Today, the importance of self-care seems to be highlighted almost everywhere. In fact, the $10 billion self-care industry seems to be screaming at us that we aren’t prioritizing ourselves enough. Of course, beauty and wellness-oriented businesses have hopped on the self-care bandwagon to serve their own purposes. But that doesn’t mean that the sentiment has no value. It just doesn’t have to be limited in its applications.
Although a day at the spa can certainly be a wonderful treat — and often medically necessary, as 92% of people surveyed agree that massage can effectively reduce pain– you don’t have to devote an entire day to this practice or fork over a lot of cash to engage in it.
In fact, the benefits of self-care may be even more pronounced if you view it as a form of necessary and accessible maintenance, rather than as a luxurious indulgence you may not always be able to afford. Even if your budget is stretched painfully thin this month or you simply don’t have the option to take a mental health day off from work, there are several ways that you can practice self-care.
You won’t even have to build a home spa oasis or a meditation room addition (which is fortunate, since the U.S. construction industry eliminated more than 40% of is workforce between 2006 and 2011). Here are some ideas that can bring the focus back to yourself and nourish your body, mind, and soul.
Set Some Boundaries
Perfectionists, people pleasers, mothers, workaholics, and employees who work in “helping” professions are often inclined to put the needs of others before their own. When this practice becomes the norm, you might end up feeling burned out and even resentful of others around you.
Working to break this habit can be an important part of self-care for many people. Removing the word “should” from your vocabulary can be transformative, as it brings focus to the fact that needs and desires are very different from the tasks you feel societal pressure to do but have no obligation to partake in.
Saying no can be hard at first, but when there are things that are simply not possible or that would cause harm to you in some way, turning people down can be a very necessary skill indeed.
Keep in mind that setting boundaries aren’t about trying to control someone else’s behavior; they’re necessary to protect your well-being and to prevent others from taking advantage. You might not be able to change what someone else does, but you can express what situations are acceptable to you and continue to prioritize your health by drawing a line in the sand.
This can feel scary at first, particularly if you’re prone to co-dependent behavior. But telling a client that you are unavailable for work-related conversations after 5 PM or requesting to reschedule a meeting with a needy friend for a time when you’re in a better mental state doesn’t mean you’re a bad person. On the contrary, it means you’re actually caring for yourself and can help others more effectively as a result.
Schedule Alone Time
It’s no secret that introverts need a lot of alone time to recharge. But even if you’re an extroverted social butterfly, you can still benefit from staying in and spending an evening by yourself.
This can allow you to unwind after a long week without the pressure of needing to entertain a partner or a friend or can allow you to work through some heavy emotions without feeling like you’re putting on an act. It can also help you to save money, which can be a source of stress for a lot of people.
Whether you decide to stay home and cook for yourself or go to a movie all by your lonesome, you’ll probably feel far more centered and subsequently less overwhelmed if you make an effort to schedule regular sessions with you and only you.
Find a Hobby You Won’t Monetize
Partaking in a passion project or an enjoyable activity is an immensely important part of self-care. But it’s important to make and maintain the distinction between something you want to do and something you have to do. Otherwise, you can quickly turn a hobby into a burden.
This is difficult for many millennials, as they often feel pressured to take on as many side hustles as possible and have been taught for years that they can transform the thing they love doing into a viable career. But if your aim is self-care, you’ll want to keep the two separate.
That might mean different things to different people. For some, it might mean engaging in activities that typically won’t be done for money, like reading, watching a favorite TV show, or spending time with your dog. You might also put together a puzzle to relax and to challenge your brain, as research shows that this hobby can allow our minds to go into a meditative state while simultaneously activating brain activity.
For others, it’s absolutely fine to learn how to cook, sew or crochet, and bake on the weekends — as long as it’s for fun and not for profit. While it’s certainly possible to turn your love of fashion or eye for photography into a business model, it might not be the best thing for your mental health. Although it might be inescapable in certain circumstances, try to avoid monetizing the thing that brings you pleasure.
Otherwise, you might come to hate what you once loved — and have nothing to enjoy when you desperately need a break from your work-oriented life.
Put Your Phone Away
You’ve probably heard this one before, but it bears repeating: set aside some phone-free time to restore your sanity. Many people start and end their days by scrolling through social media or by checking their emails. Our need to feel constantly connected is making us anxious and ruining our sleep. Plus, it’s really not all that productive or useful.
Sure, we need to check in and find out what’s happening in the world. But we don’t need to do so all the time. FOMO is just in your head, we promise.
Start by really examining your routine and assessing where you could make some changes. If you’re tempted to check Instagram at 2 AM when you can’t sleep, you’re probably not doing yourself any favors.
Could you stand to keep your phone out of your bedroom at night? What about making a pledge not to check your phone until after you’ve gone through your morning routine? If you can put a hard stop to your smartphone activities after a certain point at night, you’ll feel much freer to engage in other activities and won’t work yourself up about work-related messages that you can’t address until the next day. It’ll also help you to enjoy your food more thoroughly and engage in more fulfilling conversations with others.
If nothing else, try to keep your phone tucked away and out of sight while you’re working. The mere presence of your phone on your desk can easily lead to distraction and may increase your stress levels. It might take some getting used to, but you’ll probably feel more focused and more positive overall.
Physical activity is a fantastic way to care for both our bodies and minds. Of course, being more active can improve your confidence level and help you achieve any weight loss or fitness goals you may have. But the release of endorphins will also improve your mood and decrease those stressful feelings we all experience.
This doesn’t mean you have to become a gym rat, particularly if working out on a treadmill in front of other people sounds like torture. You can do some sun salutations, do some light stretching when you wake up, take your dog for a walk, go for a bike ride around your neighborhood, or take your camera and go leaf peeping when the foliage starts to change.
On the other end of the spectrum, a hard workout can help you to feel amazing, so don’t shy away from hot yoga, swimming, ice skating, spin class, or any physical activity you truly enjoy. The important thing is that you move a bit — especially if your lifestyle is on the sedentary side.
You’ll be amazed what this can do for your sense of happiness, your productivity, and your schedule in general. Plus, it’ll help you sleep better. Since going to bed early is another awesome form of self-care, this domino effect can do wonders for your quality of life.
Of course, self-care can encompass a vast number of activities and behaviors. And if something mentioned here doesn’t resonate with or apply to you, feel free to substitute it for something else that you enjoy and that promotes your good health.
No matter what, it’s important to make time for these activities, rather than dismissing them as unnecessary or impossible for you. If you’re able to reframe your perception of self-care, you can start prioritizing your well-being — no spa appointment required.