20 Free and Low-Cost Self-Care Ideas

I once read a wellness influencer’s post on Instagram that included the hashtag #highendhealth. This riled me up so much and is a clear snapshot of what’s wrong with the industry. Health should not be reserved for only those who can afford it, but that’s how it often feels. Expensive, inaccessible, out of reach.

Self-care is often portrayed on the same pedestal. It should not be inaccessible or made to feel that way! Well-being will look different for everyone, but there are free and low-cost ways to bring it into your life.

It doesn’t have to mean spending a ton of money on yourself, going to a costly yoga retreat in the woods, buying aspirational workout clothes, though if you have the resources to indulge this way, there’s nothing wrong with that!

Reading for self-care

But sometimes it’s just laying in bed all day reading a book. Sometimes it’s closing your eyes and listening to your favorite music instead of checking email on the subway ride to work. Sometimes it’s inviting a friend over to bake together or just going outside and sitting in the sun.

Life is hard enough, especially in this political climate. When we’re feeling upset, stressed, angry, sad, lonely — whatever it is — on top of that we shouldn’t have to worry about whether feeling better fits in our budget.

Although I’ve put together a list of ways that don’t require a big bank account, how you incorporate self-care into your day will depend on the privilege of time and other factors, of course, but I’ve tried to come up with a variety of ideas so you can find something that may work for you.

Here are some ideas for free and low-cost ways to take some time just for you.

Yoga for self-care

Credit: Zachary Drucker for The Gender Spectrum Collection

Free and Low-Cost Self-Care Activities

  1. Taking a walk in nature (or your own neighborhood, wherever you feel safe)
  2. Calling a friend
  3. Reading (the library is your friend!)
  4. Journaling
  5. Gentle exercise (yoga, stretching, free YouTube workouts, or look on Eventbrite for free group fitness in your area)
  6. Watching a movie that makes you laugh (you can also use the library for this, check out Hoopla)
  7. Take a warm bath, moisturize slowly
  8. Eat nutritious foods that meet your needs (see fairfoods.org for their $2/bag food program)
  9. Hydrate!
  10. Paint your nails
  11. Make a cup of tea
  12. Try a guided meditation (YouTube or apps like Insight Timer and Headspace)
  13. Ask for help when you need it, we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to do things on our own!
  14. Listen to your favorite music. Dance if you’re feeling it.
  15. Light candles, even an unscented tea light
  16. Put your phone on Do Not Disturb
  17. Tidy up your home. Clutter can stress us out without us realizing it.
  18. Open your windows and let the breeze in or sit by a sunny window
  19. Get in your coziest clothes and take a nap
  20. Say no (my favorite form of self-care)

Ultimately, I can’t tell you what makes you feel good, I can only help you brainstorm things to try. If you’d like to share what works best for you and add to the list of ideas, feel free to post in the comments!

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