If you don't stop for self-care life just whizzes past
London gurus in well-being Nadia and Katia Narain count Kate Moss, Sienna Miller and Reese Witherspoon among their followers
Katia and Nadia Narain say self-care should be an everyday activity
I feel slightly bad about this, but when a wellness guru to the stars – one dubbed “Marie Kondo for the soul” – tells me that she spent an evening last week in tears, I’m immediately heartened.
“I had a situation where I had to work late and missed lunch,” explains Nadia Narain. “It was a busy week with a book coming out, and there was no food in the fridge. I was like a child who was hungry, and of course as adults you’re not allowed to scream like a child, but at one point I just burst into tears. All these other feelings surfaced that weren’t necessarily real – it was just a reaction to being hungry.”
Long story short: Nadia and her sister Katia may be considered London’s new-age super-gurus, but they themselves are very much works in progress. They need to work on their own contentment and wellness constantly. “We’ve not perfected it by any means,” smiles Nadia.
The sisters drew on their own personal experiences of breakups, the death of their father and 'their own eating requirements' to pen the books
Katia, too, admits that even amid a packed schedule of wellness activities (Nadia teaches yoga at the Triyoga Centre in London, Katia runs the centre’s Nectar Café), she can be her own worst enemy: “One of the most important things for us was realising that the mental conversations we have with ourselves can be the most detrimental,” she explains. “We go to yoga and eat healthily, but you do notice the conversations in your head – ‘you’re not good enough, what do you know?’”
It’s precisely this no-bulls***t approach that lends plenty of credence and charm to their books: there was last year’s Self-Care For The Real World, and its follow-up, Rituals For Every Day. The same approach has helped the two amass not only a sizeable Instagram following, but a client list that boasts Reese Witherspoon, Sienna Miller and Kate Moss (the latter, an old comrade of Nadia’s from the 1990s modelling scene, reportedly bought 20 copies of Self-Care For The Real World as Christmas presents for friends).
Incidentally, the sisters’ starry clients have wellness needs that are much like everyone else’s: “Everyone wants the same things,” says Nadia. “People want to feel peaceful and healthy.”
The sisters drew on their own personal experiences of breakups, the death of their father and “their own eating requirements” to pen the books. They ended up in the fields of helping others as a result of their own pain, they note. Nadia and Katia were born and brought up in Hong Kong, the daughters of a South African ballet dancer and a fashion retailer from India. But their formative years were not without imperfections: they struggled to get on with their parents on occasion, and the two ended up relying on each other a lot.
With the Narains building on this life experience, the books fly in the face of received wisdom that self-care is an extravagant, costly, or the exclusive preserve of those already boned up on mindfulness, yogic enlightenment and the like. In fact, Rituals For Every Day, says Katia, is “everything you already know, but just gently reminding you to do it”.
“People have written to us saying, ‘It’s been five years since I took a bath and when I did it, I felt so great’,” says Katia. “It can be something so simple as making your bed in the morning, and keeping your room tidy so that when you come home in the evenings, it’s less a stressful mess and more inviting.
“In the evenings, light a candle and change out of your work clothes; it’s a simple way to transition and tell yourself, ‘I’m home, I can relax’.”
Adds Nadia: “One of the best things we did was take our phones out of our bedrooms. It takes a lot of discipline not to check emails first thing in the morning. Everyone comes at us with the excuse that they don’t have enough time in the day, but it just depends on what you want to prioritise. The book teaches us to implement a little bit of time every day where you pause and pay attention to yourself, even if it’s just having a cup of tea for five minutes. Otherwise, life just whizzes past.”
Netflix, Chianti and chocolate may seem like glorious, soporific choices at the end of a wearying day, but according to the Narain sisters, they amount to a false economy
It all sounds pretty basic, but the Narains observe that many people desperately need to be reminded of the restorative power of this stuff. To-do lists run for miles in today’s breakneck world, and looking after ourselves comes a long way after life admin, laundry, homework, bosses and making the whole lot of it look perfectly effortless on social media.
Political unrest and economic uncertainty has caused people to double down on stressful work commitments, anxiety and worrying about others.
“Politically, even I’m exhausted by what’s happening, on both sides of the pond, even though I’ve become quite disciplined about not reading Twitter feeds and the news,” says Nadia. “It absolutely wears me down.”
What’s more, we tend to “self-care” in the wrong ways. Netflix, Chianti and chocolate may seem like glorious, soporific choices at the end of a wearying day, but according to the Narain sisters, they amount to a false economy. Rather, the accomplishing of small, manageable goals – being in bed by 10.30pm, walking for 30 minutes, having a meal with family or friends, dancing around to a pop song – is much more restorative.
“Hey, if being out and having wine and chocolate makes you feel nourished, go for it,” shrugs Nadia. “But it’s more about looking for the resources that will renourish you so that you have more to give. Sometimes it’s about turning your phone off at a certain time, not reacting to emails right away, making sure you’re eating right and drinking enough water.”
People – women especially – tend to prioritise others over themselves: “Sometimes there’s a real guilt involved, as though this stuff is very self-indulgent,” reveals Katia. “I don’t know what it’s like in Ireland, but the English love to power through and take care of everyone else. They are very reluctant to do anything for themselves and be open about it.”
Says Nadia: “I was with a client yesterday who told me that she wasn’t feeling like her normal self. I asked her, ‘If this was your daughter or best friend telling you this, what would you tell them to do?’ and she burst into tears. That’s really the gist of it all – treat yourself the very same way you would treat someone else that you love.”
Rituals For Every Day by Nadia and Katia Narain is out now via Hutchinson Press