A weekly massage. A long soak in a bubble bath each night after work. A trip to a spa. These all sound like fabulous ways to practice self-care. They also sound expensive, time-consuming and not wholly realistic for a lot of people.
Self-care — any activity performed in service to our mental, physical and emotional health — is undeniably important. It can lead to reduced stress, improved mood and immunity, greater self-esteem, and other benefits. However, common self-care suggestions, while valid and highly appealing, often require a bit more time and money than many have readily available.
So, to both honor the importance of self-care and the realities of our budgets and busy schedules, we’ve created a list of 10 simple ways to practice self-care.
10 simple self-care tips
1. Set your morning alarm for 15 minutes earlier than usual. Those extra 15 minutes can be used for meditation, stretching, leisurely indulging a hot cup of joe, or just extra time to deal with a bad hair day or wardrobe struggles.
2. Listen to what your library lends. Skip the less-than-soothing radio DJ banter and listen instead to a novel during your daily commute. Check online or with your local library for a collection of cost-free audio books.
3. Wear the comfy shoes. While appropriate work attire may be unavoidable, it doesn’t have to be painful. Find a great pair of flats that both look and feel good — your feet, legs and back will thank you and you might just start a new office trend.
4. Buy what the barista’s offering. Some days, the home brew just won’t cut it. Allow yourself the extra boost a coffee house concoction provides. It doesn’t have to be every day you splurge, but a little treat can certainly improve a demanding day.
5. Take a break. Set an alarm on your phone or watch and truly take the 10 minutes you’re due every four hours while you’re working at the office or at home. Give yourself permission to stop the task at hand every once in a while to take a walk, pet the dog, chat with a friend, watch a funny video or simply take your time in the restroom.
6. Silence your phone. Whether it’s work calls, texts from the kids asking what’s for dinner or news alerts, you don’t need to see them the second they come in. Set your phone to silent throughout the day to allow yourself a little peace as well as increase your productivity.
7. Take a sick day, mental health day or “I can’t even” day. Every once in a while, your body, mind or heart sends a message that it needs a little time off and it’s important to heed that call, especially if it’s coming in from all three at once. You have a sick-day policy at work for a reason, so don’t be afraid to use it — even if it’s because you’re simply feeling a little heartsick or world-weary.
8. Order in. Ordering takeout isn’t cheap, nor is it always the healthiest choice. But there’s nothing like the sound of the doorbell ringing at the end of a busy day when a steaming hot pizza — made in a kitchen not your own and in packaging that eliminates the need for cleanup — is delivered directly to your door.
9. Just say no. Really, it’s OK to politely decline the opportunity to join a committee, start a carpool, grab a drink, forward an email chain, be the team parent, attend a kitchenware sales “party” or even chat with a stranger. Your time is just that: yours. And you can choose what you want to do with it.
10. Let it go. Cliché? Yes, but it’s true. Challenge yourself to let things that might normally bother you go every once in a while. Whether it’s leaving the dishes in the sink, wearing pajama pants instead of real pants to do the school drop-off or grabbing a donut in the lunchroom instead of an apple, relaxing your own rules and choosing not to sweat the small stuff can bring great relief.