Easy (And Cheap!) Self-Care Ideas To Help You End Your Year

We’re inching closer to the end of the year! It’s an exciting – if not overwhelming – period of transformation and release. I look at it like a deep breath; with eyes closed and chest puffed, I pull in the good and try to release the bad. By making room in my body for what I need, instead of what harms, I’m hitting a reset button, if only for a few moments.

I think it’s fair to assume we’re all rushing about, trying to get our affairs in order, and have the last bit of fun, then dive into the next year with a clean slate. This year, I would like to try a different approach. Rather than beating myself up trying to get to an ever-changing point on the horizon, I want to end this cycle with ease. If you’re interested in doing the same then keep reading!

I am a true believer that self-care should be easy. It has been my experience that when we can take joy in the simple tasks, the big tasks won’t seem so daunting. For instance: you can’t expect to climb Mount Kilimanjaro when you aren’t able to be at peace with a walk around the block. That’s a little of an oversimplification of what it takes to become a mountaineer, but I think you get the point! So, this list will be comprised of activities you can do with few, if any materials, in the comfort of your own home. Because healing is our right, the path should be clear and wide.

Let’s hop to it!

Mani-Pedi

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This one is my favorite, and you don’t have to go to a salon  to get it done. Just settle in with your favorite polish, warm water, maybe some Epsom salt, and get it going.

Meditation

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The free-est of free things to do for yourself! If you struggle to relax enough to get this done, another option (that I use) is tapping. You can read about that {here}

Face mask (s)

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You can snag these at the Dollar General, Target, or Walgreens, then settle in for a night of relaxation. I prefer ones with lavender for the calming effect.

Try a new podcast

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I love podcasts. This might sound strange, but when I have them going during a task everything just flows easier. It’s like being surrounded by friends and feeling safe enough to relax. Some good ones: Natch Beaut, The High Low, and NPR

Create something, even if it isn’t perfect

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We’re all Picasso in this space! Get some kiddie paint, some loose paper, and start slapping away at it. Or, if you like to sew, try our a new pattern. Wherever your heart takes you, give it a whirl. Don’t be worried about perfection, because that’s boring.

Call a friend 

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Nothing helps to bolster the spirit like a conversation with a trusted confidante. You never know, they might just be in need of your call, too.

Read that book you’ve been avoiding

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If it’s been sitting on your nightstand, desk, kitchen table, or any surface where you have to look at it daily, then it is time to give it a go.

Start a journal

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You don’t have to run out and buy a pretty leather book to fill up, unless that’s something you want to do! I still keep a paper journal, but that’s not the only way to go. Thanks to technology, you can start a journal on your laptop, desktop or phone. 

Take an” intentional” nap

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I say “intentional” to mean not waiting until your body and mind are so exhausted that you can’t stand anymore. Settle into your bed or couch, draw the blinds, and give yourself permission to rest. You’ll wake up like a new human.

Walk around the neighborhood

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Kilimanjaro training has to start somewhere, right? Take in the air, the power in your legs, and conquer the world.

Feeling Low? Let’s Make A Gratitude Journal!

A big part of my healing journey has been dedicated to the slow and steady re-calibration of my brain. If this sounds crazy, well, that’s because it is! It goes against everything your body wants you to do, with all those learned behaviors and ticks being questioned. However, I’m not trying to learn how to write with my left hand versus my right. I’m more committed to undoing the jigsaw puzzle of trauma.

As humans, it’s natural for us to look at the bad things we’ve experienced and replay them over and over in order to learn how to survive the next bad thing. That instinct is compounded when you introduce a traumatic event. I’ve lived most of my life replaying the same nightmares when I’m doing something as innocuous as making toast. Referred to as Automatic Thoughts, I really don’t have much control over how they flood my life, but I’m working on developing ways to counteract the impact with a little bit of good.

Enter the gratitude journal!

