Here is my French girl’s guide to self-care. I’m French, and during the Paris lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic, I had to stay at home for about two months. During this strange time, I focused on well-being activities and small luxury pleasures to elevate my routine and to feel great and more relaxed. But what does self-care really mean to French women? How do French women approach self-care? What are exactly their secrets to self-care?
I don’t think there is any proper French translation for the word “self-care”, but maybe the French expression «prendre soin de soi». French women’s self-care approach is more a way of living and it’s pretty much something they practice in their daily life, and from a very young age. Indeed, French women do not spend fortunes on drastic health treatments, intense workout classes, or the latest healthy cookbook bestseller. Instead, the way French women care for themselves is more about doing something for themselves every day. It’s naturally embedded in their daily routine and it’s mostly traditions and rituals passed from generation to generation.
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.
With the Covid-19 situation, it can be challenging to practice self-care. That’s why in this article I’ve tried to explain how French women approach self-care. From home decor, end of evening rituals, to natural sleep-promoting supplements, check out all of my best French self-care tips.
The French “Laissez Faire” Approach To Wellness
Before diving into the ways to do self-care like French women, you need to understand the French approach to wellness, which I call the “laissez-faire” approach (which can be translated in English as “let it be”). French women do not strive for perfection and it’s an important fact to understand as I don’t want you to believe you have to follow religiously all the tips listed below to feel great and relaxed. Do not make drastic changes to your routine, but instead adopt one, two, or three of my French tips below, which you know you’ll enjoy. The French approach to self-care is, above all, feeling good about yourself. And it’s rather different from having something imposed on you. Just take a more relaxed approach to wellbeing.
Accept your flaws (which make you charming and unconventionally beautiful) rather than trying to fix them. Appreciate the small things in life, and do not fuss too much about how you look or do not try too hard to be healthy. Do not be afraid to spend time alone to get to know yourself better.
How French Women Practice Self-Care
1. They Adopt The French Diet
French women do not try too hard to be healthy. And they believe that if a “healthy” ritual makes them miserable then it must be unhealthy. French women usually do not start any kind of extreme diet or intermittent fasts. The French diet is not about “dieting” and the word “diet” is a terrible misnomer. Instead, the French diet is part integral of the French lifestyle: preparing and sharing food is one of the essential pleasures of French culture.
The French diet is mainly common sense. It’s all about excluding processed foods, eating local and whole foods, avoiding snacking, avoiding all diet foods, and cooking every single meal where flavor remains non-negotiable, even in healthy food. French women know that health is a matter of balance and if they have a sugary snack during the day, it’s automatic for them to eat something lighter for the next meal. From time to time, don’t forget to have little pleasures. Mines are croissants and pains au chocolat that I’m buying at my local bakery every Sunday morning. For more details, check out my article on how French women stay thin.
2. They Create End Of Evening Rituals
Sleep is a powerful stress reducer and following a regular sleep routine calms and restores the body, improves concentration, and regulates mood. That’s why it’s important to create an end of an evening ritual that will help you relax and sleep.
When going to bed, try to avoid watching TV (that can keep you up until late hours in the night), consulting your social media, or preparing your to-do list for the next day. Instead, go to bed early, light your favorite scented candle (or an essential oil diffuser), make a calming herbal tea, and read a good book. During winter times, try to relax by taking a long bath with bath salts —my favorites are the Odacité relaxing bath soak and the Herbivore Botanicals coconut soak. Take time to do a facial —I love the Sisley Paris velvet sleeping mask— or a proper manicure —see how French women do their nails. Also, you can practice a 30-minute bedtime yoga sequence for better sleep. I really love yoga before going to bed, I feel it helps relax my mind and body so I fall asleep quicker and I feel it improves my quality of sleep overall.
About Natural Sleep-Promoting Supplements
If you feel too stressed and anxious, you can use natural sleep-promoting supplements to get a good night’s sleep. I like the Solgar Magnesium Citrate, I take two tablets daily and for thirty days. Magnesium supports nerve, and muscle function and supports a calm, relaxed mood. Also, I’m a huge fan of the Solgar 5-HTP. I always come back to this supplement each time I feel a little bit depressed, anxious, and very stressed. I usually take one capsule at 5 pm and another one before going to bed for 30-days.
Finally, opt for herbal teas like valerian root, chamomile, lavender, lemon balm, passionflower, and magnolia bark that have been shown to improve sleep and promote relaxation.
3. They Exercise Daily To Manage Stress
Exercise increases your overall health and your sense of well-being, which puts more pep in your step every day. Exercise also has some direct stress-busting benefits. And in order to exercise you don’t have to do any kind of exercise program with high intensity and high frequency (which are often unsustainable in the long run).
