Wellness

Experts Share The Best Free Ways To Practice Self-Care — And They’re So Easy

No expensive face products or rituals needed.

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Everywhere you turn these days, there's an incredible amount of emphasis placed on self-care in the form of face masks, bubble baths, and other (ahem, overpriced) products that claim to banish your stress and help you find ~inner peace~. Honestly, though, sometimes you just don't have the time, let alone the money for such elaborate purchases and rituals. Still, that doesn't mean you should neglect yourself or your needs. There are so many free ways to practice self-care that won't cost a single penny or take up a huge chunk of your day, but will still leave you feeling centered, balanced, and brimming with self-assurance.

According to Kea Meyers Duggan, a life and career coach and the founder of The Aha! Project, self-care of any kind is vitally important, and should never be brushed aside. "Seemingly we are in this hustle-and-grind culture where we're always onto the next thing, but never appreciating or taking stock in what we just accomplished," Duggan tells Elite Daily. "Or, we simply fill our calendars with busy work or meetings and social events, and places where we give our time, talents, and expertise away to others before ever tending to ourselves."

Sound familiar? Well, pouring from an empty cup, more often than not, can leave you feeling devalued, drained, and even aggravated — but that's where easy self-care practices come in. "Self-care is a way to fill your gas tank or your cup," Duggan says. "[Caring for yourself] is not selfish; it's actually quite the opposite. If you are not replenishing your mind, body, and spirit, you can't expect to be able to give effectively to others."

Here are 14 free self-care ideas that will fill your metaphorical cup to the brim, so you can pour freely and generously, and in turn, be able to live your life as wholly as you deserve to.

Try "Box Breathing"

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Learning how to breathe properly sounds like such a simple thing, but in truth, it can be such a game-changer when it comes to relieving stress, especially when that anxiety just builds and builds and builds.

Box-breathing is one of Duggan's favorite self-care tips that she shares with her clients because it's an incredibly easy method for grounding yourself whenever you're feeling stressed or anxious.

One of the best things about this breathing technique, Duggan says, is that you can do it just about anywhere. Here's how it's done: First, exhale any air in your lungs. Slowly breathe in, filling your belly (your diaphragm, specifically) first, then your lungs, for a count of four. Duggan says it's key here to be very intentional on your inhale. Next, hold your breath for four seconds, then exhale slowly for a count of four.

Set Healthy Boundaries

When's the last time you set some clear and necessary boundaries in a situation where they were long overdue? Jennifer L. FitzPatrick, a licensed clinical social worker and author of the book Cruising Through Caregiving, tells Elite Daily that her top piece of self-care advice for her clients is to be more mindful of boundaries. "Many of us need more boundaries in our lives. Setting boundaries is critical for self-care, so commit to setting firm boundaries with everyone in your life," she says.

Consider where you should be saying "no" more often in your life in order to reduce your stress. Maybe it's in your romantic relationship, at work with your colleagues, in your family, or even in your own friendships. "When we don’t set boundaries, our schedules become unmanageable and we deplete ourselves," FitzPatrick says. "This is why healthy boundary-setting is so crucial to good mental health."

Turn Off Technology During Your Morning Coffee Or Tea

According to Sarah Thacker, a therapist and health coach who specializes in working with women who struggle with emotional eating, an absurdly simple, but incredibly helpful self-care practice is making sure to switch off all forms of technology first thing in the morning — that means no email, social media, or TV until you've finished sipping and enjoying your morning bev. "While you're having your morning coffee or tea, take a mindful minute to breathe deeply," Thacker tells Elite Daily over email. This will help you begin your day on a completely clean slate, without the anticipation of worrying about what needs to get done or what will come next.

Practice Gratitude

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Lisa Olivera, a licensed marriage and family therapist in Oakland, California, tells Elite Daily that gratitude in general is a great way to practice self-care, but what really drives the practice home is keeping track of the things you're grateful for — especially the little things you might otherwise gloss over in your everyday life.

"Whether it’s through writing a daily list, sharing with a loved one, or simply paying attention internally, practicing gratitude contributes to our wellness and to what is good in our lives, which helps greatly during moments of stress or overwhelm," Olivera says.

Recall A Positive Memory

Another super straightforward method of self-care involves the simple act of recalling a positive memory when you're feeling overwhelmed by, you know, life. According to Jessica Tappana MSW, LCSW, founder and director of Aspire Counseling, all you need to do for this one is close your eyes, take a deep breath, and recall a time when you felt truly happy. "Try to remember a very specific moment (aka 'standing on the beach with waves washing over your feet,' as opposed to the more general 'going on vacation'), and think of as many details about that moment as you can," Tappana tells Elite Daily.

What did you see in that moment that made you feel so happy? What else did that moment make you feel? What were you smelling or tasting? What sounds surrounded you? Take the time to bask in all of these memories — this is your time.

Unfollow Social Media Accounts That Don't Serve You

Going on an unfollowing spree might sound petty, but filtering your social media feed is necessary sometimes, especially if you've started to notice you usually just feel like crap every time you go on any of your social media apps.

Sara Weinreb, founder of the M List, which is a guide to living your most stress-free life, recommends unfollowing Instagram accounts that make you feel bad about yourself in any way, shape, or form. "If someone on Instagram intimidates you, makes you feel inferior, or is giving you serious FOMO, give them an unfollow," Weinreb tells Elite Daily. "Make Instagram a place of inspiration, not envy."

And if you need ideas of people to follow who always keep it real AF, here's a great place to start.

Love Yourself Even When You Don’t Like Yourself

Just like any other loved one that can get on your nerves, there will be days you don’t like yourself, too. Dr. Courtney Tracy, LCSW, PsyD, a psychotherapist, mental health influencer, and host of the podcast HUMAN First With Dr. Courtney Tracy, says. “It’s important to realize that self-love doesn’t mean you like yourself all the time. It’s about unconditionally loving yourself and being there for yourself, even on days you don’t like yourself.” So just like any temperamental toddler or cranky best friend, you should still extend unconditional care and support to yourself, even when you and your inner voice aren’t exactly getting along.

Dr. Tracy defines self-care as “showing yourself that you and your health matter.” This is important because stress, pressure, fear, anxiety, and feelings of isolation wear and tear on our body and mind. Easy ways to practice self-care include scheduling important doctor's check-ups, reading self-help books that are educational, staying on top of your medications, or even just reorganizing your closet to reduce anxiety. Dr. Tracy also suggests identifying whose voice may be actually holding you back from nurturing yourself. Is it someone from your past or present, or even societal pressures and stigmas?

Nourish Your Body With The Stuff That Makes You Feel Your Best

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Sometimes self-care can really be as uncomplicated as tending to your most basic needs. Career and wellness coach Ili Rivera Walter, Ph.D., says that remembering to consistently drink water throughout the day, and making sure not to skip meals, will show your body how much you truly love and care for it.

"Remember, you are a physical human who needs nourishment throughout the day," Walter tells Elite Daily. "Skipping meals and snacks can lead to irritability and distraction."

Do Absolutely Nothing

Seriously, ask yourself this question: When's the last time you did absolutely nothing? Or better yet, when's the last time you did absolutely nothing and actually enjoyed every single second of it without feeling guilty about the fact that you were doing nothing?

It might seem like a weird concept to literally schedule "doing nothing" as part of your daily routine, but according to naturopathic physician Dr. Pamela Reilly, it's actually a great way to practice self-care. "Treat the scheduled time and give it the same priority as any other appointment on your calendar," Reilly tells Elite Daily. "Scheduling self-care helps make [it] a regular habit instead of an infrequent occurrence."

Make Sleep A Priority

If you don't snooze, you lose — that's the motto, right? Lisa Akers, a herbalist who works with people to improve their self-care routines, can definitely get behind this one. "Making sleep a priority is probably the most important [form of self-care]," she tells Elite Daily. "Sleep is what allows you to recharge and rebuild. You can’t run on coffee forever." Um, you can't?

Real talk, though, Akers makes a great point that the energy you get today is stolen from tomorrow — and eventually, you run out of tomorrow’s energy. "Sleep let’s you get (closer to) back on track," she says. "We all get less sleep than we think, and adding just an extra 15 to 20 minutes in bed makes us feel more rested and energetic in the morning."

Surround Yourself With Scents That Make You Happy

This one might have never crossed your mind, but Angel Hoodye, MS, LPCS, CART, owner of Flourishing Hope Counseling, swears by scent-infused self-care. "Have a soothing scent surround you by [putting on] a perfume that you really like, or [using] a soothing scent that makes you feel good," she tells Elite Daily.

