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40 Affordable Self-Care Ideas

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While the mainstream perception of self-care involves splurging, people who manage mental illnesses or other conditions know “self-care” isn’t just a luxury you use with your vacation days — it can be life-saving. Something you need to practice daily to keep yourself in check. So when we talk about self-care, we don’t always mean an expensive, once-in-a-while luxury. We mean doing small things every day to help manage your general well-being. Because let’s be real — even if you can’t afford more expensive types of self-care, we can make time for the little acts of self-care that are in the long run, good for our minds.

To get some affordable self-care ideas, we asked our mental health community to share cheap ways they take care of themselves. (We added a few ideas of our own, too).

Here’s what they shared with us:

1. Meditate with a free meditation app.


2. Shower.


  • “Cold baths and showers really help my anxiety and mood.” — David C.
  • “Scream in the shower.” — Clary P.
  • “Taking a long shower and paying attention to the feel of the water on my body. And using lotion afterwards is relaxing, too!” –Kristina M.

3.Earphones in, music loud to drown out thoughts and go for a long walk!” — Tasha G.

4. “Knitting crochet.” — Staci L.

5. Reading.


6.Write a gratitude list, no matter how bad my day. Helps to focus on the positives no matter how small.” — Louise H.

7. “Get out of bed 10 minutes earlier in the morning and have a bit of quiet time or read a magazine before work. Don’t look at your email until you reach the office.” — Mairin B..

8. Coffee with chocolate and milk, tastes great and enhances mood.” — Kinga W. 

9.Coloring every morning to destress before I start my day.” — Carol H.

10. “Signing off from social media from a few days to a few weeks.” — Lori H.

11. “Taking a walk outside really helps boost my mood when I’m feeling down.” — Emily B.

12.I do my hair and make up every day to make myself feel better.” — Morgan P.

13. “Walk and socialize dogs at your local shelter. Definitely the best part of my week.” — Elaine S.

14. “I put on a playlist of my favorite songs to dance to. Then I rock out, lip sync, and get lost in the music. It gives me a break from reality and sometimes it changes my perspective after a 20-minute performance.” — Joy L.


15. “Horror movies make me happy.” — Andrea R.

16. “I had my therapist make a voice recording for me so I can listen to her between sessions when I’m feeling anxious. It’s a great way to feel connected when my brain starts to sabotage me.” — Monika S.

17. “I hug strangers. I was in the ER about a month ago for kidney stones, and I hugged the Muslim woman who took my insurance information. I’ve hugged people in Costco, the mall, the grocery store, pretty much wherever. I always ask first and have never been turned down. Hugging releases oxytocin, so it’s all happiness and smiles. — Erin N.

18. “I walk and walk for miles on the beach with my dog, it clears my head, I breathe in salty ocean air and feel my worries and fears disappear, my heart gets lighter and my mind quieter.” — Gaia F.

19. “I go to parks after the sun dies down and people evacuate to their homes for dinner and take my dog for a walk, or if really stressed I go for late night drives.” — Dawn C.

20. “Checking in with my physical and mental state periodically throughout the day. I also make a point to journal at least once a day every day and have done so for years now. It helps to get stuff off my chest as well as gives me the ability to sort things out and notice patterns.” — Megan S.

21. “I’ll put on my most favorite outfit I feel like I look best and feel confident in and I’ll do my makeup and hair really pretty and just take a crap ton of selfies.” — Morgan A.

22. “Having breakfast.” — Gizem B.

23. “Wearing fresh clothes.” — Gizem B.

24. “Eating a piece of bitter chocolate.” — Gizem B.

25. “Hot tea.” — Ysabeau C.


  • Lavender tea
  • Chamomile Tea
  • Valerian Root Tea

26. “Washing my hands and face. It’s a simple refresh, but enough of a system reset.” — Jo P.

27. “Keeping the house tidy when I’m well so that I feel less chaotic.” — Rosa T.

28. “Writing.” — Brittany H.

29.I also watch webcams of faraway sunny places when my seasonal depression gets bad.” — Susan L.

30. “Just getting out into nature. It helps ground me and reminds me that sometimes things are simple and beautiful.” — Crystal Y.

31. “I’m a painter, and creating art helps take my emotions and transfer them into something beautiful. Then I share it with the world. It’s so freeing.” — Shannan A.

32. “Practicing mindfulness techniques, no matter what sorts of stress relieving activities you choose. Focusing on the sensations of the ‘now’ moment — sounds, smells, sights and the like. Analyze all the small individual melodies and harmonies of your favorite music. The colors you see out on a nature walk. The taste of your favorite beverage. The feel of a favorite blanket. Overload your senses to stay out of a maladaptive headspace. And if you can’t break out of your imagination, you do what I do — focus your train of thought on an imaginative activity like reading, writing, drawing, painting or making music. Find a productive outlet for your feelings.” — Lisa G.

33. “I color on breaks at work when I’m feeling overwhelmed — it helps calm my brain.” — Rae K.

34. “Laying in the sun, on grass. It helps me to feel like I’m still on the ground.” — Brooke B.

35. “I write exactly how I feel. Then on another sheet of paper I write something positive about myself.” — Adrian T.

36.Brushing my teeth.” — Sebastian P.

37. “I crawl under all my blankets. The weight of them all is really calming.” — Jenny D.

38. Listen to a podcast.


39. “Make myself a home-cooked meal with a nice table setting.” — Kerstin W.

40. “Placing sticky notes everywhere with the good traits I have it a funny memory or anything positive that makes me laugh or smile even if its just for a moment.” — Chloe R.

What would you add?

Originally published: March 31, 2017
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