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Now, I’m not talking about the kind of journal where you wax poetic about a celeb crush  – this particular journal is a place for you to fill up with all the things that make you feel thankful for your life. I’m talking every good moment, every good bite of a sandwich, every compliment, every time you push forward when you want to give up. It’s been my experience that the more time I dedicate to making time for my gratitude journal, the stronger I am once I’m hit with an automatic thought.

So, if you’re struggling ,or just want some more good vibes in your life, I highly recommend giving this practice a shot. Your time is never wasted when it’s dedicated to taking care of yourself.

Have you ever tried a gratitude journal? If you have or will be, let me know in the comments!

If you would like to learn more about automatic thoughts, I suggest checking out this resource by clicking here.

Forgiveness

I hold a mean grudge. I’m talking Arya Stark, Cersei Lannister, I-will-hunt-you-to-the-ends-of-the-Earth-in-my-mind grudges. Perhaps it’s because I’m a Scorpio – we’re known to be especially emotional and passionate – or maybe it’s due to genetics. Whatever the cause, my blood-lust disposition has taken away more than enough nights of rest and ruined plenty of good days. I recently realized that I could remember the faces and names of just about every person who ever made me cry, or convinced me that I was worthless, yet I struggle to hold onto the memories of the folks who have gone out of their way to build me up. That’s why today I want to talk about…..

Forgiveness.

We’re not going to talk about your grandma’s brand of letting bygones be bygones, or turning the other cheek, or forgiving without really ever forgetting. That’s not how I roll, and if you vibe with me I’m guessing that’s not really in your genetic code either. Instead, I want to talk about a mindset I’m still struggling with accepting and applying for myself, but one that is nonetheless imperative for forward movement. Perhaps you obsess over the times you’ve been wronged, especially if the person who hurt you hasn’t apologized.  Maybe you can’t stop replaying a fight that has been addressed and resolved. Whatever the ailment, I’ve realized it all stems from our inability to do something that feels so strange: You and I can’t forgive ourselves.

We can’t forgive ourselves for not doing what we didn’t know to do. We can’t get over how much the pain affected us, how long we’ve carried it. We can’t forgive ourselves for the times we were the bad guys. You and I simply cannot look in the mirror and release the rage, because somewhere along the line we were told that good people aren’t allowed to put their feelings first. Yet, how can anything be let go if we can’t afford ourselves some grace? Here’s what I’m thinking we have to do to conquer this:

The only person I *have* to forgive is myself.

Simply writing that out felt weird. Did reading it feel odd? Beginning when I was a child, there was this constant message being pushed that I would have to forgive other people so that I could be happy.

“Forgiveness is for you, not them,” my parents would advise.

It never really sat right with me then, and after walking the planet for more than enough time to form an opinion I can confidently say that it still doesn’t sit right. What if they didn’t care? What if they said sorry, but kept on hurting me?

Somewhere between “screw them” and “all is forgiven” I’m landing on the notion that you don’t have to forgive anyone who doesn’t care about you. I no longer keep people in my life who derive joy from my sadness. I don’t have as many friends as I used to, but my days are much brighter. When an apology comes my way after a fight, I take it.  Then, I know that I have to remember the apology and be thankful for their humility. If it keeps happening, then I bounce. Still, I forgive myself, because there’s nothing wrong with trusting someone you care for.

However, if there isn’t going to be an apology or closure I have to accept it, because people who hurt you for their own pleasure want you to feel rage. They want that rage to be turned on yourself. Hating yourself keeps them in power. I believe loving yourself – forgiving yourself – is the best revenge when justice wont be served.

So often I get on myself for not saying this, or not doing that in a moment of frenzy, but I’m operating under the luxury of hindsight. The fact is I couldn’t know the future then, and I can’t time travel now, so all I have left to do is say LaKase, it’s cool. By doing that, by thinking about the event and seeing that I couldn’t have stopped it nor change it now, I’m giving myself permission to be a human.

