I don’t know about you, but often I tend to fall into the trap of thinking that buying things—new boots, nail polishes, Korean sheet masks—will make me happier. New lipsticks are great, and good skincare is important, but stuff can only do so much. Good self-care is really about choosing to spend your time doing what your mind and body need you to do to feel better, not about buying things. And besides, some of us just don’t have the money for monthly facials. Obviously, you shouldn’t feel guilty for buying yourself treats, but spending money isn’t the only way to take care of yourself. So here are some ways you can take care of yourself without spending any money:
Don’t go out, if you really don’t want to. Even if it’s pub trivia night, or after-work happy hour, or your friends really, really want to go clubbing, you don’t have an obligation to go. Yes, there are some commitments we can’t (or shouldn’t) wiggle out of, but if the stakes are low, feel free to turn down an invitation or two. Be gracious, but don’t feel bad. If you’ve spend all day running errands and all you want to do is cuddle up in bed with Netflix and a mug of hot chocolate, then do that. Tell any FOMO you might be feeling to eff off—your trivia team will understand.
Write a letter to a friend. OK, so, this will cost 49 cents, or whatever, but that is basically nothing compared to the joy and love that can be spread by the simple act of writing a letter. I mean, everyone likes receiving mail, right? But it’s not just nice for the recipient—I find that writing a letter also makes me feel good. I get to think about my life, share weird or funny things that have happened (and in more detail than I can on Gchat), and focus on a friendship that makes me happy. Communication on the Internet is often short or limited to the necessary—in a letter you can go on in detail about your day, your weird co-workers, your date last week. Writing a letter to a far-off friend shows that you care enough about them to dedicate some time and energy talking solely to them. Plus, maybe they’ll write back! My bestie and I have been writing letters back and forth ever since we first parted many years ago to go to college.
Or write to yourself. Journaling is a great way to both record your experiences and sort out your feelings. I find that when I get into the flow of journaling, I discover feelings or thoughts I didn’t know I had. And, of course, a journal doesn’t have to be for just writing, either. The Internet is great source of journaling inspiration and prompts. My journal is a mix of everything: writing, quotes I like, photos, and art. I can write in it when I need to, or I can look back through the cool art I’ve done and feel inspired.
Invite friends over to cook a meal. You might have to spend some money for this one, but I’m assuming some spending on food is already in your budget, right? Everyone can bring ingredients for a part of the meal, and you can all help cook together. This is a great way to have a meal with friends without paying to eat out. And either it’ll turn out great and you’ll all be proud, or it won’t and you’ll always remember the Hilarious Lasagna Incident of 2014. Either way, you’ve had wonderful, healing friend time and a homecooked meal.
Do a facial massage. Seriously, facial massages feel so amazing, and all you need for this is an oil. Of course, you can use a special facial cleansing balm or oil, but you don’t have to—olive oil, or whatever you have on hand, will do you just fine. Pour some oil into your hands and rub it over your face, massaging areas where you hold a lot of tension, like the jaw or forehead. This video by makeup artist Lisa Eldridge covers lots of different techniques. Then, after you finish the massage, you can remove the oil from your face with a washcloth or towel soaked in hot water. Hold it up to your face until it cools, then wipe the oil off. Get the washcloth wet again, and repeat until you’ve put yourself in a steamy, relaxed trance. Marvel at the softness of your skin.
Listen to relaxation videos. YouTube is a veritable treasure trove of relaxation videos. If I’ve had a rough day, I love plugging in my earbuds and closing my eyes to listen and relax for fifteen minutes. At first, doing that felt weird to me, when I started making it a habit—I’m the sort of person who feels uncomfortable watching TV without doing something else, at the same time, like painting my nails or mending clothes, so it felt wrong to just lie down and do nothing. But there is nothing wrong with taking some time to manage stress and make yourself feel better. Look for guided relaxation videos, or just listen to your favorite calming music while concentrating on your breathing.
Ultimately, I think we know what makes us feel good and what doesn’t. And we need to prioritize our own wellness in order to be able to deal with all the crap the world throws at us. Self-care isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity.