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20 FREE Ways to Practice Self-care

Self-care has become a buzzword in the past few years. Whether it’s a hashtag on Instagram, part of a marketing campaign, or part of your daily routine, it’s likely you’ve heard those words pretty often recently. While I’d like to have the funds and time to say I get weekly facials, massages, pedicures, and spend a week in the woods relaxing, that’s not possible for those of us that live in the real world. Self-care isn’t about spending money or indulging in anything outrageous. What is is about is taking time to chill out, disconnect, and unwind. Most Americans spend hours a day face to face with their screens (guilty) and even more time hurrying around all the elements of the daily grind. We usually treat bedtime like a finish line at the end of the day.

Instead of feeling rushed all the time, carve out some time just for you. Trust me, you have 5 minutes. I know, I know- you’re busy. Everyone is busy. Put the phone down (after you finish reading this), walk away from the chores for just a minute and relax.

Adding just 5 minutes of chill time can significantly reduce your anxiety, lower blood pressure, and contribute to your overall happiness. We all have lives that are richly scheduled with what’s important to us like yoga and time to connect with friends, and things that aren’t so lovely like meetings, and errands, but 5 minutes is less than 1% of your day. You have five (or more) minutes to dedicate to yourself- I promise. You just have to look really closely for it some days.

One way we can combat the effects of long term stress are to practice self-care, or as I like to call it, “chillin hard” for a few minutes every day. You can do this anytime of the day too. You can set your alarm 5 minutes earlier in the morning, take 5 minutes to yourself on your lunch break, or squeeze in a quick chill sesh right before bed.

I am a special educator by day, and I use some of the strategies I utilize with my students on myself all the time. One of my favorites is to set a timer. I do this ALL. THE. TIME. I set a timer for 20 minutes when I get home. Whatever can be cleaned or organized in 20 minutes gets done and anything after that waits until the next time. You can use this same strategy for your chill time. Set your timer on your phone for however long you have to dedicate to yourself and make it happen. No peeking before the alarm goes off.

Here are 20 ways you can chill hard without spending a dime

  1. Take a bubble bath- add a few drops of essential oils and a scoop of Epsom Salt for a therapeutic soak
  2. Read a magazine- remember magazines? I bet you have some laying around the house. Pull one out and read it cover to cover. No looking at your phone between articles.
  3. Call your Mom- this one is a real gem. Talking to your momma always makes you feel better. It’s science.
  4. Paint your nails- soak your hands or feet in warm water with a little gentle soap and a few drops of olive oil or essential oil, trim nails, and paint those suckers something fierce!
  5. Guided meditation- download the Breethe or Insight Timer app on your phone and you’ll have access to thousands of free meditations. The ones designed for sleep knock me out every time.
  6. Give your back some love- put two tennis balls (used is totally fine) in a tube sock (new is prefered- ew) and tie a knot at the top. Lay down with each ball framing your spine and move up and down. Hurts so good.
  7. Take a walk- Walking has been proven to be one of the most effective ways of reducing stress. Take a stroll around your neighborhood and notice things you’ve never noticed before like which neighbors are playing hooky and who needs a new paint job (kidding. Kind of).
  8. Breathe- This one could not be any easier. Spend 5 minutes thinking of nothing else but inhaling and exhaling. The Breathe Deep app has a visual to help you sustain your breath for just a few minutes. You’ll refreshed and calmer guaranteed.
  9. Drink tea- Brew a cup of tea and drink it out of your favorite mug. No, not a travel mug. A real one with a handle and everything. Do nothing else but think of how the tea tastes, how it smells, and how makes you feel. Tea can absolutely be substituted for a coffee, glass of wine or your favorite kombucha. If you’re going the alcoholic route, maybe stick to one beverage for this purpose or your chill hard time might turn into rage your face off time. Ooops.
  10. Yoga- If you search “10 minute yoga” on YouTube you’ll find endless options. You could also do a natural flow of stretches that feel good to you. This one is another way to get the most bang for your buck time-wise. A 10 minute deep stretch always makes me feel like a million pesos. I recommend Yoga with Adrienne on YouTube.
  11. Cook something- There is something about combining ingredients and heat that is so satisfying. Knowing I can create something in just a few minutes is so relaxing for me. Whip up a batch of energy balls, some homemade granola, or a fabulous dip for veggies in under 15 minutes. This one doesn’t count if you’re cooking dinner like you do every night. Cook something you don’t consider a chore.
  12. Listen to music- When was the last time you sat still and just listened to music? You probably can’t remember. Put on some slow jams and just listen. You can lay on a yoga mat, sit on the couch or on the floor for optimal chill vibes.
  13. Declutter- It has been proven that clutter can cause anxiety in those of us that are prone to feelings of anxiousness. Set your timer for 5 minutes and put the things laying around the house away, go through the mail, or put those clothes away that are likely sitting on your bedroom floor (I’m looking at you, boys)
  14. Write- For me, blogging is a way I chill hard every week. Writing calms me and brings me lots of joy. Not everyone loves to write like to I do, but everyone can benefit from writing down ideas on paper. Write down three good things that happened to you today or three goals you have this month.
  15. Practice gratitude- My husband recently shared with me that before bed at night he spends a few minutes thinking of all the things he is grateful for in his life. It can be hard to remember how many wonderful things we have when life is tough. Give it a go and I think you’ll notice the more you do it, the more things that come to mind.
  16. Cuddle with your pet-  Nancy Reagan is totes famous on Instagram. If you’re not on insta, Nancy is our 2 year old cat. If you’ve got a fur friend yourself, spend 5 minutes petting and loving on your furry bestie.

