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In these crazy times, most of us don’t associate Washington, DC with relaxation. More like deep, insidious distress—and sometimes rage.

Let’s just say, no matter on what side of the aisle one falls, there’s some tension in the crisp capital air. And that turbulence radiates throughout the country.

Despite lovely pervasive smells of pine, fireplace and baked goods, the holiday season doesn’t diffuse our anxiety. Quite the opposite: We’re depleted by family obligations, endless events, gift selection and children—too often without school or childcare. And the news cycle continues. All of this busyness renders us even less likely to make time for self-care, despite the fact that we need it more.

That’s where my story comes in:

I am no exception to the above rule, and this Thanksgiving was a doozy for me. Immediately following a significant birthday (which—let’s just say—I didn’t handle with grace), my husband left on a weeklong trip. For the first time, I found myself alone for an extended period of time with my 4-month-old and almost 4-year-old. That would have proved challenging under normal circumstances, but, naturally, I came down with a serious cold the instant he climbed into his airport-bound cab. Then I got a stomach bug on top of it. Then my baby got a stomach bug too. Oh, joy! 

It’s hard to aptly describe the misery of, while in a state of all-encompassing nausea, feeding a sick baby at 5am, while diffusing a toddler’s tantrum over her missing Moana doll. I realize there are much worse things in the world—but, suffice it to say, it was a bad scene. And by day seven, I was pretty much a shell of a human without a shred of patience or energy left. Picture something akin to Medusa—but much greener and more drawn. Like a puddle of Medusa.

My husband returned and we somehow packed up the house and left the next morning for Washington, DC to celebrate Thanksgiving with his family. One look at me and anyone could see that I needed some TLC: dark circles, unfocused eyes, gray pallor—oh, my! So, through what can only be described as divine intervention, I got it together in advance to schedule an afternoon away from it all for a spa treatment at the Four Seasons in Georgetown.

I escaped. I can only describe my mood in arriving at the hotel as “elated.” I am a lover of all things luxury and travel. And, while this was my first time at this particular Four Seasons, I have experienced enough to know that the service would likely be impeccable on top of everything else. I was not disappointed: The lobby was shiny and spotless and I was directed efficiently to the spa by a lovely concierge, who walked me through a charming outdoor patio to the escape’s doors.

Inside, the air smelled like essential oils and warmth enveloped me. Yes! I had arrived! I checked in and, while I sat filling out my forms, a lovely woman who worked there offered me herbal Verbena Mint tea, which arrived with two inspirational stones: one said “Courage,” and the other said, “Dream.”

I figured I could stand more of both.

I was escorted past a curated row of spa attire and goods—including robes by Barefoot Dreams, which I’m pretty sure were created by angels out of clouds and happiness—to the women’s dressing room. It’s pretty and minimal and, of course, the robe hanging in my particular locker was heavenly and soft. I slipped it on, melted a little—my shoulders dropping another inch from my ears, and went to sit in the small relaxation lounge.

Now, let me just pause and explain that I am a fierce believer in spa snacks—well, actually, snacks in general. After many years of visiting many spas as a beauty and wellness writer, I know enough to expect the usual cucumber water, almonds or walnuts, dried fruit and apples. And I like that. But they raised the bar here (no pun intended): In a pretty enclosed glass canister sat their signature Georgetown Bars, homemade by the resident pastry chef from chocolate, flax seed, coconut and only a couple other delicious ingredients. First of all, they’re delicious and I wanted to eat eight (and I was alone, so maybe I did—you’ll never know). Second, they were perfect because the bars are also healthy with ingredients that nourish the body and skin and make you feel good—from the outside in. So, basically, you can gorge yourself on them and feel like you did something deserving of applause. Yay, me!

I was escorted to my treatment room—and lovely heated table, which I adore—by Daisy, one of the spa’s best practitioners. My Pennsylvania Avenue Retreat service, she explained, is one of their signatures and is a true head-to-toe massage. An acupressure foot rub with Rosemary and Citron salt scrub and Peppermint Tea Tree Cream is followed by a full body rubdown with Deep Forest oil and a modality that’s akin to a Swedish and deep tissue hybrid. The idea, in addition to loosening the muscles, is to open up the sinuses through the scents—perfect for cold season. It. Was. Heaven. Daisy has strong, magic hands. And, by the end, I pretty much never wanted to leave. 

Afterward, I made use of all the facilities: sauna, steam (so good for the remnants of a cold!) and showers (yummy scented products!). Even the toiletries by the vanities—for use while styling tresses and reapplying makeup etc.—were thoughtful and legit including Moroccanoil hair products. I also meandered over to the larger coed relaxation lounge, where I devoured a fresh fruit plate—so many raspberries!—and a coconut water (because, of course, the Four Seasons’ beverage selection is profound).

By the end of my experience, I seriously felt like a new human. I was just sad that I couldn’t throw down my credit card (I would have paid basically anything) and checked into a decked out room upstairs for some—no doubt—above par room service and an incredible night’s sleep. 

Nope. Back to the shouting toddler and hungry baby. Back to responsibilities. 

Of course, I realize that returning to that chaos is a gift in itself. But sometimes it takes an amazing escape—and some true relaxation and alone time—in order for that perspective check to occur. Whatever self-care looks like for each of us, it’s so essential that we take it right now—whether we need a break from working around the clock, attending to loved ones, caring for small children or worrying about the state of the world. 

Luckily, it turns out that my kind of heaven exists. Even in DC. Maybe that’s where it’s needed most.

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