What comes to mind when you think of self-care? Is it treating yourself? A soft, fluffy robe, bubble baths, maybe some champagne or a massage? That’s what I think about, too.
A quick search online, whether it’s a social media hashtag or an article online, will show you a plethora of ideas, but if you’re a fresh grad like me, not all of them are feasible. Forget a weekend getaway; even getting a fresh bouquet of flowers would be a splurge that would put a dent into my budget.
We are lucky that as one of top cities in the world, Toronto has so many options available. But one of the main downsides of living in a world-class city is that it’s also ridiculously expensive. And if you’re like the most of us, you have bills that you need to pay: school, rent, food… and that’s not to neglect the importance of health, mental health included. Whether it’s therapy or medication, all of it has a cost.
And I think that’s where the self-care came in – the little things that we do in between our session to help tie us over. A way to rewind and relax after an anxious day or a particularly stressful week.
But here’s the issue: all those things, the small little treats along the way, they add up. And if you’re like me (a Torontonian, a fresh grad, a millennial), breaking the bank is just going to add more stress.
Don’t get me wrong – I love all of that. Fresh flowers, a great meal, a glass of my favourite champagne. But I guess being an adult means knowing that you can’t have that all the time. And part of it is that we’ve romanticized the idea of self care and self compassion.
It’s not always grand romantic gestures, from others or just yourself. It’s not always the most exciting or Instagrammable. Sometimes, self care just needs to be simple and sometimes it’s boring. And sometimes, we can find a happy medium.
So that’s what I’ve done. Here is a list of 12 realistic (and affordable!) self-care tips to try. I promise these won’t break the bank!
12 realistic (and affordable!) self-care tips to improve your mental health
1 – Take your medication and do your homework
It’s not exciting but it will make you feel loads better. Take your prescribed medication when you’re supposed to take it. Drink water. And let it help you.
If you have a therapist who’s given you some tasks to work on (my therapist calls it ‘homework’), do it! Whether it’s journaling or breathing exercises, trust that it’s a process and that the process works.
2 – Make some tea
If it’s before bed, try going for decaf. It’s warm and soothing but less acidic than coffee. I also find that when I’m over-caffeinated, it makes me jittery and anxious – but that’s something that doesn’t happen with tea.
3 – Get a new toothbrush
You should be switching out your toothbrush every few months anyways, so what better way to feel fresh! Maybe even a new tube of toothpaste to go along with the new toothbrush!
4 – Gratitude journal
“If you want to find happiness, find gratitude”.
Even if you don’t feel like it, or if you haven’t done it before, this is a great way to start. Try listing out 3 things that you’re grateful for. Watch how this simple exercise will help you focus on what you already have, leading to more positive thoughts.
5 – Make your favourite smoothie
Smoothies are a great source of nutrition and when you make them at home, it doesn’t have to cost a fortune! Make sure you’re getting all of your greens by making a green smoothie. My favourite recipe is: bananas, spinach, kale, cucumber, coconut water, and yogurt. If you want it a little sweeter, try adding in pear or apple.
6 – Watching a good movie
Watching a film doesn’t always mean heading to the theatre – snacks and ticket prices add up, and the hustle and bustle of people in the theatre isn’t always the most calming environment.
Make some healthy popcorn (kernels on the stove + a little salt!) at home, turn on Netflix and enjoy some time alone.
7 – Taking your vitamins
Daily routine can sometimes feel like a chore – but it’s better to get these out of your way so you don’t have these small things nagging in the back of your mind.
8 – Clean your closet
Or even a portion of it. Or even just your washroom. It’s extremely liberating to get rid of things that you don’t need, to not feel bogged down by things. Don’t just throw things out – sell or donate the things that you don’t want; one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. And it will help reduce your footprint on the planet!
9 – Dance
Get moving! You might not always feel like going for a run or heading to the gym, so put on your favourite jam and dance to your heart’s desire. Whether it’s alone in your bedroom or with your friends, dance like no one is watching!
10 – Put your towel in the dryer before you shower
Taking a hot bath or shower does wonders – but do you know what’s better than that? Coming out of a bath to a nice warm, fluffy towel. Wrap yourself up in it and just take a moment for yourself.
11 – Be a tourist in your own city
Despite Toronto skylines looking like a concrete jungle, we have lots of parks and alleyways filled with beautiful street art. Walk through the trails at Evergreen Brickworks, head to the farmers market at St Lawrence Market, or check out some free art galleries. It’s great to get out of the house, do an activity, and do them for free!
12 – Get cultured
Last but definitely not least, go enjoy the arts! Nothing feeds the soul like the fine arts. And they’re not as expensive as you’d think! The AGO has free admission Wednesday evenings from 6 – 9PM. If you’re under 30, the Canadian Opera Company offers $22 or $35 tickets to main stage performances! If you’re interested in the ballet, try going for rush tickets.
Toronto is an expensive city but that doesn’t mean self-care isn’t doable. Remember: your health always comes first, and that includes mental health!