In the last few years, “self-care” is a phrase that has lost some of its meaning. A lot of people are getting caught up in the “do” aspect of self-care. You know, the face masks or weekly manicures, that kind of thing. And while taking care of yourself physically is certainly important, there’s more to self-care than taking a nice bubble bath or getting a much-needed haircut. Self-care is a mindset: a way of taking care of your mental and emotional needs on a deeper level.
As the concept of self-care has grown in popularity, people have focused on the things they could do. It’s easy to just yell the phrase as you run off and get a manicure, or pick up some nail polish to do it yourself. And making sure that you feel good is certainly important to your overall happiness. But have you ever stopped to think about how else you can do that?
At its core, self-care is just that: caring for oneself. You don’t actually need money or outside resources to take care of yourself; the most important part is focusing on your needs and meeting them. Your needs don’t need to have a price tag attached to them in any capacity to be valid.
I’m a single mom, and I don’t make much money. Sure, when I have a little extra, I may buy myself some high-end skincare or a little makeup, but I quickly realized that’s not really the way to practice true self-care. For me, making myself a priority in my own life is the best and least expensive form of self-care. Shifting my mindset is really the most literal form of self-care I can possibly recommend to anyone. And it’s incredibly important.
Parents and caregivers, especially moms, tend not to make themselves a priority. I most certainly understand. Since it’s just me, I’m my kiddo’s primary everything, which means I rarely get a break to focus on myself. I’ve come to accept that’s just how adulthood is. Totally sucks, but there’s little we can do, right? That’s what I thought, too. Until I took the time to put the “self” back in self-care. Not just buying things for myself, but honoring myself in new ways. (And yes, sometimes I do buy myself things, I’m just saying it doesn’t happen that often — and that purchases aren’t the only route to self-care.)
Sometimes for me, this new version of self-care is simply taking a few minutes of my day to check in with myself. Life gets difficult, and giving myself space to acknowledge that fact is crucial to making me feel better. Sitting down for a few minutes at some point during the day and taking stock of what’s going on makes a difference. If you want to, you can even leave yourself a little note, or list the positive things you’ve done lately. Maybe your big accomplishment for the day was simply getting up. There are definitely times when getting out of bed is an accomplishment in and of itself.
When self-care is a mindset, setting boundaries becomes easier to do. The boundaries aren’t always physical, but creating a safe space for myself is integral to my well being. There are times that the boundary is not talking to someone who will drain my energy. Other times, it’s recognizing my capacity for giving emotionally. Realizing that sometimes I just need to say “no.” Whether that’s not making dinner and ordering takeout, or saying “no” when someone asks me to volunteer at the PTA fundraiser. Acknowledging and honoring my limits is a form of self-care that I didn’t even realize was truly caring.
Constantly trying to do it all is slowly killing us. Shifting focus and giving myself a little grace has shifted my perspective on self-care as well. Caring for myself sometimes looks like something as common sense as getting more than four hours of sleep a night. Or drinking enough (let’s face it, any) water in a day. These things are way more important to our overall well-being than buying a $30 face wash.
So many people look at self-care as having to actively do something that costs money; dropping cash on something like getting highlights in your hair is certainly a form of self-care. But then I see people who are stressing over not being able to do something like that. Just because you don’t have money doesn’t mean you can’t engage in some form of self-care. Please don’t beat yourself up over not being able to spend money on yourself. It’s not the only way to prove your self-love.
Buying things and saying “treat yourself” are great, don’t get me wrong. But just throwing money at the idea of self-care doesn’t mean you’re actively taking care of yourself. Focus on your mental health, and not just in ways like a haircut. Maybe it means acknowledging that your mental health is not great and taking the steps within your power to make it better. Maybe it means making a conscious effort to get outside more. Or to incorporate more positive thinking into your daily routine. Self-care can simply be putting your phone down for 30 minutes a day to decompress from the shit-storm that is life. Peace of mind is free.
Put aside everything you think you know about self-care. There’s more to it than simply buying crap to ease your mind. Does that lavender bath soak feel great? Absolutely. Can you take care of yourself without it? Absolutely. Let’s begin to look past this idea of spending money, and really focus on ourselves. Whether that means meditating for five minutes a day or going to bed at ten instead of 11, there are plenty of ways to practice self-care without spending a dime.