You still deserve forgiveness, even if you were in the wrong

Come on, we’ve all been real assholes at some point. I’m the eldest child, so my temperament leans toward antagonistic every once in a while, but now I work harder at keeping my ‘tude in check. Most of my nights spent awake are dedicated to the times I was the bad guy, because I wasn’t strong enough to be kind. Thanks to therapy and good people in my life, I now know that I still deserve to forgive myself even when I was a jerk. So much of my rage is tied to being a survivor, fear, and doubt, so now I work to curb those instincts with self-care. The biggest step I had to take was accepting that my pain does not give me the right to hurt others. Not ever. I’ve apologized where I could without making it about myself, because the apology should never be about you. Where apologies were too late or ignored, I have to move on. So, if you need to apologize, then go do it. Just know that it’s their right to choose whether or not to receive it.

 

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While laying awake, as I often do,  thinking about the past and the present, and the mythical future, I realized I would never really be *good* until I could look at myself as I am now, instead of seeing all the ways I failed back then.The best way I can make amends for my imperfect past is to love myself so much that I’ll be brave enough to show love to other people. I hope reading this today will inspire you to forgive that person you were, no matter what, so that you can continue to grow. I think we can make it right today.

 

 

The Balancing Act of Emotional Fortification

Saturday May 5th Donald Glover hosted and performed on Saturday Night Live, which turned out to be a bigger event than I believe anyone was really prepared for. The show was funny – especially that Kanye skit – his musical performances were brilliant, and I was left wondering what in the world Donald Glover can’t do. However, the music video he dropped for “This is America” at the same time he was performing on the show shook me to my core. Check out the video below if you haven’t yet seen it, then we’ll go in.

Note: there are images of violence that may be triggering. Please skip to my commentary if you’re not ready for that right now. 

 

Wow, right? He didn’t come to just entertain us with your run-of-the-mill club banger. He chose to say something to us. Now, I’m not going to break down every single frame with commentary, because that’s been done much better than I can. However, what I will do is challenge you to look at this piece of artwork and apply to your own life with me.

What stands out the most – I believe purposefully – is Childish Gambino (Donald Glover) dancing with the school children as the world around them descends into chaos. They do the most popular dances on the scene right now, smiling and hamming it up for the camera like many of our faves do on Instagram or Snapchat. My first instinct was to think “oh he’s trying to say we naturally look for diversions, because life is so short and we need a little joy”, which on many levels is true, but that’s not where my mind settled. After watching again, and picking up more of the nuance, I realized it goes beyond a simple emotional interlude from the destruction of the world around us. It’s more than resigning to be happy despite your inability to control how things shake out. Instead, I felt challenged to hold myself accountable for the ways I actively choose to ignore bad things to protect myself.

I’ve often heard people talk about self-care as an act of avoidance. You avoid the hard topics with loved ones. You keep your head down on the way to the gym or yoga class. We turn the channel when the news comes on, or mute political commentary on our Twitter accounts. I personally stopped watching anything that didn’t contain some type of sparkle, because I literally cannot with the bad feels. Spoiler alert: I haven’t been made any happier by my conscious avoidance.  Yes, it is important to maintain your emotional health, and sometimes that entails holding off on the bad until you’re emotionally ready to confront it, but what if you never allow yourself to be ready for that confrontation? Think of it like this: an osterich with its head in the dirt might not see the lion coming, but that’s not going to save it from being eaten. That analogy is a little dark for a Monday, but stay with me!

We can’t hide ourselves from the world for the sake of ourselves. Sometimes this life makes me want to build a castle around my mind, with a mote full of sharks that have lasers attached to their heads. Studying history taught me that castles are great for keeping things out, yet they keep things in just as well. Just as I’m free from ugly things, I’m also short-changing the good things I might be able to release into the world once I’ve been able to experience life fully. Growth is the only way we can push our minds toward discovery, and it just so happens that sometimes growth involves confronting the darkness. You don’t have to leave your castle walls unprotected, but consider dropping the drawbridge every now and then.

