Winter can be a challenging time. There is less sunlight, the holidays may evoke feelings of stress and loneliness, and it’s a time of year when family conflict and old wounds rise to the surface. The need to practice self-care is important year-round, but especially so during times when there are extra demands on the self. Instagram would have us believe that self-care is all sheet masks, massages, and luxurious purchases, and acts of self-care have become synonymous with treating yourself and spending money. But there is a fine line between self-care and self-destructive behavior. What happens when an episode of treating yourself turns into buying “all the things!” and leaves you feeling guilty, stressed, and financially overextended? An important aspect of self-care is examining the short verses long term benefit and becoming aware of actions that are going to make you feel worse in the long run. Relying on acquiring stuff to nurture yourself can lead to a cycle of spending and guilt that can be challenging to break. Let’s bring the focus back to what self-care is really about: physical and mental health.
Here are some cost-free ways to take care of yourself that have both short-term and long-term pay-off. Taking care of your body is a big one. For example, getting more sleep, drinking more water, or reducing your exposure to unhealthy ingredients by cooking a meal at home. Saying “no” can be a great form of self-care. Knowing when a problem is not yours to solve, or knowing that you don’t have the time or the energy to take on a task can be great for your personal well-being. Also, look for opportunities to be creative and to use your imagination or be playful. There are huge mental health benefits to engaging in creativity and play, and as adults we don’t engage in these activities as often as we should.