What is "real self-care?" Why bubble baths can't always cut it : Code Switch "You can't meditate yourself out of a 40-hour work week with no childcare and no paid sick days," says Dr. Pooja Lakshmin. But when you're overworked and overwhelmed, what actually can you do? On this episode, host B.A. Parker asks: What are your options when a bubble bath won't cut it?

Real self-care takes real systemic change

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Hey, everyone. You're listening to CODE SWITCH. I'm B.A. Parker. So safe space - I do reiki - and not just any reiki - virtual reiki. We're still in the pandemic, people.

So once a week, I meet a lady over Zoom, and she sends energy into my chakras.


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: So we are slated to do 30 minutes together.

PARKER: I sit on my couch, light my candle...


PARKER: ...And place my crystals, and then this nice woman on the screen angles her hands towards the camera, setting an intention, while I feel this warm static travel through my crown and down my back.

A lot of energy just whooshed through me.

Reiki, you know, is actually an ancient healing technique. It was popularized in Japan, but it has roots in many other cultures. And even though a lot of people in the U.S. think of it as kind of woo-woo (ph), I guess, with all of the madness in the world, that half an hour feels nice. It's nice to get my energy cleansed, ignoring my neighbor's toddler stomping on the floor above me...


PARKER: ...Or the police sirens outside my window...


PARKER: ...Or the back-to-back meetings I sometimes have from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. It's my form of self-care. Oh, I think it is. Or at least I thought it was.


POOJA LAKSHMIN: I like to say that you can't meditate your way out of a 40-hour workweek with no childcare, without health insurance, without access to actual, real systemic support.

PARKER: That's Dr. Pooja Lakshmin. She's a psychiatrist specializing in women's mental health...

LAKSHMIN: And the founder and CEO of Gemma, which is a women's mental health education platform.

PARKER: And she's the author of a new book called...

LAKSHMIN: "Real Self-Care (Crystals, Cleanses, And Bubble Baths Not Included)."

PARKER: So today on the show - what is real self-care, what's not real self-care and why the difference is crucial, especially to women of color.

LAKSHMIN: Because when you believe that the problem is inside of you, then you don't question the status quo.

PARKER: We're going to start with the fake self-care. And to do that, unfortunately, I have to take you all back to a dark, depressing time that I think we'd all rather forget.

So in, like, 2020, 2021, I, like the rest of the world, was going through a rough patch. And I was stressed with work, with the news, with life, and a lot of people told me I needed to prioritize self-care. And so, like, I tried everything. Like, I tried meditating, breathwork. I did edibles. I went into a sensory deprivation tank. Like, I did reiki. But, like, nothing was working, and I was still really stressed. But in your book, you're making the argument that none of that is actually self-care, right?

LAKSHMIN: So, yes, with a caveat.


LAKSHMIN: So, you know, buying a new day planner and signing up for a meditation class isn't going to change the fact that 30 million Americans are uninsured and that, you know, a quarter of American workers don't have paid sick days or, you know, the fact that, if you're a Black woman, you have to work for 19 months to make the same amount of money that a white man will make in 12 months, right? So all of the systemic things - whether we're talking about white supremacy, whether we're talking about, you know, toxic capitalism, patriarchy - right? - all of these different things. So the meditation apps, the bubble baths, the sensory deprivation tanks - all that stuff is kind of sold to us as the solution, but it doesn't actually fix any of the real external problems that have caused us to feel so terrible to begin with.

PARKER: In the book, you define it, but how do you define, quote-unquote, "fake" self-care?

LAKSHMIN: Yeah, so I call it faux self-care.

PARKER: Faux self-care.

LAKSHMIN: Faux self-care - and I conceptualize faux self-care as the methods. So it's always going to be something that's prescribed from the outside, like you mentioned - people telling you, you know, you need to do self-care. You need to meditate. You need to go to yoga. You need to make your gratitude list. So it's prescribed from the outside. It's usually a noun, so it's usually describing some sort of activity or a product.


LAKSHMIN: It's something to buy or something to do, right? And it usually maintains the status quo in your relationships or in your family life or in your workplace, and it doesn't actually do anything to change any of these larger systems. So that's, like - that's the crux of it. Like, it maintains the status quo in your life. And usually, especially for women and for people of color, it's typically an escape. And we can come back to this. It's not that escape is bad, but it's an escape so that you can get away from all of the terribleness that's going on, or sometimes it can end up being something that actually gets turned into an achievement metric.