Different smells, Hoodye says, can affect your moods in some seriously powerful ways. Of course, some people love the smell of coffee, while others love the smell of citrus fruit, so the same scent won't necessarily work for everyone in terms of self-care.

"Pop a roll-on of aromatherapy oil in your purse or spritz yourself with your favorite body spray and bust out the house. Take on the day and conquer your dreams," Hoodye says.

Find “Glimmers” Amidst Day-To-Day Stressors

Gen Z and Millenials can access the world’s stressors through social media like no previous generation, so it’s important to check in with yourself and confront all kinds of trauma you may be exposed to. Megan Thomas, a licensed professional counselor at New Moon Rising Wellness, believes that self-care is less about what we do and more about checking in with ourselves about what we need. “Our bodies are not built to see the atrocities of the world day in and day out with constant notifications to remind us what to be fearful about,” she says. “Furthermore, our capitalistic culture often prioritizes productivity over our health.”

A check-in can involve nervous system regulation strategies to shift your energy level to make you feel content. This could look like taking a moment to breathe when you’re feeling overwhelmed or finding something to “pep you up” when you feel unmotivated or lethargic. Thomas’ major tip is to look for “glimmers” throughout your day. “Glimmers are micro-moments that light us up and make us feel pleasant or safe,” she says. “When you have a glimmer, your job is then to notice how it lands in your body.” From there, you express gratitude to yourself for resonating with the moment, which can create new, calming neuro pathways.

Look In The Mirror And Say "I Love You"

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Yes, this one's definitely a little cheesy, but that doesn't make it any less effective. According to happiness and success coach Susan Rose, self-care and self-love go hand-in-hand, which means the former should definitely involve showering yourself with adoration and positivity. "Look in the mirror and say, 'I love you' out loud," Rose tells Elite Daily. "This simple self-care ritual improves your confidence, your productivity, and it also makes you healthier (as positive affirmations in general do)."

Rose says you might even laugh a little while you do this, because yes, it is a little ~extra~, but in all seriousness, you deserve to hear those words at least once a day. "Self-care is important for your mental health because it is an act of respect," she says. "We all want to be loved and respected, and if you treat yourself well, then others will follow."

Embrace A Broader Definition Of Self-Care

Sarah Osmer, LPC-Supervisor, a yoga and meditation teacher and therapist, focuses on relationship attachment and healing negative self-beliefs. She says to remember that self-care is a preventative practice, and that “you can't ‘self-care’ yourself out of a tough spot.” Instead, it is something that needs to be maintained regularly.

One thing that separates the younger generations from the ones that raised them is that the rules of the game of success have changed, and we must be our own greatest support system. This is why Osmer recommends embarking on a love affair with self-care and giving yourself the space to try out new strategies because you often don’t feel better until after you take action. It’s not about succeeding or failing, it’s about purely doing something you enjoy and trying everything on for size.

Osmer also suggests that you imagine caring for a friend or family member that you love widely and unconditionally. Consider what you’d say to them if they were in your shoes, how you’d support them, and how you’d encourage them. When you acknowledge the compassion you are happy to extend to others, it may be easier to remember the compassion you are worthy of as well.

“I paused to notice how good it felt to be so kind to myself when the world so often feels unkind,” Osmer says, reflecting on her personal self-care practices. “I didn't just do the self-care things; I celebrated my choice to lovingly practice this self-care.”

Experts Cited:

Angel Hoodye, MS, LPCS, CART, owner of Flourishing Hope Counseling

Dr. Courtney Tracy, LCSW, PsyD, a psychotherapist, mental health influencer, and host of the podcast HUMAN First With Dr. Courtney Tracy

Ili Rivera Walter, Ph.D., career and wellness coach

Jennifer L. FitzPatrick, a licensed clinical social worker and author of the book Cruising Through Caregiving

Jessica Tappana MSW, LCSW, founder and director of Aspire Counseling

Kea Meyers Duggan, a life and career coach and the founder of The Aha! Project

Lisa Akers, a herbalist

Lisa Olivera, a licensed marriage and family therapist

Megan Thomas, a licensed professional counselor at New Moon Rising Wellness

Dr. Pamela Reilly, naturopathic physician

Sarah Osmer, LPC-Supervisor

Sarah Thacker, a therapist and health coach

Sara Weinreb, founder of the M Lis

Susan Rose, happiness and success coach

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