The "Delicious Rituals" Laura Dern Is Using to Practice Self-Care in Quarantine

Including her new bedtime routine with her mom and kids.

Laura Dern Coronavirus Stress
Photo: Getty Images

Laura Dern has always been steadfast about her self-care, before it became a buzzword. She's been meditating and doing yoga since she was a teen and has been taking magnesium supplements for stress religiously for years. But ironically, once the coronavirus pandemic hit, her self-care "went out the window the moment I needed it most," the actress and producer tells InStyle (over the phone).

"I completely dropped my meditation. In a crisis, everything else falls away. The anxiety and stress of everything going on made it too overwhelming," she says.

This isn't surprising considering many women have shifted their focus to care-taking above their personal needs, often for parents and children at the same time, which happens to be the case for Dern. "Women are notorious for guilting themselves out of self-care," she says.

But that has changed for Dern after weeks of stay-at-home orders: "I am realizing that as a mother and a daughter, self-care is a requirement in my day if I'm going to stay healthy enough to be the sole provider as an only child for my parents — getting and preparing their food and making sure they're safe — while taking care of my kids who are home now doing online school," she says.

One way she's doing that is by reclaiming time in the morning for herself. "If I can wake up and meditate before I grab my phone, that really helps me be centered for everyone else throughout the day," says Dern, who adds that Transcendental Meditation, or TM, has become a daily ritual with her teenage kids, son Ellery Harper, 18, and daughter, Jaya Harper, 15, as well. "In the afternoon, we meet up and we sit together on the couch and we have our meditation practice."

"What doesn't help is watching the news all day," Dern says of controlling pandemic-induced anxiety, which is why she's deliberate about unplugging and turning to centering activities: "We make sure to have the time in the day to walk our dogs and get fresh air, we make tea, take (online) yoga classes, and we're learning to knit together," she says.

And, just like the rest of us, Dern is now having to manage the stress of keeping up with cooking and cleaning seemingly around the clock. "Someone advised us a few days ago that we make cleaning part of our daily ritual — I noticed we were constantly cleaning all day and it made everyone irritable all day, so now we committed to an hour each day."

Dern has also been finding new ways to bond with her intergenerational household, whether it's making viral TikTok videos with her daughter or creating a Zoom movie club. (We're working on getting ourselves invited.)

"The ritual of watching anything is calming. We have a classic movie list we're going through – we watched my mom [Diane Ladd] in Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore which was amazing to share. We go on Zoom and at the end we talk about the movie with friends, which has been really cool."

She adds that they've been adding shows to their queue that make them laugh (currently, that's Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist), but, making an exception for one show: "We're also watching Little Fires Everywhere — it's not calming, but it's incredibly entertaining," she says of her friend Reese Witherspoon's new show. (Talk about loyalty.)

In quarantine, winding down at the end of the day has become even more important. "We take hot baths and take stress-relieving magnesium powder from Natural Vitality CALM," Dern says, who recently partnered with the brand. "My kids and I started taking this product years ago — it's part of our bedtime ritual and it really helps with sleep. I use it when I'm working and if I don't take it I really feel the difference."

Dern adds that listening to a calming sleep story on the Calm app, or sharing short stories with her mom and kids has become one of her most cherished parts of this unexpected time in quarantine. "I've been asking my mom to share stories from childhood and we're reminded of the most ancient ritual in all cultures: storytelling," she says. The actress narrates her own relaxing story on Calm, "Ocean Moon," which will be available April 21 — if you've been dying for the chance to have Laura Dern read you a bedtime story (and already burned through her rendition of Little Women).

"Storytime got me to go sleep in my childhood and some of my favorite memories are being awakened by my ex when I had fallen asleep reading my kids books when they were little," Dern says. "It's a delicious ritual."

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