PARKER: You just reminded me - there was a few years where I was obsessed with spin classes. And then I realized I was so mean to myself during the spin classes that I thought it was, like, making me better, but it was also just making me feel really bad about myself.

LAKSHMIN: Well, yeah, and that's a really great point. So the other thing with faux self-care, especially when it's something that gets equated with achievement, is it usually comes with guilt and shame...


LAKSHMIN: ...Either guilt and shame when you don't get to it - when you miss a day, right? - or that you're not doing it well enough, right? And so, you know, the perfect example is the woman who comes into my practice and is just like, well, Dr. Lakshmin, you know, I'm burnt out. I'm stressed out. I'm not eating well. I'm not sleeping well. And I feel like it's my fault - right? - because I know I'm supposed to be going to yoga. And that's exactly what you described with sort of, like, the spin. You know, when you believe that it's that thing that's going to fix all of your problems, then that gets turned into another measuring stick...


LAKSHMIN: ...That you're using to judge yourself and also to beat yourself up.

PARKER: Yeah. But then why do you think faux self-care is so appealing?

LAKSHMIN: Yeah. If you don't mind, I'm going to be a little bit ragey (ph) here (laughter).

PARKER: By all means, please do.

LAKSHMIN: Well, because the entire U.S. economy is built on the unpaid or underpaid labor of women, and particularly women of color - of Black women, of brown women, of immigrants, of people who are less than in the caste system - so we are living in an economy that is incentivized to have us believe that the solution to our problems is to buy something or to work harder.


LAKSHMIN: Because when you believe that the problem is inside of you, then you don't question the status quo. You don't ask yourself, well, why doesn't my employer give me paid sick days off, right? Why don't we have paid parental leave in America? Why is it so hard to find a therapist who takes insurance and is accepting new patients, right? So the reason that self-care is something that we have hoisted on to the individual is really tied up in not only capitalism as a system, but also white supremacy. You know, I specialize in women's mental health, so all my patients are people who identify as women. So a lot of my patients are mothers or caretakers - whether that's taking care of, like, little kids or whether that's taking care of your aging parents, right? So I do think that it's really important to think about how much we devalue care work...


LAKSHMIN: ...And emotional labor and all the things that are invisible. So getting back to the original question - the real work of self-care is actually invisible. And it takes a really long time, and it's not something that you can measure or check off on a list. And so therefore, like, the shortcut - right? - is to just believe that, like, well, I can just, like, buy this packet of pretty beige branded vitamins that's being shoved in my face on Instagram every day - if I buy that, and it's delivered in 24 hours - right? - like, that'll fix my problems, as opposed to investing in the longer-term, risky work of looking at - how am I living my life? Like, what's really important to me? How do I learn how to set boundaries in my relationships, right? All that stuff that's the real kind of internal work - that's so much harder because, you know, we're, like, living in this system where people just - you don't have time, right?


LAKSHMIN: Like, most of my patients - and even me, I'll say - you know, I'm on week four of a book launch right now, and I'm drowning a bit, right? And when you're drowning, you just want that life raft, right? You just want the thing that's just going to make you feel better immediately, and that's what the faux self-care is.

So I want to also just say I don't want anybody to feel ashamed for the ways in which you turn to - whether it's, like, the bubble baths, whether it's, like, the sensory deprivation tank, right?

PARKER: (Laughter).

LAKSHMIN: Like, all these different things - the mani-pedis - because, like, usually you're coming there out of desperation.


LAKSHMIN: And maybe this is a good spot for me to share a little bit about my personal experience. About a decade ago, I had my very own deeply heartbreaking experience with wellness. And at that time, I was in my late 20s. And I'm a child of immigrants. My parents are South Asian, and they came here from India. And, you know, I did all the things that a good Indian girl was supposed to do. I went to Ivy League college. I got into med school, became a doctor, got married and found myself in my second year of psychiatry residency at a really prestigious place, having kind of checked off all the things that I was supposed to do. I found myself, like, really lost, you know? I was kind of like, OK, well, now I'm allowed to figure out how to be happy, and I didn't know how.

And then I also was really angry and confused by the modern medical system and sort of what I was being taught as a psychiatrist. You know, I was seeing things like patients coming in and - you know, someone who's unhoused, right? And what they really need is housing, but all I can do is prescribe medication - right? - or another patient who's, like, losing her job because she doesn't have child care. And, again, all I can do is prescribe medication or do psychotherapy with her, but I can't fix these systemic problems. And I realize that was a very naive way of looking at becoming a doctor, that I believed that I could fix those problems.

