If you have a lot of disposable income, there’s no end to the things you can do to take good care of your “self”- facials and massages at fancy spas, personal trainers, luxury vacations on secluded islands. But what if you don’t have a lot of spare cash to indulge in self-care? Is it possible to spoil yourself on a low budget?
The answer is a most enthusiastic yes! Here are some ways:
–Simply spend time outside. Indulge in a walk around the block, sitting on the grass looking at trees, hiking, or just stopping on a sunny street corner to feel the sun shine on your face for a few minutes. Most importantly, do not bring your digital devices along. That alone will give your nervous system a break from the constant stress of daily life.
–Grounding – clean up and organize the stuff in your living space. An apartment or office that is a mess is stressful. Just entering can make you feel more anxious, even overwhelmed, exhausted. This impacts mental health. Taking time to clean up your space is not the boring chore you might think. It’s actually an act of self-love, a healing. You just need to get started without a lot of over-think. Caveat: once you start, it can be hard to stop.
– Cut down your social media time. Instead of listening to our inner dialogue, too many of us have the knee jerk habit of scrolling through our phone feeds for hours on end, as if it would be the end of the world if we miss something. Not only does this eat up precious hours in the day, but it has been linked to lower self esteem, sleep problems, increased “fear of missing out” (FOMO), loneliness. It is possible to live well without every latest App, though judicious use can be helpful.
–Take time to write out your thoughts. Good old fashion pen and paper can be highly therapeutic. Just dash it off and wait a few days to read it. You’ll be surprised how difficult emotions or thoughts, reflections on people or events, help you understand yourself and enrich your life. It can be as healing as one on one therapy, and far less expensive!
–Make a real effort to improve your sleep. With so many distractions and devices, a good night’s sleep can be a challenge, but it can be done! Try for 7-9 hours of quality shut-eye. This is true loving self care that will improve immune function, mood, overall performance. Try to create a pattern of winding down and getting to bed at a certain hour. Your body will get used to it and reward you.
–Meditation/mindfulness. These may sound like trendy ideas, but they really do work. Writer Anne Lamott says: “Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes…There is immense value in giving ourselves time and space to shift from ‘doing’ mode to ‘being’ mode. Meditation allows us to reconnect with the needs of our mind and body.” You can start with free Apps like Headspace or Calm, or find videos on YouTube or just sit in front of a tree in the park.
–Log in with yourself. Get into the habit, at least once a day, of pausing to get in touch with how you’re feeling. Are you hungry? Tired? Annoyed? Feeling tightness or pain in some area of your body? This is a gentle reminder that you are worth taking care of yourself.
–Move! To move is to be alive. Just put on some music and dance, do some squats or leg lifts, walk, go to a yoga class or do free online yoga videos on YouTube. If you find yourself sitting for more than 45 minutes or an hour straight, get up and shake out!
–Connect with friends in real space. Texting or email have become so automatic, but they don’t satisfy that profound need for actual personal connection. Try to interact with real people you care about as much as your schedule allows. We live so much in our heads, but being in the presence of people has been shown to enhance our nervous systems and improve mood — and it can just be more fun. Do not underestimate the therapeutic value of fun.
–Get a hobby. So much of our time is taken up with work, family obligations, etc., there’s often little time to just explore other parts of ourselves. It is not selfish to set aside time for this, even for the busiest of people. You need to feed your soul. Maybe it’s learning an instrument, writing poetry, taking a cooking class, gluing things together…. whatever. This is significant nourishment.
–Remember to breath deeply. Many of us go through the day taking shallow breaths just to get through. Make it a point to start out the day, perhaps before you get out of bed, with a few deep full body breaths. From your gut. Take a few deep breaths every now and then during the day. This helps relieve stress and centers you into the moment.
–Volunteer for something you care about. Giving time to something meaningful that helps others can be one of the most rewarding and rejuvenating things we do. It doesn’t just give us a break from our own stress, but it helps put our own problems in proportion. It also can hook us up real time with other like-minded people, something Apps are not particularly programmed for.
–Eat Well. It doesn’t have to bankrupt you to eat real whole, as opposed to junky ultra-processed, over-sugared, nutrient-deficient (and usually overpriced) fare: lots of vegetables of different colors, nutrient-dense foods like grass-fed butter, bone broths, raw nuts, fermented foods, fruits in season. A body well supplied with fiber, minerals, vitamins, etc., can make the difference in just eking by and the joy of living.
–Hugs. A big hug with someone you care about — your partner, a child, a good friend, a pet — has physiologic benefits, such as releasing oxytocin, a hormone that reduces stress and just feels good (which is why it’s also known as the “cuddle” or the “love” hormone). Studies show that cuddling up with a pet reduces anxiety, depression, feelings of loneliness. If you don’t have an accessible animal, you could visit shelter animals or become a dogwalker, which can also be an interesting money-making opportunity.
–Get used to saying “no” when you need time for yourself. Some of us find it really hard to say we cannot do something if someone asks. Perhaps we feel guilty or don’t want to disappoint. So we take on too much and then feel overwhelmed and aggravated. Taking good care of yourself means valuing the time you have for yourself, doing things you really want to do, not that you think you should do. There are times of course, when you have to do stuff you’d rather not, but always ask yourself why you feel you must. Don’t be afraid to make boundaries, or avoid people who just bring you down. These“downer” types often just want you to feel sorry for them, but have no interest in actually making changes in their own life.
–Be nice to yourself. Do you beat yourself up for saying something off the wall or less than on the mark? Do you run yourself down for not presenting your best self at all times? Do you obsess about looking perfect all the time? Give yourself a break! You’re going to do stupid things or say dumb stuff occasionally. You’re human! Learn these three most important words: “Let it go!”
“16 Ways to Practice Self-Care that Cost Next to Nothing” by Kelsey Borresen
“Getting Started with Mindfulness”
“How to Create a Self-Care Routine that Actually Sticks” by Kristen Adaway
“Two-hour ‘dose’ of nature significantly boosts healthy-study” -The Guardian
“6 Ways Volunteering Makes You Happy” – Chopra Center