Most of us lead busy and somewhat stressful lives. It might sometimes feel like you struggle to find five minutes to brush your hair, let alone the money to lavish on yourself. But do you need a lot of spare cash? I think there are a multitude of ways that you can practice self-care on a budget and here are some ideas.
What is self-care?
What do I mean by self-care? It’s not just about getting washed and dressed in the morning, or making sure you eat enough. It’s about being aware of your own well-being and recognising when you need to take some time for yourself.
To me, self-care means thinking about the things you do when you are striving to be kind to others and applying the same mindset, but with the focus on YOU.
The Danish have a special word for a form of self-care: hygge. According to Wikipedia, hygge is:
“a form of everyday togetherness”, “a pleasant and highly valued everyday experience of safety, equality, personal wholeness and a spontaneous social flow”.
The noun hygge includes something nice, cosy, safe and known, referring to a psychological state.
So let’s get cosy!
What are the benefits of self care?
By being good to yourself and recognising when you need to practice self-care, you can help to keep your stress levels in check. You can also prevent yourself becoming exhausted and burnt out. It can stop that sense of being overwhelmed and allow you to keep control.
If you are responsible for the care of others, such as elderly relatives or children, it is even more important to look after yourself. You won’t be as effective in your care if you feel stressed out and resentful. You probably don’t have lots of cash to splash in these situations, so self-care on a budget may well be a priority for you.
Your physical and mental health are closely connected. By looking after one, the other will benefit. On the other side of the coin, if you neglect one aspect of your overall well-being it will negatively impact the other.
Self-care, on the other hand, will positively effect your mood and energy levels. If you feel mentally strong it is likely to impact on your physical well-being. There is a lot of evidence that mental stress negatively impacts your health, so it is worth investing a small amount of time on some of my self-care on a budget ideas.
Eight ways to practice self-care on a budget
What self care activities can you do that don’t cost a lot of money? In fact, there are many small activities you can undertake that will require no more than just a little organisation and planning. Yes, you might have to allocate some time to doing them, but it will be well worth the investment.
These are my favourite ways to practice self-care on a budget. Most cost nothing at all.
Reading is a great way to make time for yourself, even if it’s just giving yourself half an hour. You can cosy up under the covers before bed, or take time out with your lunch to read a magazine.
Reading offers the opportunity to escape from the humdrum or to be inspired. I pick up books wherever I go – my last one cost just 20p! You can see some of my favourite frugal books here.
You don’t need to spend out on a class if money is tight. You will find books and DVDs for free in your local library and plenty of instruction on You Tube as well.
You might also like my post Eight easy ways to relieve stress.
Loneliness and isolation can be a killer, literally, especially with older people. So including connecting with others has to be on my list of ideas for self-care on a budget.
Make the effort to meet up with friends or to invite them over for a cup of tea, volunteer in your spare time or get involved in your local church or religious group. Joining a knitting group, the Ramblers or do some conservation work with your local Wildlife Trust.
Get into nature
Nothing soothes my spirit more than a walk in the woods. I absolutely love being in a green environment, hearing the sounds of nature and seeing the colours.
Again, the Ramblers are a good organisation if you want to meet like-minded folk to walk with.
If it’s a nice day, walking barefoot on soft grass will always be a relaxing experience. Taking some time to sit in the sunshine for a while can be relaxing, even if it’s only to drink a cup of tea.
Look after your emotions
It’s easy to bottle up your emotions and hold onto stress. However, it’s just as important to take care of your emotional health as it is your physical health.
Be aware and acknowledge your emotions, talk to a friend or family member if you need to unload or keep a daily journal to allow you to release your feelings.
If you need help, ask your GP for a referral to a therapist. Some employers also offer a staff counselling service, which might not have such a long wait.
Professional therapy is an expensive business, but you can find student therapists charging very little for a counselling service. Search the internet for training providers to see if they offer this.
There is a lot of advice on mental health issues on the MIND website.
Learn about nutrition
Eating a healthy diet is about as basic a form of self-care as you can get. Many people have only a vague idea of what constitutes a nutritious way of eating. Processed food with high levels of salt, fat and sugar are the easy option but can lead to you feeling sluggish and over weight. It is also an expensive way to eat.
Take time to learn about good nutrition and then put it into practice! There is quite a lot of simple information on nutrition on the NHS website. I wrote a post about getting your five a day on a budget here.
Sitting still for long periods leads to stiff joints or achiness in your back or neck. Your muscles weaken, your posture suffers and your circulation can become sluggish. Lack of physical activity can lead to long term health issues. Keeping fit and moving your body is therefore an excellent form of self-care that releases muscular tension, relieves aches and pains and helps you feel energised.
Do whatever type of exercise you enjoy most. It doesn’t matter what you do, just do something! I am not remotely sporty, but I love the non competitive nature of yoga. Also, a brisk walk can do wonders for my mood.
Don’t think you have to spend a lot of time exercising. I sometimes only manage 20 minutes a day, but I am consistent and it has made a huge difference to my fitness.
Give yourself a treat. A home pamper session doesn’t cost much. A DIY manicure or pedicure, a face pack, a hair treatment or – my favourite – a long, hot bubble bath can all make you feel that you value yourself, as well as giving you time out.
This Prima article has loads of great suggestions for creating a home spa and give yourself a pamper session.
What are your favourite ways to practice self-care on a budget? Please share them in the comments below!