And anyway, so I was very angry. And so I basically just destroyed my life. I left my marriage. I moved into a wellness commune in San Francisco. Pretty quickly after that, I dropped out of my residency. But by the end of that two years, I realized that I had just been running away from my problems and that...


LAKSHMIN: ...There's no - even in the wellness world or the spiritual world - quote-unquote, "spiritual world" - you know, there are just as many hypocrisies and inconsistencies as in mainstream medicine and that there's no shortcut, actually, for doing the hard work of making really hard decisions in your own life. Like, you can't outsource any of that. And whether it is, you know, a juice cleanse or a diet or a coach or, you know, whatever the kind of, like, latest wellness fad is, you're never going to be able to find your answers through somebody else. It always just has to come down to you in your own life making your own choices. And that's what real self-care is.


PARKER: When we come back, we're going to talk about Pooja's four principles of real self-care...

LAKSHMIN: Learning to set a boundary is the only way that you can ever make space for yourself.

PARKER: ...And what practicing that actually looks like in the real world.

LAKSHMIN: She actually decided to take a risk and take a leave of absence from her job - a medical leave.

PARKER: That's coming up. Stay with us.

I'm Parker. This is CODE SWITCH. I'm back with Dr. Pooja Lakshmin, and we're finally going to talk about her definition of real self-care.

LAKSHMIN: I think what is different about this work is framing it in the context of our oppressive systems.


LAKSHMIN: And that very much comes from folks like Audre Lorde, right? One of my favorite quotes of hers is actually what I use at the very front of the book. For the master's tools will never dismantle the master's house. They may allow us, temporarily, to beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change.


LAKSHMIN: So I can't tell you the answer for what your real self-care is because everybody's real self-care is completely different.

PARKER: That's such a psychologist answer.

LAKSHMIN: (Laughter).

PARKER: I love that so much. I can't give you - I can't tell you what to do, but I can - as - like, as a therapy girl, I'm like, oh, I feel that (laughter).

LAKSHMIN: Well, and it's important - right? - because I think that, like, part of the reason that we get caught up in the wellness stuff is because someone is - when it's not a therapist or a psychiatrist...


LAKSHMIN: ...Talking to you, it is somebody, usually, who's saying, here's the thing that you should do and here's the step-by-step way. And there might be some pieces of that that's useful - right? - but in reality, everybody has a different answer, right?


LAKSHMIN: So the four principles of real self-care - and I'm going to also just say up front, like, these aren't anything revolutionary. So the four principles are setting boundaries and learning to deal with guilt. So that is step one. And the reason why that is step one or principle one is because learning to set a boundary and coming to terms with your guilt about that boundary is the only way that you can ever make space for yourself. So that has to be principle one.

Principle two is developing self-compassion. And when I talk about self-compassion, what I mean is the way that you talk to yourself - like, actually paying attention to how you talk to yourself. That's principle two.

Principle three is getting clear on your values. And we can come back to this 'cause it's an important one. This is the decision making - right? - that you were just talking about, Parker. Like, this is the hard part, right? This is the - I mean, it's all hard, let's be clear. But this is the part where it's, like, the crux of, like, you need to use an internal lens to make the big choices in your life. Who are you going to choose as your life partner? Are you going to have a life partner? What's your job? What is your career? What do you really want for your life? Do you want that to change? Are you happy in that?

PARKER: Oh, my God, it's 11:30 in the morning...

LAKSHMIN: (Laughter).

PARKER: ...And that's - those - all of those questions just stressed me out (laughter).

LAKSHMIN: I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry. Well, that's why you got to do the boundaries and the self-compassion first, and then you can come to those values questions. And here's the other thing - there is not one right answer to any of those questions, and you will not know the answers in a week, a month or even a year, right? Like, the real self-care process is one that takes years and years because there's always going to be new questions, right? Every twist and turn in your life, every transition, there's going to be another new thing.

So I think - what I like to do, I think when you're in that place of, like, oh, there's so much I have to figure out, instead of believing that there's going to be one right answer that's, like, handed down, remind yourself that it's actually hundreds and thousands of small decisions that's going to get you to your answers, and that takes some of the pressure off, I think. Hopefully it's not adding to your stress, but I think it's, like, there's less of this, like, well, I need to make the right choice and more of, like, no, there's actually just thousands of small, different microdecisions that you're going to make, and that's what you're doing as you're moving through boundaries and self-compassion and even the values.

