In a desperate attempt to take care of your mental health, you’ve perhaps tried to turn toward self-care – and promptly found that it costs an arm and a leg ?
I mean … take a look at what self-care is synonymous with these days.
Hand-crafted candles from Etsy. A 3-day-2-nights package at a hotel. A crateful of face creams and masks; heck, even loungewear, essential oils, smoothie subscriptions, and wine now bear the promise of self-care.
What's one supposed to do for mental wellbeing when broke – or don't see the point of splurging on these 'self-care ideas' – then?
Self-care shouldn't be expensive
Important question: what does self-care look like?
At its core, self-care isn’t about getting your shoulders rubbed by a masseuse; inhaling essential oils in a spa setting; or monthly subscriptions to companies promising to send you ‘self-care in a box’.
Instead, it's really about the intentional carving of space to fully focus on your mental, emotional, and physical wellbeing. Meaning?
It should cost you very little – if at all – to practice self-care. But what, exactly, should you be doing?
Don’t worry. Below, find various budget self-care ideas and tips that'll get you to put your emotional, mental, and physical health first.
Budget self-care ideas
Scheduling time to be with friends and family
We are social creatures. As humans, we thrive when we connect with others.
Need proof? Well, there are plenty of studies that consistently show, time and time again, that social support – be it from friends, family members, or a significant other – is strongly associated with better mental (and even physical!) health.
As for why that is: it’s really because social interaction appears to bring about a whole host of wellbeing benefits, including:
- Lowered stress levels
- Improved mood
- Enhanced motivation for positive health behaviors
- … and virtually everything in between
Understandably, spending face-to-face time with your loved ones may be a challenge in light of the ongoing pandemic.
Or even impossible, depending on where you’re situated.
Thankfully, technological advancements have made it possible to connect virtually.
Try out hosting online parties, cook-outs, and even game nights online. These little pockets of time spent with friends and family will still have an enormous impact on your emotional health.
Eating a balanced, nutritious diet
Imagine yourself as a premium car.
Now, think about what happens if you were to run the car on cheap gas over the long term. That’s right. You’re going to have a damaged car on hand.
Making poor dietary choices – like having 2 slices of cheese for breakfast, skipping lunch, then gorging on fried chicken during dinner – may feel good, but you're doing your physical and mental health a great disservice.
Of course, you’re likely already familiar with the physical health effects of a poor diet: obesity, tooth decay, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, type 2 diabetes … and the list goes on.
But did you know that your diet can also affect your mental wellbeing? Here’s a brief list of all the foods that can affect your mood (and why):
- Complex carbohydrates: Increases levels of serotonin (i.e. the ‘feel-good’ neurotransmitter) in your brain.
- Complete protein sources: Appears to increase levels of dopamine and norepinephrine, neurotransmitters that play a role in your mood, motivation, and concentration.
- Whole foods, rich in nutrients: Whole grains and leafy vegetables, for instance, are packed with various nutrients (e.g. folate, iron, long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium, and vitamin B12) vital to a healthy mood.
Getting adequate amounts of sleep nightly
Worryingly enough, there’s a well-established relationship between psychiatric problems and sleep.
Studies indicate that anywhere between 15 to 20% of individuals diagnosed with insomnia will develop major depression.
Insomnia can also be a significant risk factor for both anxiety and panic disorders.
Okay, so you’re now convinced that you need to get plenty of zzz’s nightly – but what if you’re constantly tossing and turning in bed? Here are a few tips that’ll help accelerate your journey into dreamland (and better self-care) at night:
- Keep your bedroom cool: Your best bet is anywhere between 15°C to 19°C (roughly 60°F to 67°F).
- Eliminate as much noise as possible: Use a white noise machine if you can. It can cut down on the time it takes for you to fall asleep by at least 40%.
- Avoid alcohol and caffeine close to bedtime: While they act in different ways (i.e. alcohol is a sedative, while caffeine is a stimulant), both seriously mess with your sleep cycles.
Staying physically active as much as possible
Working out is truly one of the best self-care ideas you could ever act on.
In addition to lowering your risk of numerous chronic health conditions (the usual few, including obesity, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes), physical activity also causes your body to produce endorphins – neurotransmitters that help trigger feelings of happiness and euphoria.
Research also shows that regular physical activity is a preventative measure for depression. And may even be as effective as anti-depressants in treating major depressive disorder!
Now, here’s something you should note.
Physical activity doesn't necessarily equate to intense sweat sessions, be it at the gym or home.
The truth is that all kinds of movement can be considered as physical activity. That includes low-intensity cardio training (e.g. walking, swimming) and all forms of non-exercise activity thermogenesis (e.g. washing the dishes, mowing the lawn, taking the stairs).
Always remember: it is not selfish to prfioritize self-care
Practicing self-care is not selfish. At all.
One could even argue that failing to take care of ourselves – particularly in these challenging times – would be more of a selfish act than anything.
No matter your fitness level or goals, Gymstreak (an AI-powered app) can tailor your workout routines to help you achieve everything you want. And more.
If you’re interested, check out GymSteak now.
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