It’s not hard to think up great ways to treat yourself. We’d all love a spa day topped off with a meal prepared and served by someone else. Maybe get a sitter for the night, so the little angels are asleep when we get home. Or just a morning where the cat doesn't wake you up by sitting on your windpipe.
But for every article about self-care, I roll my eyes at least 12 times and think, "Who can afford that?" Yes, it would be great to have an afternoon to myself to Netflix and chill with a bucket of fried chicken and a cookie dough chaser. But that's not remotely healthy for your body, mind, or your wallet. In my own health journey, I've also recognized that by slowing down, minimizing, staying organized, all with the goal of prioritizing my self-care has, in turn, given me the great gift of self-love. So what's the difference between self-care and self-love?
Self-care is the act of taking care of yourself physically and mentally, the self-awareness that you need time for yourself to grow or develop in any way. Self-love is about cultivating gratitude and acceptance toward yourself, physically and emotionally. Self-love means loving yourself unapologetically, whereas self-care is about taking the time to feel good in your skin and be cognitive of its changes. What I've come to recognize is, by practicing realistic self-care, in the form of inexpensive activities that promote health while building a healthy habit-forming attitude will inevitably give you the confidence to easily practice self-love. It will also make you feel good about how you spent that time in allowing you to find yourself, love yourself unapologetically and naturally.
“Love yourself first and everything else falls into line. You really have to love yourself to get anything done in this world.” - Lucille Ball
Here's a list of my favorites (bonus: most of these you can do for free and with kids).
Around 60% of your body is made of water and your blood is 90% water. The benefits can not be overstated; from lubricating your joints, delivering oxygen throughout your whole body, boosting skin health, and helping the functions of numerous other organs. Keeping your body and mind well hydrated is an easy, and essential way to not only practice healthy habits for your self-care, but it’s also shown to have positive effects on your mood, thus making it easier to practice more self-love.
Do something that energizes your body. Stretch, swim, walk, Taichi, or whatever physical activity you enjoy. Exercise is a key part of self-care, healthy habits, and will ultimately build your confidence with regular repetitive practice and boost your emotional state, giving you one more reason to love yourself!
“You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.” -Buddha
Read a book
When was the last time you read for pleasure? Even if you can't get to your library, there are plenty of free ebooks on Amazon, and your local library may have a free online borrowing program. Or reread some of your favorite books from childhood if you have them hanging around. If you're in the market for an inexpensive book to aid in your self-care/self-love journey I would highly recommend, "The Happiness Advantage: How a Positive Brain Fuels Success in Work and Life" by best-selling author and positive psychology researcher Shawn Achor. His book demonstrates how positive psychology can impact both our personal and professional relationships, starting with YOU!
If you choose the topic right, learning is great self-care. Pick a topic for FUN. Don't feel like you need to learn something pertinent to your work or a current hobby. Check out Coursera, MIT, or Harvard, to start. But, keep in mind, there are PLENTY of sources for free online classes, do your own research too! If you keep at it long enough you’re bound to begin to feel more confident in the abilities of your new-found knowledge!
Meditate, the easy way
If you're the kind of person who can't sleep during the day, napping can be more like torture. But guided meditation is a whole other story. It gives your mind something (easy) to do so the rest of you can relax a bit. There are plenty of free guided meditations online. Check out the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center website and the free version of the Headspace app, which has plenty of options to get you started.
And when all else fails: Nap
Put your jammies on and take a nap in your bed! Not all jammed up on the couch with the TV on. Close the shades in your bedroom and hunker down for a proper sleep. Nothing can substitute for a quality night's rest, but research has shown a short nap of 20-30 minutes can help to improve mood, alertness, and performance. You'll be well on your way to practicing other healthy habits for self-care/self-love!
“When you recover or discover something that brings joy, care enough about yourself to make room for it in your life.” - Jean Shinoda Bolen
There! You don’t have to spend money or fill your belly to feel great and treat yourself well! Know yourself. It’s impossible to love yourself if you don’t even know who you are. Invest in discovering what you believe, value, and enjoy.