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When self-care costs too much!

Updated: Dec 3, 2022

We have all heard about the importance of self-care. We have seen images of friends or family taking holidays, getting massages, going to the beach, eating delicious food or drinking fancy cocktails all in the name of “self-care”. Although it looks dreamy (and can be extremely refreshing), it may feel like a luxury that is not in reach. As a counsellor, I am constantly recommending self-care for my clients, and I suspect if you are reading this you have been recommended it by someone too. But what does this actually mean? Is spending money on yourself really the goal of caring for self? What happens when money isn’t lying around waiting to be spent? Are we able to still meet our needs?

I am hoping to give you a few short tips on the true purpose of self-care and how to incorporate it into your lifestyle regardless of your finances. Whilst some elements of self-care do require costs (eg. Dental care, physio, therapy etc etc), there are plenty of other ways to ensure you are looking after yourself well.

Let’s start by defining what self-care is. Self-care is less about specific actions and more about a posture that is inclined towards prioritising your needs and overall wellbeing. It is not about one big event or activity, but about small regular steps and decisions. It is about making choices that are good for your body, mind, soul and spirit. Now if that sounds too vague let’s break it down further with three simple steps.

A good way to start might be by asking yourself “what do I need right now?”. Pausing before responding to the requests or demands of those around you to check in with yourself can save a lot of extra stress down the track when you have overcommitted yourself or signed up for spending time and energy on things that drain you. Self-care may look like saying “no” to doing that extra task or responding immediately to the “urgent” email. It could look like saying “yes” to the cup of tea, a couple of deep breaths or the activity that stimulates you. Sometimes self-care may even involve pausing the things you normally enjoy so that you can rest and re-fuel your energy. This simple act of asking yourself what you need communicates to our bodies that our needs matter. When we slow down and check in with ourselves, we usually find there is a level of ‘knowing’ held within.

Next, I can’t stress enough the importance of movement! It is free and it is one of the main ways our bodies release stress and tension. After a long day at the computer, in the office or chasing after kids it is important to help your body release the energy that has built up within us. Listen to your body, and again ask the question “What movement does my body need right now?”. The answer could be a run to get rid of any adrenaline and anxiety, a walk to help process the dramas and concerns from the day or some yoga or stretching to help loosen your muscles and slow your mind. Before you curl up on the couch in front of some Netflix or with a good novel, practice committing to even 5 minutes of movement or stretching.

Lastly, a posture of self-care could be responding to yourself as you would someone you deeply care about. Our inner critic rarely speaks so boldly about the people we treasure most so this can be a helpful way to access that kind and gentle part of you. Asking yourself “How can I show myself more kindness right now?” will help you to explore this new attitude. When you are tired or overwhelmed it could be giving yourself extra time and space to complete your normal tasks, it could be accepting the quality of your work needs to be less in this season or being gentle with how you speak to yourself.

All three of these questions are free and ultimately help you to understand yourself and your needs more. It is a posture that helps us to make decisions that prioritise our wellbeing and ultimately allows us to be better humans when interacting with those around us! So instead of dreaming about self-care that will only add extra financial stress, how about try one of these simple steps in turning towards yourself.

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