31 Ways to Take Care of Yourself If You Can't Afford a Mental Health Day

Some days feel heavier than others when you’re struggling with mental illness. But even on the more difficult days, we are often still expected to show up to life; to work or school, to fulfill our responsibilities.

That is why we asked our Mighty mental health community to share with us some free or inexpensive ways to take care of yourself if you can’t always afford to take a “mental health day.” When school and work and responsibilities and money hold us back from taking the full day (or days) we might need to recenter and reground, small things throughout the day can help.

Here is what they had to say:

1. “I like to take the long way home sometimes just to get a few minutes to be alone with my thoughts because I’m constantly doing things for other people and sometimes just the quiet is nice. Or I’ll walk to where I parked my car instead of taking the train just to get a little more activity, and burning off some nervous energy helps.” — Laura G.

2. “Sometimes I make a list of all my worries and then I crumple it and throw it away. I’ll treat myself to something small like a coffee or something sweet and text somebody I love.” — Shyla H.

3. “I use my break as a literal break from people. I find a quiet room and listen to music to ‘recenter’ myself.” — Alyssa K.

4. “Swinging on a swing set and closing my eyes and pretending I’m flying.” — Cassie F.

5. “Hug someone/something. A person, a pet, a stuffed animal, a pillow — whatever you feel the most comfortable with. It might help you feel more connected to the real world.” — Jessica C.

6. “Using the pad of your thumb, press it into the creases of your ear, moving it around to give yourself an ear massage. Tap using pressure, just under your collar bone and huff out from your belly; repeat an affirmation in between the huff.” — Marla H.

7. “I have a Pinterest board titled ‘Better Day,’ with funny memes, cute animals and anything else that puts a smile on my face.” — Josephine C.

8. “Take 10 minutes away from everyone, go somewhere quiet, do some deep breathing and repeat a mantra or two.” — Beenie R.

9. “I made a playlist of all of my favorite songs! Listening to it alters my mood, even if it’s just for a couple of hours.” — Au’Brie M.

10. “While recovering from a suicide attempt and living in a community residence, I taught myself to play the ukulele. Three years later, I still break it out if I’m having a tough day.” — Rob F.

11. “I usually read self-care books and books about my disorder. It’s like having a therapist right next to you giving you tips and tricks to manage your disorder .” — Kate P.

12. “Look at cute videos of cats on YouTube! Or dogs. Or birds. Whatever your preference is. But cute animals always give me that warm and fuzzy feeling people need. Like a hug.” — Sarah C.

13. “Music and reorganizing things. It helps me calm down and refocus and channel my bad mental health day into something productive. And then when I feel like I’ve done something productive, I feel a lot better about myself. I find it particularly helpful when I’m having a lot of anxiety because it helps refocus that anxious energy into something else, or when I feel a manic episode coming on and I know that energy needs to get released. It helps me focus it so that I don’t go on a spending spree” — Alysa W.

14. “I just let myself take a little extra time in the mornings to just sit and breath. It helps calm me down and relax. Then I go through my morning routine. Once I mindlessly get into my routine, it’s easier to just get it done.” — Samantha M.

15. “I keep quotes or funny images on my phone and I scroll through them every time I have a second, to keep my thoughts calm.” — Ya-El B.

16. “When I’m at school I take frequent ‘bathroom breaks’ to give me a second to walk around or recollect my thoughts.” — Ari L.

17. “I usually take frequent breaks at work (not getting up or moving around breaks, just quietly sitting at my desk without actually working). I make a cup of tea and do some deep breathing exercises, especially if I’m particularly anxious that day.” — Lisa D.

18. “I go for walks. Being active is good for the brain and taking the time to take a relaxing stroll and get out is therapeutic.” — Angela W.

19. “I like to sit and listen to or watch my favorite comedians and cook myself a meal. Sometimes I just pick up a paint brush, pick some colors and paint away.” — Phoebe M.

20. “Give myself permission to do what feels good. Go out to lunch, get M&M’s from the vending machine, wear my favorite perfume or oil, wear my softest sweater, listen to my favorite songs.” — Joyce K.

21. “Take a shower, paint your toenails, read a book, watch your favorite movie, wash your face, play your favorite music — set time aside to make yourself feel valued. Do something that makes you feel good or happy.” — Abi D.

22. “Nature! I love the forest, it’s a nice way to escape reality into ‘actual’ reality. Even better when someone you love is by your side.” — Steff F.

23. “Dr. Teals Epsom salts (I like lavender). Even if baths freak you out, soaking your feet/hands is still great. The scent and the warm water help bring my mind back to reality.” — Abigail E.

24. “I jot down my anxious thoughts in the notes in my phone or in my journal app. I write down what I’m feeling because it provides me with some kind of release of the feelings. If I don’t have my phone, obviously pen and paper works just fine.” — Morgan T.

25. “I ended up getting a MoviePass account. I pay 10 dollars a month to be able to watch a free movie every day. As weird as this sounds, it’s helped me a lot because it’s a ‘free’ escape on days when I’m feeling down or just need to get away without spending a ton of money.” — Jenifer R.

26. “Honestly, take a nap. Sometimes you just need to turn off and drift away from the world and it’s people for an hour.” — Kaitlyn C.

27. “I make myself unreachable: No mobile phone, no laptop, no sms’s, no e-mail, no social media, no visitors at my house, I don’t attend any events or meet up with people. I just stay home and chill with me: eat, watch DVDs, listen to uplifting music, sleep.” — Carole S.

28. “I write everything in my diary. And it does help me a lot. Coloring also helps.” — Meher K.

29. “When I’m short on cash and time, I try to sit outside and watch clouds, notice the smell of the air, watch birds or squirrels, just something to give my mind a break from the constant dark thoughts and stress.” — Rhonda M.

30. “I keep a yoga mat in my office. When I need a break I put my phone on ‘do not disturb,’ inform my co-workers I am taking a five to 15 minute break, turn off the lights and stretch or just relax quietly. I also keep Rescue Remedy, essential oils and a diffuser on hand.” — Sarah R.

31. “My ESA dog Chubbs. He has been with me through everything. Just hanging with him and loving on him calms me down immensely. I couldn’t do it without him!” — Jordan M.

woman looking at her wrinkly dog

Getty image via ALLVISIONN

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