


What is the way of French eating? In my experience, it is based on exceptional, seasonal ingredients. This month, I did my best to avoid highly processed foods and to cook as many meals as possible. I got creative and dug deep into my pantry, using dried and canned beans, spices, olives and capers. I tried my best to shopping seasonally, and not over-buy. I gravitated toward foods that used seasonal (winter) ingredients, without relying solely on heavy stews or comfort dishes and instead brought citrus and brightness to my plate. Some of my favorite meals were my North-African inspired lentil soup, tuna with pasta, olives and capers, and even successfully executed my first French omelette.


Exercising to Manage Stress


It’s very difficult to get my body moving while under a series of atmospheric rivers (rain, rain and more rain). I have been longing to get outside again. The holidays always break up my routines, and I can feel the outdoors calling me back. This winter I am going to attempt to take more rainy day walks and get back to hiking or snowshoeing in the woods. With the days getting a little longer and spring just around the corner, building exercise into my daily routine is something I look forward to.


Creating End of Evening Ritual


I am someone who keeps an early bedtime but lately its been difficult breaking the cycle of social media scrolling before bed. The end of evening routine I implemented this month was to spend at least 15 minutes reading before bed. I climb into bed, with a book and a cup of herbal tea and read until my eyes get tired. I then turn off the light and usually doze off to sleep quickly. Here is what I read this month: Taste: My life through food by Stanley Tucci and Paris in Winter by David Coggins.


Make Your Home More Relaxing


Chenal breaks this tip into four sub-tips: declutter your space, tap into scents, pop a plant in every room, and design an ideal bedroom for sleep. As soon as the new year hit, I was done with the holiday season. I had gone a bit overboard decorating the house this year, being our first Christmas in this house. After the new year, I felt overwhelmed by the clutter and all I wanted to do was sleep and relax. Instead of being overcome by the amount of cleaning and decluttering that needed to be done, I took small steps each day that first week of January to get my house back in order. Down came the garlands, and the tree, the ornaments were put in their neat little boxes. I vacuumed (my favorite cleaning activity) and dusted every surface. I did so many loads of laundry, I lost count. But by the end of the week, the dish pan was empty and I felt like I regained control of my space. What followed was a state of total relaxation.


As for her other tips, I love sampling scented candles, and finding different scents that accompany the vibe I want to give in each room of the house. I prefer low lighting in my living space, so there are always candles to provide pops of light during the dark winter evenings. I also love plants and have several throughout our home (all named after Frasier characters of course). This month I am showing them some love with repotting, fertilizing and lots of healthy watering to keep my green girls looking their best.


Wearing Comfortable Clothes


Throughout the pandemic I have gravitated toward outfits that I feel both chic and comfortable to wear. Sometimes I need an outfit to make me feel confident, which makes me more comfortable in my own skin. I'll wear all black, or maybe a bold top and I can't forget the red lipstick. While in Paris last October, I picked up some beautiful (and affordable) cashmere sweaters from Monoprix. When I am at home writing, I get out of my pajamas into my soft leggings and comfy sweatshirt. I put on my fuzzy slippers or wool socks to keep me warm on these chilly days. I rely on this outfit to help me feel like I’m going to “do work” but still be cozy and relaxed.


I loved list list of simple self-care items that made me feel a bit more French. These are things that I can incorporate into my everyday life to create a bit more balance. What are your favorite tips for self-care?


For other great French tips, follow Leonce Chenal on Instagram at @leoncechenal and online at leoncechenal.com.

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