And then the fourth piece, the fourth principle is that this is actually power. Like, this is power. And if you are somebody that has privilege, if you are somebody who has lighter skin, if you have financial resources, if you are able bodied - knowing that the power that you get from this, that you have a responsibility to put it back into your communities. That's the last principle - like, really coming back to how we center self-care - real self-care - into agency.


PARKER: You're a psychiatrist. And in your book, you write about many of your different patients and what they're going through, and you work with them to create a different framework. So can you tell us about Mikaela (ph) and her situation in the book?

LAKSHMIN: Yeah, absolutely. So Mikaela was a patient that came to originally see me for her obsessive-compulsive disorder. And so we treated that with psychotherapy and with medication. And during the course of working together, her dad got really sick. And so she ended up - well, it was - actually, her mom passed away, but then her dad was also not doing well. So her dad had to move in with her, basically. And so she had two teenage daughters and was co-parenting with her ex-husband and, prior to this happening - prior to this crisis in her life, through kind of working together, she was really excited to start to put more energy and time into herself and had signed up for these, like, community classes and - but then this crisis happened.

She's a Black woman. She came from a family of all brothers, and, like, she was always the caretaker, right? She never set boundaries in her family. She was always the one to kind of step in, do the thing, take care of everything, lend people money, plan all the holidays, right? And so this all kind of came to a head while we were working together, and her OCD got a lot worse.

So what her decision making, you know, was - she actually decided to take a risk and take a leave of absence from her job - a medical leave - and during that time was able to, you know, see me more regularly. We were able to get a handle on her anxiety, also figure out a plan for taking care of her father and asking, actually, her brothers for some money to chip in - all these different pieces. But, you know, the fear of making that choice, especially as a Black woman - she was really worried about how she would be perceived, whether she would lose her job, whether she would, you know, not get that next promotion - right? - all this stuff.

And then what actually ended up happening is, through this process, when she came back and she connected with another person at her workplace who actually had a family member with OCD - a kid - and they started these little kind of, like, talks at work that were kind of a support space for others at the company who were dealing with mental health issues. And when she was up for, like, her next performance review, she actually was praised for this. And they started kind of, like, something that was similar to, like, an ERG, where she actually got some funding for it.


LAKSHMIN: And so the thing that she was really worried about that would hold her back and that she would be penalized for ended up actually being something that was fully celebrated in her workplace. And none of that would have happened unless she - like, the first thread in all of that for her was starting to set boundaries inside her family, actually.

So I guess I want to say two things on that. You know, there's parts of the book where I have these little sections where, like - that are sort of like, yeah, sounds great, but - which is like my patients...


LAKSHMIN: ...Who are like, yeah, that sounds great, Dr. Lakshmin. Like, OK, awesome, but, like, my employer is never going to, like, do that for me (laughter), you know?


LAKSHMIN: My family is terrible. They're not going to - you know - and so I'm not saying that it all works out great. Like, you know, she still is - has struggles, right?


LAKSHMIN: It's - this is all hard stuff, but I think that - and especially if you're somebody who is a person of color or, in particular, a Black person in corporate America, we do know that you will be penalized, right?


LAKSHMIN: Like, that's not imaginary, right? That's not in your head. Like, that's a very real thing. So you have to figure out - when is it worth taking the risk, and what are the potential costs of the risk? And there will be some times where it's not worth it, and there will be other times where it is.

So when I talk about boundaries, actually, it's worth clarifying here - so my definition of boundaries is a little bit different. I think about boundaries as the pause. And then you can say yes, you can say no or you can negotiate. And then, in the case of Mikaela, it's like doing the calculus of, like, OK, yeah, my mental health is really, really bad. And, yeah, it's a risk for me to ask for this leave. But if I don't, I'm probably going to deteriorate to the point where, like, I might get fired.

PARKER: Yeah, because there's this great line - right? - in one of your chapters. It's like, our entire system is built on the premise that women's time, especially the time of Black and brown women, doesn't belong to them. And setting boundaries is how to take time, energy and attention back. And that really struck with me. And I was like, oh, no. And I really love the examples that you gave of two Black female athletes, Naomi Osaka and Simone Biles. For those who need a reminder, Naomi Osaka is a professional tennis player. Simone Biles is one of the most decorated American Olympic gymnasts. And they both stepped away from their sports at very high-profile moments in 2021.


NAOMI OSAKA: Like, when I win, I don't feel happy. I feel more like a relief. And then when I lose, I feel very sad. And I don't think that's normal. But I think I'm going to take a break from playing for a while.


