Self-care is not about extravagance. It’s about looking after yourself in an optimum way to maximize your health and well-being and allow you to thrive. It’s also about living in a way that staves off illness and disease and finding the resilience to manage life stressors.
Overindulgence of any sort is contrary to self-care. Too much alcohol, food, work, gambling, and exercise - to name but a few - compromise our self-care. But when we find a balance in life, we maximize our self-care and optimize our health and well-being.
Let’s look at self-care, its benefits, and some cost-effective ways to practice self-care.
What do we mean by self-care?
It wasn’t until the 1970s that scientists started talking about self-care. At this time, it was recognized that people who actively care for themselves benefit from greater health. Being able to influence our health became a talking point, giving rise to academic and political interests.
In a nutshell, self-care is the term given to represent the positive care we give ourselves through both long-term and short-term lifestyle choices.
Many people automatically assume self-care is all about massages, purchases, and holidays. But the reality is that self-care is more basic than that. The most basic self-care is ensuring we get adequate sleep, eat a healthy diet, limit alcohol intake, and exercise regularly.
Self-care is all about promoting wellness and minimizing anything that may have a detrimental effect on us.
Why is self-care important
Effective self-care is essential for our health and well-being. It can keep us out of the hospital and stop our health deteriorating. In this study, which looks at the role of self-care in patients with heart failure, they found those patients who engaged with self-care were less likely to be rehospitalized.
It will likely come as no surprise, but self-care is linked with an increase in our positive psychology, including:
- Mental health.
The difficult thing is that often, those who would benefit the most from practicing self-care habits are those least likely to do so.
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5 ways to practice self-care on a budget
As we’ve confirmed, self-care doesn’t need to be all holidays, massages, and expensive weekends away. Quite the contrary, the most effective self-care practices are cheap or even free.
Let’s look at some of the best cost-effective self-care practices available.
1. Free self-care
In all honesty, I haven’t always taken very good care of myself. I drank too much alcohol, didn’t get enough sleep, and worked too many hours. Add to that my inability to say “no” to people, and it is no wonder I was fried.
Now, I have a list of free self-care practices I engage in weekly, which helps me feel relaxed and stave off poor mental health.
- Gentle nature walks with my dog.
- Regular early bedtimes.
- Limited alcohol consumption.
- Limited caffeine intake.
- Read a book instead of scrolling through social media.
If you integrate these into your life, I promise you will start to feel a difference within a few weeks.
2. Embrace loving-kindness meditation
They say if you only have time for 10 minutes of meditation a day, then you need to do an hour.
I am prone to overthinking, and my brain loves nothing more than taking me on joy rides. I know the merits of meditation, I suspect you do too, but I am awful at giving myself time for meditation.
But, it’s all part of a healthy self-care practice. So, I now make a habit of finding a 10-minute guided loving-kindness meditation online and forcing myself to show myself kindness through self-care meditation.
Try this one for yourself, and I promise it will quieten the mind. Can you make it a daily practice?
3. Be choosey about who you give your energy to
We can do all the recommended self-care routines available, but if we continue to give our energy to unhealthy relationships we will feel forever drained.
Relationships are challenging. I appreciate there may be people in your life who you can’t walk away from, but this is where boundaries come into play.
Protect your energy. Spend less time with people who drain you. You know the ones, the people who are energy vampires and leave you feeling exhausted and shriveled after spending time with them.
A positive side effect of this is that it frees up more time to dedicate to the relationships that nourish you and add to your self-care.
4. Give yourself time to relax
Too many of us associate relaxation with laziness. But our mind and body need time to switch off in order if we expect it to work at optimum at other times.
Let me put it another way. If you don’t give yourself time to relax, you will burn out, get run down, and compromise your immune system.
Relaxing means different things to each of us. For me, it’s all about reading a book, taking a gentle run, and doing some gentle yoga. Oh, and switching off from devices. What does relaxation look like to you?
5. Your health is your wealth
Instead of striving for certain aesthetics, strive for health. When we attain a healthy body, the mind follows. Similarly, when one achieves a healthy mind, the body follows. Ultimately, there is a profound link between the mind and the body.
These days, we recognize that our health is so much more than just physical. Given our mind dictates everything we do, it stands to reason that our mental health is perhaps even more important than our physical health.
Look after your mental health. This means speaking with therapists or seeing your doctor if you are concerned about your mental health.
Think of your mind as the steering wheel of your body. Healthy mental functioning is imperative to a happy and fulfilling life and is the first port of call for self-care.
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Self-care doesn’t need to cost a small fortune. The best self-care practices are free. Keep our top five tips in mind, and look after yourself:
- Free self-care.
- Embrace loving-kindness meditation.
- Be choosy about who you give your energy to.
- Give yourself time to relax.
- Your health is your wealth.
What self-care practices do you recommend? I'd love to hear from you in the comments below!