How to not break the bank on self-care.
I discussed in my recent wellness series that I have a conflicted relationship with self-care (What Self-Care Reveals About Our Wellness). While I do enjoy spending time caring for myself and think it is important to do so for our mental health and wellness in our burn-out plagued society, I am cautious and try not to fall into the consumerism trap when it comes to self-care.
Self-care, and the huge trend it has become, can give us an opportunity to see how harmful our daily lives, work, and ultimately our culture currently is for our mental health and wellness.
Through constant adds on Facebook, YouTube, even TV, we are told that in order to care for ourselves we have to, or we should spend a lot of money. Things like expensive spa treatments, luxurious weekend getaways, costly wellness programs, and overpriced specialty foods and diets. It can even go so far as very expensive loungewear, home décor, and pricey self-care tech.
And while those things might be nice and enjoyable, and occasionally indulging in something like this might be fun, they certainly aren’t necessary in order to have a good self-care practice, and more importantly they are not accessible to most people.
But the consumerist culture surrounding self-care can almost make us feel badly if we aren’t spending hundreds of dollars on our mental health and wellness, as if only those who truly care about themselves will be willing to shell-out the money. Which again, is deeply problematic and leaves out most people who can’t afford these products.
So, thinking about all of this, I wanted to share a list of affordable and even free self-care activities. You do not need to spend a lot of money to take good care of your mental health and wellness, because it’s not about spending money. It is about spending time with yourself and addressing your inner thoughts, feelings, and needs. In fact, you can spend a lot of money on services and products but if they don’t fulfill your needs it won’t help one bit and you’ll be right back looking for more (a fact the self-care industry is counting on!).
I do want to say, as I’ve said before, different people need different kinds of self-care and so if these examples don’t feel right for you that is completely okay. We need to find the kinds of self-care that best suit us, after all that’s really what it’s all about. But hopefully some of these inspire you!
- Talking to someone supportive. Call your Mom, your Dad, your sibling, your friend, your neighbor. Go have lunch with someone you trust and who cares about you and talk about how you’ve really been feeling (virtually works too if you’re in lockdown). Talking to other people about how we are feeling and what we are going through can really do us miles of good. It can help to relieve stress and pent up emotions, but they can also sometimes provide insights about our situation from a different perspective, or even just a shoulder to cry on. Probably most importantly, it can help us feel less isolated. Talking it out (with the right person) can be an excellent and completely free form of self-care.
- Take a hot shower or bath. Other than your water bill (if you have one), this is another basically free option. When I am feeling crappy taking a hot shower or bubble bath can really help me to relax and shake off bad feelings. Hot water helps with physical discomfort and inflammation in the body, but also releases happy hormones in the brain and promotes relaxation. A way to make this feel extra good, throw on some free spa music from Spotify or Youtube! Taking that time to relax and take care of your physical body can really help to improve our mental health. And if this is the only thing you can get yourself to do some days, that is okay.
- Stretching, walking, & hiking. Gentle exercise, even as little as 15 minutes, helps to take care of our body but also releases stress reducing chemicals in the brain. If you can get outside to do it that’s even better, but even just some gentle stretches on the rug and a walk around your house can really help. My favorite is stretching and yoga videos online (check-out Yoga With Adriene), that way I don’t even have to come up with anything, and they are completely free. If you have a dog, take them for a walk, you’ll get some fresh air and a little movement and they will love it too!
- Snuggles and hugs. Got a friend, friendly roommate, family member, pet or partner nearby? Ask for a hug or snuggle up on the couch and chat, read, or watch a movie. Cuddling with another person or pet releases more happy hormones and releases stress. Again it also makes us feel connected, accepted, loved, and not alone. And the other person gets to enjoy it too! A free hug really can make us feel a little bit better.
- Have a hot cup of tea, decaf coffee, or hot chocolate etc. Now technically you would need to purchase these at some point, but most of us probably have some of this lying around the house, if not they can be purchased very affordably at the grocery store. Take a moment, turn away from your phone, your computer, the news, turn on the kettle and brew yourself a cup of your favorite hot beverage. And then, take the time to drink it in a comfortable space away from stress, maybe by a window or out on your balcony. Taking even 5 to 10 minutes to be present and enjoy the warmth of a cup of something delicious can help us feel more grounded, present, and more relaxed. Also, taking (not finding) a moment for ourselves can also give us a sense of control that is also beneficial for our wellness and mental wellbeing.
- Deep breathing and meditation. This may not be for everyone and that’s okay. Meditation and deep breathing have become extremely therapeutic for me over the last 2 years, and have significantly helped my mental health by becoming a coping tool that I can use whenever I feel stressed and overwhelmed. There are many free resources for this online through Youtube or on many podcasting platforms, there are even free apps you can download. It doesn’t have to be fancy and it doesn’t need to be long but meditation or practicing deep breathing exercises can significantly reduce anxiety and help heal our spirits when we are struggling. If you want to read more about meditation you can check out my post, 5 Ways to Meditate at Home.
- Journaling. Again, not everyone enjoys writing, but many people find writing about what they are going through to be very helpful. Writing has a way of helping us to not only get out our feelings, but to examine them in a new way. We are able to sit back, reread, reflect, and maybe even edit or rewrite how we are thinking about what we are going through. I know for me, this space and sharing my experiences through both blog posts and poems has helped my mental health and wellness. But of course, it does not need to be public, it can be private just for you.
- Free podcasts, helpful videos, and websites. There are so many great online resources for all sorts of different mental health and wellness needs. From information and educational videos, to online support groups and accounts of people’s experiences, there are a lot of different resources available. So many of these (including my blog!) are completely free and can help support you in your mental health and wellness journey. This is a reminder that whatever you are going through, you are not alone.
I hope that you find these self-care activities inspiring. I hope it helps to show you how everyday activities can benefit our mental health and wellness and be turned into self-care activities. Because its not really what we do for self-care but how we do it. You don’t need to spend a lot of money to really take care of your mental health and wellness. For more ideas you can also read, 5 Affordable Ways for Self-care at Home.
What are your favorite free (or almost) self-care activities? Comment below.