SIMONE BILES: I say put mental health first because if you don't, then you're not going to enjoy your sport, and you're not going to succeed as much as you want to.

PARKER: Could you tell us about how you see them as practicing real self-care?

LAKSHMIN: Yeah. Yeah. So for both of those spectacular female athletes, on one hand, you can think of it as, like, oh, these are huge superstars, you know, they have tons of money, etc. But on the other hand, the way that I think of it as a psychiatrist is, wow, these are two young, Black women who have the weight of the world on their shoulders, like, and so many people depending on them to bring in money - right? - and such high expectations that other people have and that they have - I would imagine - they have for their careers, and then to step back and say, you know what? My mental health matters. My mental health is the most important thing - and to do that on a global stage while all the eyes are watching. You know, I don't - again, I don't know anything about their own internal processes, but that looked so much like real self-care to me. And that, also, I feel like, was just such a poignant example of the power dynamic there. These are, again, two young, Black women athletes, and there's plenty of non-Black folks who are making lots of money off of their performances...


LAKSHMIN: ...Right? And again, but for them to say, like, I matter. I matter, and I'm going to trust that I can come back and I can do whatever I want - right? - that this isn't a failing, like, that this is power to do this.

PARKER: Yeah. The thing with real self-care is there is a cost. Like - there's, like, an emotional cost, sometimes a monetary cost, societal cost. And there is also - when you have these high-profile people, like Naomi Osaka and Simone Biles, who are out here doing real self-care, knowing what - like you say, weighing the risks - and I think about someone who may not be in, like, the spotlight or in the - like, even me - I'm in a position of privilege, where I can say no to certain things or be like, I'm going to take the afternoon off and go see "John Wick" or something - I think about people who are in a less privileged situation. Is it possible for them to exercise real self-care?

LAKSHMIN: I think it is. I think it looks different everywhere in every different sort of station of life. When I talk about this question, the thing that always comes to mind for me is when I was a medical student - and I know that, obviously, even being able to be a medical student in America is a hugely privileged position to be in. And the reason that I use it as an example is because I felt at that time like I had zero choices and I was at the bottom of the ladder - because I was - in the medical hierarchy. And this was back in, like, 2009-ish maybe, and I was a third-year med student on my surgery rotation at a hospital in North Philly. And my team didn't know my name.


LAKSHMIN: Yeah. Like, it was just like, hey, med student...

PARKER: No, no.

LAKSHMIN: ...You know, can you grab this? Yes. And so for me, in that time of my life, real self-care was asking to be called by my name.


LAKSHMIN: And that's why boundaries are a pause - right? - you take the pause and then you - yeah, like, you might be working three jobs, and you might have to work three jobs in order to make ends meet, and there isn't a place that you feel like you can say no yet, right? But if a boundary is the pause, at least you can take that pause and start to think briefly of, like...


LAKSHMIN: ...OK, what needs to change so that I could get to a place to say no? And usually, that is something economic, and usually that is something that is social and collective.

PARKER: Yeah. But, like, I just want to ask, like, when you're pushing for something like saying your actual name and getting called your name, is that changing the overall dynamic? 'Cause it doesn't feel 100% that way.

LAKSHMIN: That's a good question. I mean, the medical system still is absolutely terrible and abusive and traumatic. So, no, me saying my name did not (laughter) go...


LAKSHMIN: ...Very far. But for me, personally, that was part of a journey of figuring out - deciding to become a psychiatrist, too, right? So you don't know where it's going to kind of take you in terms - again, that's why real self-care isn't prescriptive and why I keep saying that it's sort of, like - it's a thousand small decisions. It's not just, like, one big thing.

PARKER: You write that the problems affecting women of color are structural. Like, I've been in positions where, like, the microaggressions come at you left and right, and you're trying to, like - there's, like, pay issues, there's - like, all of these things that aren't really in our control. But these changes need to be internal. And have you found ways to kind of circle that square? How can you circle that square?

LAKSHMIN: Yeah. You know, I have probably a depressing answer to this...

PARKER: I'll take it.

LAKSHMIN: ...(Laugher) Which is I don't - I have probably lost faith in sort of the establishment. Like, I think the answers have to come from people that are outside of the systems, because I think inside the system - whether we're talking about health care or academics, whether we're talking about law, banking, whatever, all the different industries...


LAKSHMIN: When you're inside the system as a person of color, the cost of trying to change that particular system is so, so high...


LAKSHMIN: ...On your own mental health.

PARKER: It's funny that the self-care that you're talking about does seem deeply communal...


