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8 Ways to Practice Self-Care When You Have No Money
Self-care advice abounds. It all seems to be focused on things that cost money. When you are poor, you probably need more self-care than those who have everything they need and can afford day spas and avocado colonics or whatever. Day tripping vacations take time away from work and cost money. Even bubble bath is a luxury item that many can’t afford (I know I can’t). I’ve put together a list (in no particular order) of things that don’t cost a penny, or at least maybe just a few pennies, that have really helped me. None of them have to do with avocados. I promise.
Read a book
Books are expensive. No doubt about it. But you don’t need Kindle Unlimited to read for free. Get a library card. Even if you can’t make it to the library, most library systems have e-reader book borrowing. You can also follow authors online who sometimes offer free books on Bookfunnel.
If you can’t afford the internet, try to find book fairs where many books are offered free or heavily discounted. Many second-hand shops have books for less than a quarter. I have found some gems at places like these.
There is always the option of borrowing a book from a friend, neighbor, school, or church.
It’s important to get out of yourself sometimes and read for pleasure. If you know someone who can’t read, offer to read to them. This has the added bonuses of making a human connection and being of service. Both excellent self-care techniques, as well. If you can’t read, ask someone to read to you. See the previous two sentences.
2. Take a walk
Anywhere will do. Walking is free. But don’t just put your head down and power through it. This type of walk isn’t for exercise (although you’ll be getting that no matter what) or to get from point A to point B. This should be a stroll, a meander. Look around. Look at the little things. A weed growing through concrete. The clouds in the sky. The color the air turns when it is smoggy. Interesting shaped rocks.
Pretend you are seeing everything for the first time and enjoy the wonder of it all. Take your time. Stop often to enjoy and catch your breath if need be.
If you are disabled, on crutches, canes, or in a wheelchair, take it slow. Take a roll or a scoot. Change your surroundings. Indoor walks work, too. Or read a book and take a walk in your mind.
If you live in an unsafe neighborhood and are unable to walk without fear of harm, please find a way to walk in a different neighborhood. If you can’t afford the gas, bus, or train, please stay in your safe zone or stay inside your apartment or home. Putting yourself at risk is kind of the opposite of self-care. You can always see suggestion 1. and read a book. Take a walk in your mind.
3. Hug an animal
Furred, feathered, or reptile, connecting with an animal is incredibly healing. Please don’t hug your goldfish. I did that when I was a babe. It makes them swim funny. But go ahead and have a cuddle with your cat, dog, chicken, goat, turtle, snake, or lizard. It’s not important what kind of animal, only that it is living, but if you just can’t find a live animal, use your imagination and hug a stuffed animal. When I was a kid, my stuffed animals were more alive than the people around me.
What if you can only find fish? Stick your fingers in the water and let them nibble. Or, run your finger along the glass and watch them follow it. There are ways to connect if you try hard enough.
Animals are not judgemental. They don’t care what you look like or how much money you have (or don’t have). They only care if you are kind and gentle. Animals give back so much in return for so little.
If you don’t have any animals of your own (they can be expensive to care for), ask if you can play with someone else’s. Ask if you can pet a dog that is being walked. Go to a pet store. Connect with animals there. Go to a pound or SPCA. These places are always in need of volunteers to socialize animals or feed and clean up after them.
4. Hug a human
Maybe you don’t like animals, can’t find any, or are allergic. That’s ok! You can always hug a human. We are animals, too.
Find a friend or a family member and ask them for a hug. Hug a complete stranger, after asking. Always ask. Don’t be discouraged if someone says they would rather not. Not everybody likes to be touched. It may not be personal.
A great place to give and get hugs is a senior assisted living or nursing home. I used to take my girls when they were very little to a nursing home just around the corner. We would visit with random older people. Most days we would get hugs. This benefited every person involved.
The older people got visits that they may not have gotten from family or friends who tend to forget an older person once they are parked in a home. The girls and I got stories and wisdom from the people we visited.
I hope the girls, who were 3 and 4 at the time received a foundation of kindness and empathy.
And we all got hugs. It was wonderful.
5. Hug yourself
If you are an introvert, or just don’t know anybody you feel comfortable hugging, no worries! Wrap your arms around yourself and give yourself a hug. It may feel awkward at first. Do it anyway. It really works.
6. Sit in the sun
Indoors or out, find a patch of sun and just sit and soak up those rays.
You can do something or nothing while sitting in the sun. Read a book, people watch, close your eyes and take a nap. It doesn’t matter. Sunlight offers many benefits including warmth, vitamin D, and the U.V. rays have been shown to elevate mood.
Do wear a hat and/or some sunscreen. Nobody wants skin cancer.
7. Daydream often
Daydreaming may seem completely unproductive. Teachers and parents the world over have scolded daydreamers. “Get your head out of the clouds” is a common refrain.
Contrary to what we’ve been taught, daydreaming is very productive. While your mind wanders, your focus rests. Your worries slip into the background. Sudden ideas and aha moment jump to the foreground.
Daydreaming is free and can be done anywhere, anytime. Please don’t daydream while driving or participating in any other activity that could put your life or other lives at risk.
While sitting in the sun, taking a walk, or spending time with animals are excellent times to daydream.
8. Breathe deeply
Breathe deeply and slowly. Focus on the in and out of your breath. The rise and fall of your chest. This activity is free and can be done throughout the day for a few moments several times a day.
Breathing deeply sends oxygen to your brain. Focusing on your breath takes focus away from whatever is stressing out pressing you.
People who have anxiety often find themselves holding their breath. If you notice yourself doing this, take a few slow deep breaths. Maybe give yourself a hug while you are at it.
Please don’t do this if you are swimming or bathing. We don’t want anybody drowning in the name of self-care.
If you are swimming in the ocean or a lake, you might try to find a fish to hug.
Self-care does not have to be expensive. It doesn’t have to cost any money at all. It can be fun and educational. It can connect people and serve a larger community than just ourselves.
Self-care doesn’t have to include avocados. They are yummy and healthy, though. If you can afford one, go ahead and eat to your heart's content.
Please, take good care of yourself!
. . .
Jonica is a writer, rancher, painter, and poet. For the past ten years, she has been living and working goat and sheep ranch in Texas where she lives with her husband, 2 dogs, 1 cat, 3 goats, 15 sheep, 1 chicken, 1 turkey, 1 bee colony, and a llama. She writes about all of this and her many, varied life experiences. Jonica is a mental health advocate and shares her experiences in the hopes of de-stigmatizing mental and emotional conditions. She does not like the words “mental illness”, “disorder”, and “should” among many others.