French women favor the gentler, more regular varieties of all-day movement like walking to work, biking on weekends, or taking the “metro” more often than cabs. If you’re working a lot from your computer make sure to take breaks and just get out. Go walk your dog (if you have one) or just walk to the park, in your neighborhood, or on the beach. Make a point of taking breaks during your day as you’ll come back with new ideas and you’ll be more efficient and creative.
4. They Make Their Home Feel More Relaxing
If you’re craving a little more serenity in the day-to-day, some simple decorating tweaks can make your space more relaxing. The French are firm believers that it’s the little things in a space that make a big difference, and that is also an integral part of their self-care strategy.
Step 1: Declutter Your Home
But before adding any new home decor, I strongly recommend decluttering your home first. Do papers still accumulate like snowdrifts and clothes pile up like a tangled mess of noodles? By just simplifying and organizing your home I strongly believe you can have a calmer and more motivated mindset. If you don’t know where to start and how to properly tidy up your home, I really recommend the New York best-seller The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. Japanese cleaning consultant Marie Kondo takes tidying to a whole new level, promising that if you properly simplify and organize your home once, you’ll never have to do it again.
Step 2: Tap Into Scents
Once your home is properly organized, you can start updating your home decor. First, the French embrace soothing shades and there’s a good reason why. Indeed, a timeless neutral is more comforting than stark white, try creamy ivory or greige (a warm, gray-tinted beige). So if you feel the need to update your home colors, a fresh coat of paint can be the biggest mood-changer in a room. Also, if you looking for inspiration to update your home decor, check out my article on the Parisian home decor style.
Then, you can add scented candles in the different rooms of your home. Indeed, an aroma that evokes a happy memory is a shortcut to feeling happy right now. Woodfire and hazel tree scents can transport you to the cozy winter holidays, while cypress and fig tree can bring you back to that calm feeling of your last Mediterranean vacation.
Step 3: Pop A Plant In Every Room
A Parisian home is always adorned with plants and flowers. And with the Covid-19 lockdown, more and more Parisians are now revamping their living spaces into urban jungles through houseplants. And there is a reason why!
Indeed, it has been proven that some indoor plants can reduce stress and give a healthy breathable environment keeping health problems at bay. The top ten indoor plants to relieve anxiety and stress are basil, jasmine, aloe vera, snake plant, lavender, chamomile, areca palm, peppermint, English ivy, and chrysanthemum. So like the French, sneak in greenery wherever you can, from the dining room to the bathroom. For more, see my guide to decorating your home with plants and flowers the Parisian way.
Step 4: Design The Ideal Bedroom For Sleep
A great night’s sleep doesn’t happen all on its own but you’ve got to create the ideal setting. The French know the power of a minimalist, modern, contemporary but warm bedroom. Not everyone has the luxury of living in a Haussmann building with classic features, but that doesn’t mean you can’t recreate the look and feel of Parisian decor in your very own bedroom.
First, keep the overall palette of your bedroom neutral (white is an all-time favorite color of Parisians). The decor and furniture are polished, and sleek but kept simple. Opt for mid-century modern, vintage, and contemporary furniture. In terms of sheet sets, prefer Egyptian cotton, sateen, percale, or linen (in summer). White, ivory, blush, camel, or light beige lighten the room and will make your bedroom more relaxing and welcoming. Also, surround yourself with meaningful objects and decor elements you love and with things that make you feel “warm and fuzzy”. For more, check out my step-by-step guide to creating a Parisian-style bedroom.
5. They Wear Comfortable Clothing
Wearing pieces that are just as comfortable and cozy as stylish at home is part of the French girl’s self-care routine. You can choose from luxurious knits, neutral colors, tailored fits, and lots of silk. For French women, those very chic and comfy pieces have the power to make them feel better at home. Indeed, even what you wear to bed or around the house can boost your mood and your confidence.
So if you want to feel just a little bit more French chic at home, you can opt for wide-leg pants in a luxurious fabric like cashmere or knit, silky or cotton pajama sets, and slips with knitwear or silk robes (what we call “un déshabillé” in French). For French women, even loungewear pieces should feel like a luxury. This season, I love this Sleeper black feather-trimmed crepe de chine pajama set and this Honna pink striped cotton-voile pajama set. Also, I have this Sleeper feather-trimmed jersey top and legging set on my wishlist. In terms of knitwear, Sézane’s Mia and Achille jumpers are my go-to knitwear to wear over my silk pajama or just to chill at home.
I hope this French girl’s guide to self-care will help you to practice self-care at home. If you have any questions, please let me know in the comments below.
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Bonjour and welcome to Leonce Chenal, a modern lifestyle platform created and curated by a French woman for lovers of everything French. I’m Leonce, born and raised near Annecy, France. Through this website, I want to share with you the passion I have for my home country and for the French art de vivre. Merci for visiting and à bientôt! —Leonce