I support you taking care of yourself and your emotional health, but I hope you show yourself some love by confronting things that have weighed heavily on your mind. Hiding from the pain only prolongs it; you deserve to be happy and that happiness might exist on the other side of a difficult situation. So, I encourage you to engage with the good and the uncomfortable today so that you can continue to grow. Then, after you shake off the dust, pop on a sheet mask.

You got this.

Hygge? Fika? Let’s Chill!

Taking it easy seems close to impossible during the week, especially when your practical survival depends on making that money! How often do you find yourself staring off into the void of your office, laptop or notes and thinking “how the hell am I going to make it”? How many times have you done that today alone? If the answer is “once” or “I’ve lost count” , then listen up! It’s time to reclaim your peace of mind.

We don’t all have the luxury of a stress-free life, especially in the places with crazy long work days. In the United States the average is 1783 hours per year at our jobs, but in places  like Mexico and Costa Rica the hours are well over 2000 per year. Add on the cost of trying to survive emotionally, then you’ve got a global society of people with white hair, nails chewed down to nubs, and serious indigestion.

There’s no solution to our work-life struggles that doesn’t involve some legislation (vote!), but until then I’ve got some tips for you to survive it all one day at a time.

I just learned about hygge (pronounced HEW- guh) ,  the Danish word that encompasses the art of “cozy” living to promote wellness. Below is a video by Signe Hansen breaking down the delightful lifestyle.

What I love about hygge is how user-friendly the mindset is: you love that thing? Do it! Do the things you love! You’re probably thinking “But LaKaaaaaase. I don’t have time!” To that I merely say, yes you do. You absolutely do have time for you, you just might not feel comfortable taking that time for you. The biggest lesson I’ve learned in my 30s is that I have to treat myself the way I would a brand new car, cleaning, tuning up, and monitoring the oil. The catch is, I’m worth more than any car, because I’m irreplaceable. So, I’m begging you to say no here and there for your own mental health. Go on a walk, call your bestie, watch a movie under the covers, wear a sleep mask to bed, put on a face mask, make your kids cook dinner or ask your partner to rub your feet in exchange for a back rub. Whatever it takes, chill those nerves!

Once you’ve mastered the hygge, you’re ready for the fika. Fika is the act of taking a proper coffee break, and it’s a big part of Swedish culture. You’re not just throwing back any brand on the fly, you’re committing to sitting down with your friends, coworkers or family to talk and luxuriate like the royalty you are. Listen to Jenny Mustard (love her name) below for the more detailed breakdown.

 

Isn’t that fabulous? I’m not much of a coffee drinker, but I think you can bring the spirit of fika to just about any drink or meal with others. Give it a whirl with your fellow overworked comrades in the office – you might be surprised how much smoother the rest of the day goes.

I’m sorely behind on these beautiful pieces of culture from our Nordic neighbors, but I’m so happy to have stumbled into them. I love that Swedish and Danish folks are pushing themselves – and the rest of us by proxy – to take good care of our hearts and minds. As I move forward, I plan to adapt hygge and fika to build the beautiful life I envision for myself.

What do you think? Will you be diving into these Scandinavian trends with me? Let me know in  the comments what you’re doing for yourself today!

 

Putting Self-Care Into Action

 

Now that we all know what self-care is and how it works, let’s talk about making a schedule for yourself. I know, I know – work is the last thing you want to do , but this is for yourself! I think you’re worth some extra time. Besides, we both know the outcome is going to be a happier and more balanced person, which is a great goal! I’ll break down the details for you to get started.

What Relaxes You?

First off, taking care of yourself doesn’t have to look like a music video. That would be nice, and if you’re capable of making that happen, then go off. However, let’s start with something realistic. I recommend thinking of an activity, book, movie, or anything that brings your stress level down. If you like shooting hoops to shake off the day, do it! You don’t have to be laying face down in a dark room to feel at peace. Make a list of anything that brings you a sense of calm.

Can You Do It Alone?