PARKER: ...And not the classic, like, quote-unquote, "self" that we think of.

LAKSHMIN: Yeah, because real self-care is interpersonal and communal. I know we hear a lot about community care. And maybe in writing this book, it's a little bit of a Trojan horse in that I feel like more people will read it when it's called "Real Self-Care," as opposed to calling it community care, even though what I am really speaking to is taking care of each other, too. But I think that you got to take care of yourself first. Like, that has to be step 1.

PARKER: I mean, again, it's so hard. And...

LAKSHMIN: (Laughter).

PARKER: It involves, like, maybe five extra brain cells that I don't know if I have right now.


PARKER: It's also - for lack of a better word, it's not - it's like, it's not sexy. How do we...


PARKER: Like, give me, like, bath salts. If you give me, like, one of those, like, huge, like - I got a bath bomb for my birthday that's, like, the shape of, like, the Earth.

LAKSHMIN: (Laughter).

PARKER: Like, things like that. How do you sell this version of self-care to the people who need it the most?

LAKSHMIN: Yeah. Yeah. Are you telling me I've been doing a terrible job of selling it right now (laughter)?

PARKER: No, you're doing great. You're doing great. I mean, it's still a little bleak, but that's kind of what you expect.

LAKSHMIN: (Laughter).

PARKER: Because, like, you also - like, you say - like, you start at the idea that we suffer. And we try to improve this, like, despite the suffering. So already, we're - it's bleak, but it's OK. I'm already - I'm with you.

LAKSHMIN: Well, you know what? Like, I think my answer to that would be that I'm not trying to sell it. Like, I think you come to it when you've done everything else and it hasn't worked, right? And this is like - this is - you need a companion to get through, right? Or maybe what I'll say is, I don't have the solution, like, all the answers and all the solutions. What I do have is the beginning of a new conversation. That's what this is. It's not the answer, it's the beginning of a conversation. And I think you're asking me, like, is it even worth having this conversation? And, like, I'm just saying, yes, yes, yes.


PARKER: OK, my last question. Is my reiki real self-care or faux self-care?

LAKSHMIN: I don't know about whether, like, there's anything actually specific about that specific thing. But to me, this actually sounds like the practice of taking that time out, having it once a week, having it feel like it's something that you're doing for yourself, is the value.


LAKSHMIN: So then I would wonder if you - can you figure out a way to do that for yourself that's not reiki...


LAKSHMIN: ...But that is maybe looking at places in your life where you want to set a boundary, and giving yourself, maybe, 30 minutes to think about what is that boundary's practice going to look like? What is that first thing that you're going to set a boundary with?

PARKER: Now you've made it less fun.


LAKSHMIN: Right, it is less fun.

PARKER: All right.

LAKSHMIN: It is less fun, but it's putting it back into your own hands.

PARKER: That's Dr. Pooja Lakshmin. She's a practicing psychiatrist and the author of the new book "Real Self-Care: Crystals, Cleanses, And Bubble Baths Not Included." If you want to know more about the history of self-care, we're going to share a link for a piece by our colleague, Aisha Harris, in the show notes.


PARKER: And that's our show. You can follow us on Instagram at @nprcodeswitch. If email is more your thing, ours is codeswitch@npr.org. And subscribe to our podcast on NPR One or wherever you get your podcasts. And just wanted to give a quick shout out to our CODE SWITCH+ listeners. We appreciate you and thank you for being a subscriber. Subscribing to CODE SWITCH+ means getting to listen to all of our episodes without any sponsor breaks. It also helps support our show. So if you love our work, please, consider signing up at plus.npr.org/codeswitch.

This episode was produced by Diba Mohtasham, with help from Christina Cala. It was edited by Leah Donnella. Our engineer was James Willetts. Episode art was designed by LA Johnson. And a big shout out to the rest of the CODE SWITCH massive, Karen Grigsby Bates, Alyssa Jeong Perry, Dalia Mortada, Kumari Devarajan, Jess Kung, James Sneed, Steve Drummond, Veralyn Williams, Gene Demby and Lori Lizarraga. Our intern is Olivia Chilkoti. I'm B.A. Parker. Hydrate.

LAKSHMIN: You can't just keep going to sensory deprivation tanks.

PARKER: Don't do it.

LAKSHMIN: I mean, you can if you want to. But I imagine they're really expensive.

PARKER: And I did it wrong. I thought I was doing it wrong the whole time. And I was mad at myself that I wasn't doing it properly.

LAKSHMIN: (Laughter).


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