  17. Dance- My husband and I have been known to break into a dance party in the kitchen fairly often. Crank on some tunes, preferably 90’s rap music and really cut a rug.
  18. Write a thank you note- Growing up, writing thank you notes was a mandatory activity for my brother and I. Write and send someone a thank you note for doing something kind, being who they are, or helping you recently.
  19. Nap- There’s nothing wrong with making time for a cat nap in your day. My mom is famous for being able to take 6 minute naps. She lays down with her eyes closed and 6 minutes later she’s refreshed! I haven’t mastered this one yet, but it’s worth a try.
  20. Go outside- Get a daily dose of Vitamin D and get some sunshine. I’m lucky enough to live in Colorado where it’s sunny 300 days of the year. Step out onto your patio or porch for a few minutes and notice the beauty around you

See! It’s easier than you think to dedicate some time to yourself! The benefits of self-care type activities are endless. If you still feel like you simply don’t have the time in the day, I challenge you to write down what you do in your free time. Seriously. I did this once and learned that I spend way too much time gazing into the fridge or scrolling Instagram mindlessly. You can change your habits and make time for yourself easily, but first it has to become a priority. If you’ve ever tried pouring from an empty cup, you’ll pick up what I’m putting down. Fill your cup, folks.

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  • Reply
    March 14, 2018 at 10:10 pm

    You are brilliant at this, Valerie. The format was made for you! I love your ability to share some concrete information, and never lose your sense of humor along the way! I feel inspired and ready for action. I am blessed to know you, so I can imagine you saying every word, but it is not necessary to know you in order to enjoy and benefit from your blogs. I find something (or many things) in each one to try and/or ponder. Thanks for sharing what you love!

    • Reply
      The FruGal
      April 17, 2018 at 3:52 pm

      Heidi, you are too kind! I’m so grateful to have readers like yourself. It’s been fun to find a hobby that I’m passionate about.

  • Reply
    April 17, 2018 at 12:36 pm

    I freaking love all these suggestions! There is such a stigma that self-care has to cost money but you are exactly right that there are TONS of different self-care options that are FREE, and who doesn’t love free??

    • Reply
      The FruGal
      April 17, 2018 at 3:53 pm

      Thanks, Jess!! I hope you’ll try some out and let me know what you think.

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