By this I mean can you do it when you don’t have someone else to turn to? I wish we all had people to turn to whenever times get rough, but that’s not always the case. There are going to be days when you might be unable or unwilling to reach out to others. In those scenarios it’s important to have safe practices set up that can keep you grounded and healthy.

Can You Do It For Free?

Honestly, free things just rule. In my experience, spending my money all willy-nilly causes a spiral effect of guilt and shame. It’s become all too easy for me to talk myself out of self-care when it involves payment. To work around that mind game I started looking for loopholes. I go to the community center near my home to exercise, because it’s free and the patrons are usually retirees. It kills two birds with one stone: I get those good endorphins while avoiding the anxiety of exercising around people more likely to judge me. Walking, meditation, stretching, painting your nails, singing super loud, and other activities are just a few examples.

How Often Can You Do It?

Here’s the fun part! Now that you have a list of things that relax you, that you can do alone and for free, all we have to do is determine when you can do it. Ideally it would be every day, but let’s start slowly. What I did was start on the weekends. I had no excuse to put things off on Saturday or Sunday when I like to do them. I started first thing in the morning, because that’s when I’ve got the most energy. As an early riser I’m also usually alone. This sets me on the right foot for the rest of the day. Slowly, I started introducing my activities into weekdays. A Monday night here, a Wednesday night there until I had an activity in place four to five days a week. Sometimes I do the same thing over and over again (nightly face routine) or switch it up day by day (exercise). The key is to never do something that can hurt or endanger me (triggering my eating disorder).

I really hope this helps! I have a unique set-up right now with work that allows me more free time than I’ve ever had before, but I still struggle to make time for myself. My solution has been to carve out time no matter what for the things I’ve listed for myself, because I know I’ll need the good tools when my days get dark. Let me know in the comments what your schedule looks like! And never forget: You got this.

 

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What Is Self-Care?

 

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If you had asked me last year what I do to practice self-care, I probably would have just rolled my eyes and returned to my phone. Ok, maybe I wouldn’t have been that much of a douche, but I honestly wouldn’t have had an answer that wasn’t totally made up. It’s not necessarily that I thought the concept of self-care was lame – the truth is I didn’t think I was worthy of it. That belief was completely rooted in a misunderstanding of what the hell self-care really is. Let’s jump into it!

Self-care is merely defined as “care for oneself”. That’s it. Pretty simple, right? Not if you’re like me and don’t know where to start! So, I did some work with my therapist and realized I had the whole thing wrong. For many years I was simply uniformed about what constitutes taking care of myself. I thought it meant fancy meals, a trainer, mani-pedis, and other luxuries. I mean, how could I – a poor – afford to do any of that and still maintain a bank account? Well, those things aren’t bad by any stretch of the imagination, but I learned that self-care is something I define for me. I’ll lay out some examples that seemed simple at first, but really help me to feel like I’m taking good care of myself:

Watching movies I love

Brushing my teeth 3 times a day and flossing

Reading a book I’ve wanted to read

Declining something I don’t want to do

Talking about topics I love

Writing in a journal

Going to the doctor when I have an illness instead of suffering through it

Getting dressed up

Dancing!

See what I mean? Some of these things are kind of innocuous, but when I look deeply at how I feel afterwards, my spirit just feels lighter. I’ve realized that self-care encompasses not only the things we need to do to survive in a practical sense, but also the little or big things we do to keep ourselves strong emotionally. Put simply, self-care is really just showing yourself that you matter. I’m becoming more active in doing what I have to do to feel better about myself.

So, I challenge myself to practice self-care whether I’m low, or feeling great. Just as we go to the dentist every 6 months (in theory) whether we have a tooth ache or not, it’s so important to take time for ourselves even when everything seems to be going well. You just never know when something might pop up, so why not have good things in place that you can turn to.

Every Monday I’ll be sharing my self-care favorites as well as tips to define your own caring ways! What are you doing for yourself these days?

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