When it comes to the phrase “self-care,” I feel that people fall into one of two camps. One half is totally on board, happy for the encouragement and validation to do what they need to do to relax, rejuvenate, and destress. Whatever their definition of self-care is, they embrace the meditation cushion or spa or lazy Saturday morning, knowing that the joy and ease and health it brings them is totally worth it.
On the other side are the skeptics and cynics of this whole “self-care” thing. They see “self-care” as equivalent to “self-indulgence.” If you are in this latter camp, you might find yourself thinking, “I don’t have time for that,” “That’s ridiculous,” “Who says I should spend any energy on myself,” and so on and so on.
The truth is, the self-care movement these days can often come to border on self-indulgence. It can be overly focused on images of people using fancy juicing machines, doing yoga on exotic beaches, getting massages at upscale spas, or going out brunching with friends on Sunday mornings.
So it can be hard to remember what self-care really should be about, and to remember that it’s perfectly ok to focus on yourself – not just every once in a while, but often.
I get it. I, myself, often fluctuate on how much I embrace my own need for self-care. Some days I’m all for it and get excited thinking of new ways I can practice taking care of myself, and other days I find myself talking myself out of my need to journal or take my daily walk or spend some time relaxing because “I don’t have time” or “I should be doing something more productive,” “I’m going to feel guilty if I do that,” or whatever it is that day.
But on my best days, I know that self-care is important. That filling up my own cup is the only way I can walk forward in this world being able to pour out to others. On my best days, I try to do whatever it is I need to do – usually in small, tiny ways – to put my best self forward.
If you’ve been having a hard time embracing the idea of self-care, it’s important to clarify what self-care is, and what it is intended to do. The first (and only) rule? The definition of self-care is entirely up to you, and you alone.
It does not have to equate to indulging yourself with expensive treats or experiences (although if that’s in your personal self-care repertoire, by all means go after that). Self-care doesn’t have to look like getting a massage or a manicure, or shopping for new clothes or sitting on a meditation cushion for an hour each day. The only requirement is that the activity or habit nurtures you in whatever way you need – may that be physical, emotional, mental, etc.
Remember this: self-care isn’t selfish. And it doesn’t have to be self-indulgent. And it surely doesn’t have to be complicated. It can be as simple as putting on a pair of headphones to listen to a podcast as you clean the house or laughing till your stomach hurts watching a standup comedian on Netflix.
And contrary to what you might think, it turns out that self-care activities don’t have to require any extra time or any extra money at all. On the contrary, some of the most powerful, influential self-care habits can be related to the little, tiny things you do each day, and the way that you do them.
Here are some of my favorite ideas for self-care activities that don’t require any time or money:
20 Self-Care Activities that Don’t Take any Time or Money
1. Listen to music that makes you feel energized and good. Bonus points: get down and dance – while you cook, while you brush your teeth, while you walk between rooms… doesn’t matter
2. Drink more water.
3. Listen to a podcast about something that interests you – revisit an old favorite or try one you’ve never heard before.
4. Unplug from technology – even if just for an hour.
5. Send a text to or call a friend who makes you smile.
6. Savor your food – practice mindful eating for just one meal.
7. Practice gratitude – by making mental notes in your head or with a simple gratitude journal.
8. Take a shower – relaxed and not on any timeline.
9. Say no – to anything you need to say no to, even if you think you should say yes.
10. Say yes – to something exciting that may be out of your comfort zone.
11. Look down at your feet and remind yourself: “I am here right now.”
12. Reminisce on a truly happy, care-free moment in your life – soak up the positive memories.
13. Unfollow any accounts on social media that don’t bring you joy.
14. Do nothing – even if for just 5 minutes. Nothing.
15. Give yourself an opportunity to laugh – whether by talking to a friend, watching a comedy show, or reading a funny article.
16. Put on super comfy clothes and snuggle up in your favorite blanket.
17. Connect with one person you normally wouldn’t during your daily routine – whether it’s the barista, the cashier, the bus driver, or just someone you pass on the sidewalk. A smile and a “hello” cam go a long way for both of you.
18. Look at something beautiful – let it really sink in.
19. Take a different route – get out of the daily grind by mixing it up and giving your brain new sights to see and directions to follow.
20. Spend time alone doing anything at all – as long as it’s time for just you.