Jan 11

Focus On Self-Care This Year… For Free

Illustration by Katherine Borah

Like so many other people, I’m starting 2019 focused on self-care. I want to prioritize my well-being and make decisions that benefit my soul. I want to make my to-do list less chaotic, sleep well, and make spending decisions that are good for my brain, body, and bank account. I want to take more baths and buy fewer espresso shots.


Falling victim to marketing

You’ll see the words self-care everywhere these days. But here’s the thing: As the concept has morphed into a buzzword, the phrase has been used to stick a premium price on pretty much anything. An $8 pressed juice? Self-care! Yoga classes at $35 a pop? Self-care! The phrase has gone from a meaningful goal to a marketing term. And I’ve noticed the justification creeping into my own spending decisions. An expensive sweater can seem justifiable because of self-care; so too, can an expensive face wash.


Sure, those things are nice to have. They’re indulgent treats, and they make me feel good. But are they self-care? Not really.


So what is self-care?

According to mental-health experts, self-care is simply, well, taking care of yourself. More specifically, it means paying attention to and meeting your own emotional, social, intellectual, physical, environmental, spiritual, occupational, and financial needs. Trying to actively address each of these categories regularly may give you the balance, happiness, and feelings of well-being you crave. And doing so doesn’t have to cost you any money. Really!


How do you do it (for free)?

Scroll through this list of self-care strategies for your body, brain, and spirit, and see which ones would help you take better care of you.

  • Spend time with a trusted friend or family member, and push yourself to open up about the feelings you normally keep inside. 


  • Plan a party or happy hour — or just RSVP to one — and commit to it on the calendar.


  • Teach yourself something you’ve always wanted to learn. For example, you can start mastering a new language with just ten minutes a day on Duolingo.


  • Go for a long walk outdoors. 


  • Give yourself a bedtime–and commit to sticking to it.


  • Clean your kitchen or bathroom, or another place that bothers you. (Or just clean out a junk drawer!)



  • Tackle a nagging project on your work to-do list.



  • Watch a sad or funny movie and let your emotions go. Let yourself cry loudly or genuinely laugh out loud–whatever it is you need.


  • Invite a co-worker you’d like to get to know better out for coffee.


  • Have a friend who raves about their workout? Ask to tag along.


  • Eat a brightly-colored meal made of mostly plant-based foods.


  • Fix that one thing that’s annoyed you forever in your home. Bye bye, uneven floor lamp!


  • Take time to get out alone in nature.


  • Take an evening and get your inbox to inbox zero, if that’s important to you.


  • Keep a diary of how your spending correlates to how you feel (psst: you can do this with the Joy app!)


  • Free-write in a journal.


  • Ask friends in your group-text to recommend a book they loved or an article they read that made them think.


  • Commit to a physical challenge, like doing a certain number of squats or burpees every morning.


  • Spend a few minutes straightening up and decluttering your home. Make the bed in the morning, finally replace the dead batteries in your Roku, or set aside a place for you to always put your mail and your keys. Small hits of organization can make you feel way better.


  • Update your resume and LinkedIn profile.


  • Make a recurring contribution to a cause that’s important to you. No funds? Consider a way to regularly volunteer your time a few hours a week.


  • Don’t know your neighbors? Knock on their door (or slide a note in the mailbox) introducing yourself.


  • Play a brain-boosting game, like a round of Sudoku or Words With Friends, on your phone.


  • Finally make those doctor’s appointments you’ve been putting off.


  • Decide on a financial goal — from a bucket list vacation to paying down debt on a credit card — and come up with a few concrete ways you may be able to achieve it.


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