Cait Banks MA, RP(Q)
MA Counselling Psychology
Often times social media can encourage us all to believe that self care involves expensive brunch with mimosas and avocado toast. The reality is, it can become too expensive to keep up with. The expensive bath bombs, luxurious comfort foods, and the infamous “retail therapy” can lead anyone to believe they can’t afford self-care. It can also leave us feeling like most of our paycheque needs to be going toward things to make us feel good, when often times bills take up more than half of what we earn (maybe even all of it).
I’ve come up with a list of free self-care activities designed to help with burnout, mental health issues, stress, and general low energy/mood. It doesn’t have to be expensive to feel good, in fact it doesn’t have to cost anything at all.
1. Don’t say Maybe when you want to say No.
Of course, this includes don’t say yes if you want to say no. Most people struggle with saying no because they don’t want to let someone down, their self-worth revolves around others’ approval, and other reasons. It can often feel as though saying no will result in conflict of some sort, when that is less likely than short-term discomfort. When you say no there may be an awkward conversation, or even anger, but this will pass. If the person has respect for you and your boundaries they will understand. If a person can’t respect you saying no to them, perhaps evaluate what that relationship looks like. There may be an underlying unrealistic expectation they have of you, and that is an unfair burden on you.
2. Write Have-Done lists.
A lot of focus is placed on writing out to-do lists, which can leave many people feeling like they haven’t done enough in the day. Sometimes, just getting out of bed is a huge accomplishment and it should be noted. Writing out what you did do versus what you have to get done can help you recognize what you’ve accomplished every day, no matter what the circumstances are. This isn’t to suggest you shouldn’t write out what needs to get done, as this is a great way of remembering responsibilities and important tasks, but make sure to pay attention to what you have accomplished.
3. Put your Phone Down.
Have you ever found yourself scrolling through your phone, looking at emails, checking Instagram or other apps while doing something else? Perhaps it’s while you have TV on in the background. Maybe, it’s while you eat breakfast or on your lunch break at work. Then, maybe, throughout the day it feels as though this down time wasn’t exactly relaxing. Lunch breaks are supposed to help refresh you for the rest of your day, not leave you more tired than when you started! Well, unfortunately, though scrolling social media or looking at personal emails may feel mindless, you are actually using precious mental energy to do this. I like to tell my clients to start to look at their day as a calculation of energy in versus energy out. Things that bring energy in for introverts and extroverts are different, but it is important to note that social media is always energy out. Multitasking during down time is energy out. Finding moments where you can focus on one thing at a time help enable you to use not only less energy on different tasks, but also encourages being present and enjoying the moment you are in right now.
4. Create a Morning and Nighttime routine.
I’m not talking about spending money on expensive face creams and exotic tea. I’m talking about time where you can sit and reflect, unwind and relax at night or time you can spend energizing yourself for the day in the morning. I encourage you to determine what that looks like for you. Maybe it’s nightly stretching while listening to music or reciting morning affirmations to have a good start to the day. Or maybe it’s a vigorous workout to start or end the day. What is most important here is that it is about you, not what it appears like everyone else is doing. If you aren’t into working out at 6am, that doesn’t mean you can’t create the perfect routine that wakes you up in the morning to do what you need to do for the day.
5. Find a free event or activity in your community.
This can be difficult as not every town/city offers free events. However, many cities have something. Some places have free karaoke or stand-up comedy on Sundays. Other places might have free swimming or skating at community centres. You might even find a charity or fundraiser you want to be a part of to volunteer some of your free time. What is most important here is finding something you’re interested in that’s accessible for you. While I am a huge fan of a good Netflix night, sometimes we can get trapped in a rut of not doing anything with our free time because we’re just too tired. I challenge you to find something you want to do even if it’s only 10 minutes. Call your mom while you walk around the block, grab a friend for Sunday comedy night, or take yourself to a farmer’s market and sample what’s there.