Self-care is taking care of yourself. As I mentioned in my previous post, self-care does not usually look like a glass of wine or a piece of chocolate. It also isn’t an expensive weekly massage or a regular mani/pedi date with your friend.
This is actually good news. I think many people get the idea that self-care is for the privileged and the elite. That you can only practice good self-care if you are rich or if you figure out a way to squeak out a self-care category in your already too tight budget.
Fortunately, self-care doesn’t have to cost you a dime. And while self-care often does require time, when you make the time to take care of yourself well you will discover that you will have more energy, focus, motivation, and ability to get things done. Taking care of yourself can actually allow you to accomplish more in less time because you’re no longer living in an unhealthy, exhausted, anxiety-filled fog. When you bring your best self to your life you can live a better life.
Self-Care is not about how you feel in the moment
The important thing to remember with self-care is that whether it “feels good” in the moment is not necessarily the point. When we consider taking care of ourselves we need to take a long view approach and look at the big picture. The key question that we must always ask ourselves when considering whether something should be considered self-care or not is:
“Will I regret or feel bad about taking part in this activity later, even if it feels amazing in the moment?”
For example, a donut will taste heavenly in the moment, but the sugar crash and the stomachache I will experience in a couple hours makes eating a donut not an act of self-care. In general, the same concept applies for chocolate, wine, cheese fries, ice cream, or whatever other food or alcohol related indulgence you might be considering. This doesn’t mean you can’t ever indulge in junk food or alcohol, it just means you don’t get to lie to yourself and call it self-care anymore. If anything, it is often just self-harm, especially outside of moderate limits.
Another example would be going shopping after a hard day or week. It might feel amazing in the moment, but new things aren’t going to make you feel better in the long run. New things don’t bring happiness. Emotional shopping usually leads to impulsive and/or irresponsible purchases. You buy things that you don’t need or can’t afford which is, of course, a recipe for feeling bad later, no matter how much those fancy new shoes make you feel incredible in the moment.
Additionally, another question to ask is:
“Will this activity improve my overall health, wellness, or wellbeing, even if it’s not enjoyable in the moment?”
For example, going for a run feels quite terrible in the moment some days, but it will improve my health, wellness, and wellbeing, so I do it every day.
Eating a salad instead of fast food would not be my most enjoyable choice in the moment, but when considering my overall health and wellness, the salad wins.
Washing dishes is never an enjoyable activity in the moment, but living in a clean home makes a huge difference for my well-being, so you’ll find me in my kitchen loading up the dishwasher all the time.
Self-Care does not have to be expensive
You don’t need a lot of money to take care of your health, wellness, and overall wellbeing. You do need to be intentional and you will need to make some time in your schedule for it, but it usually doesn’t cost any extra money.
Today, I want to share a list of 50 free self-care activities that won’t cost you any extra money out of your budget. I’ve divided the list into various categories so that you can determine which categories your self-care needs the most attention and put a few of those activities on your calendar this week.
Move Your Body
1. Go for a walk or run.
2. Do some strength training.
3. Practice yoga.
4. Go on a bike ride.
5. Take a hike.
6. Have a dance party – alone or with others.
7. Go for a swim.
8. Use a foam roller, if you have access to one. (I have this one and it works great.)
9. Play with a pet.
10. Clean your house.
Fuel Your Body
11. Drink at least half your weight in ounces of water each day.
12. Eat food that fuels and nourishes your body well.
13. Create and follow a healthy meal plan.
14. Cut out or cut down on the amount of sugar you consume.
Restore Your Body
15. Get enough sleep.
16. Take a relaxing bath.
17. Practice Sabbath (set aside a day or part of a day to do no work).
18. Sit or stand in the sun and notice your body or the world around you.
19. Visit a place in nature that brings you joy or peace (lake, beach, woods, etc).
20. Sit quietly and focus on your breathing.
21. Listen to an uplifting or relaxing playlist.
22. Turn off all devices for a while.
Take Care of your Mind
23. Write a list of all the things you are grateful for.
24. Think of your worst case scenario, then write 10 alternative outcomes.
25. Write a list of at least 10 things you love about yourself.
26. Declutter the area around you.
27. Write about your thoughts and feelings in a journal.
28. Unfriend/Unfollow online people and accounts that are not serving you.
29. Work on changing your unhelpful thoughts to thoughts that serve you (more information here).
30. Allow yourself to experience any negative emotions you are feeling (don’t numb or avoid, just sit and feel).
Be in Community
31. Hug someone you love.
32. Talk with a friend.
33. Play a game (board or card) with someone.
34. Do something kind for someone else.
35. Have sex with your spouse.
36. Write notes to people who are meaningful to you.
37. Play with your kids.
38. Read to a child.
41. Read the Bible.
42. Memorize scripture verses (any of these would be great options).
44. Practice a creative hobby you rarely take time for (baking, sewing, drawing, coloring, gardening, playing an instrument, etc).
45. Read a good book (my reading list is here).
46. Write out a list of your goals and priorities. (you may want to start here)
47. Learn something new.
48. Create and follow a budget. (Here’s more on the software we use, although there is a monthly fee for this one, there are plenty of free budgeting options available.)
49. Do a brain dump of everything you need to do or remember.
50. Make a schedule for your day and stick to it.
Today’s Action Step
I would not suggest that you attempt to take part in every single self-care activity on this list, at least not all in the immediate future. But there are probably a few things that jumped out at you as you read through the list. Things that sounded like just the thing you need or desire to do. Pick a few, grab your calendar, and block out some time in your schedule to take care of you.
You are worth it. And offering a healthy, whole, well version of yourself to your family, your work, and your life is the best thing you can offer to the people around you.