Self-Care Without the Price Tag
What is Self-Care?
Self-care is any activity we do that improves or maintains our mental and emotional health. Today we are all so busy and often stressed, that self-care is falling by the wayside. While some people might consider luxury spa getaways or indulgent shopping sprees to be self-care, there are many (less expensive) ways to relax and recharge.
Free Ways to Show Care for Yourself
- Take care of something. A dog, cat, fish-- even a plant! Caring for another living thing sparks a sense of growth and motivation.
- Decorate. We spend a lot of time in our offices (or home offices). Sprucing them up with some thrifty decor, or even some pictures printed from the computer, can bring a sense of calm and peace to a space you sometimes feel stuck in. Pinterest has some incredible budget-friendly decorating ideas!
- Create a gratitude list. This activity increases our sense of happiness and reminds us of all the good in our lives. You don't have to stop with just one list-- you can keep a daily journal to record events, emotions, and memories!
- Meditate. You've probably heard this one before, and you might think it's not for you. There's a lot of misconception and misunderstanding around this ancient practice. All you really need is 15 minutes and a pillow to clear your head and refocus your energy. Try a meditation app, or search for guided meditation videos on YouTube.
- Get crafty. You don't have to be artistic to make art. Grab some paint, crayons, coloring books, canvas-- whatever you can borrow out of your children's art supply stock. Though I wouldn't recommend glitter, as the clean up might add to your stress! You might not know what you intend to create, but that's perfectly fine. Just let it flow, and focus on nothing but that masterpiece. Turning on some soft music might help fuel a creative atmosphere, too.
- Disconnect. This one is much easier said than done, but it has a profound impact on our mental health. With so many apps, calendars, social media sites, and text messages flooding our brains each day, we experience tremendous sensory overload. Do you look at your phone first thing in the morning when you wake up? Put it on the other side of the room and check it after breakfast. Start with one hour of device-free time per day. No phone, no television, no computer. See if you can increase that time to 2 or 3 hours.
- Go outside. Take a hike, walk barefoot through the grass, smell the flowers. Try to be quiet and focus on the sounds of nature. This is an effective way of resetting our sensory systems.
- Get physical. Exercise has countless physical health benefits, but it's good for our mental health, too! It doesn't have to be anything intense-- walking, dancing, or a yoga class will do the trick. You've heard the phrase, "Dance like no one's watching," right? Take that advice!
- Make time for friends and family. Sometimes, the people we care about most can feel neglected when we're busy. Take a moment to reach out to someone who lives far away through an email, or make that dinner date you've been putting off. Even taking a few minutes to catch up over the phone can relieve the stress of a hard day.
- Meet new people with shared interests. Try an app like Meetup to connect with groups of like-minded people in your area. Whether you're interested in art, fine dining, rock climbing, or writing poetry—there's a group for you. Or, you could try something new. If you spend most of your time in an office cubicle, try a group that does an outdoor activity on the weekends.
Benefits of Self-Care
- Increased productivity. Slowing down and concentrating on our mental wellbeing helps us refocus on the present moment. We can prioritize better, and tackle our to-do list with renewed energy.
- Self-discovery. What do you LOVE to do? Do you know? Some people can answer this pretty easily, but many cannot. Somewhere along the line, as our responsibilities grow and our plates become more full, we lose touch with ourselves and what makes us happy. Self-care is a way of re-connecting with ourselves.
- Compassion for others. When we neglect our own needs, we put ourselves at risk for low self-esteem, and feelings of resentment. This unhappiness can, unintentionally, spill over onto those we care about. Taking time to care for yourself regularly can make you a better friend, parent, spouse, or boss.
When we're overwhelmed by our jobs, home life, or social obligations, self-care is usually the first thing to be cut from our agenda. However, self-care is crucial to our effective functioning! It helps reduce stress and burnout and helps us refocus.
The most powerful relationship you will ever have is the relationship with yourself.— Diane Von Furstenberg