0037. [ 25 free ways to treat yo' self ]

Oh, winter. You've come and gone and I will miss bright, snowy days just a teeny, tiny bit ... thank goodness for seasons!

Who hasn't noticed? My skin. It's papery, ashy and moisturizing is something I'm admittedly bad at remembering. It brings to mind something vital that's also easy to forget: self-care.

I mentioned it here and it's a topic dear to my heart - it is infinitely easier to care for the planet and others when you are cared for first. With the hustle and bustle that is daily life, self-care can easily be put aside as to-do later, not important, or luxurious even. But, that's not right ... you cannot produce your best work on an empty tank and so I've strived to incorporate things that make me happy every single day, not just when I remember or have some spare time.

Consequently, I'd say I'm the happiest I've ever been. Things are not ideal or perfect, in the least - I severely miss working with children and at 30/31 we live with AB's parents. I love them and am extremely grateful but as you can imagine it has its negatives. As a hilarious and heartwarming conversation with a friend reminded me - I'm not the only one in this situation. Millions of adults live with their parents ... one of the main reasons: in the US more than 44 million people owe a collective college debt of 1.5 trillion dollars!

I thank my lucky stars I'm not in that camp, instead we accepted their generous proposition to have freedom and chase experiences. Through this journey the biggest lesson I've learned is that self-care should always be my priority. When a negative emotion pops up - frustration, anxiety, irritation, doubt - I am so much better equipped to handle it because self-care is an intentional, daily thing.

Most importantly, it's not something that requires a giant bank account. In our age if something is gaining popularity it's marketed and capitalized on and I detest this notion because society is a powerful thing. If you are constantly being bombarded with the idea that you need to spend money to take care of yourself, well you may start to believe it. Self-care is so much more than products and spending though, because as cheesy as it sounds - the best things in life are free...

25 (free) ways to treat yo' self:

1) Read outside.
Or in bed on cold mornings. This always feels like the most wonderful indulgence to me. I'm on the tail end of this wonderful fiction list and getting into this energizing non-fiction one.

2) Get thee to a park.
Bring supplies (picnic/book), stay awhile and relish in the joy that is nature, fresh air, and star-powered vitamin D. Also a favorite bundled-up during less sunny months.

3) Commit to a restorative habit.
Journaling, drawing, photography, painting, making; whatever excites you, pick one or a variety and do it daily. Keep a fun chart to tick off if you're into those. (I am!)

4) Pamper yourself. 
Now I realize everyone has different ideas for the word pamper. I find candlelit showers delightful. Giving myself a manicure or just stretching my muscles out are great too. And when I remember - exfoliating and moisturizing with a coffee scrub (recipe coming soon)!

5) Say no.
Instagram has been bumming me out, between news of awesome accounts being censored and threatened, algorithms I don't understand ... bleh. Daily posting was taking a lot of time and not really having the result I wanted so I stopped. Don't feel pressured to do things when they're not working how you intended or are just plain bringing you down. In the same vein, learn to say no to things you really don't want to do (for the right reasons though).

6) Create a hallowed ritual. 
The other night while washing my face I thought: 'I wish I was doing this by candlelight' - clearly I was born in the wrong century. There's something so calming about candlelight and after finding my supplies I light a candle to start my bedtime routine - I wash my face and teeth, floss and take my candle to the couch to write some notes or journal. I haven't been doing it every night (lately I listen for peepers), but just knowing this treat is on the back burner should I need it is the best.

7) Help someone or volunteer. 
You'll distract yourself from your problems and give a hand to someone who needs it. Nothing beats helping people - we all grow.

8) Play.
The main task of my former dream job involved playing with children - I ran an office the students could request to go 'take a break'. Disguised as play they were learning ways to handle their emotions and calming strategies. As a play expert I can tell you: there is nothing better. Soccer, tennis, board games, cards, or just make one up ... so many options and so fun/good for you!

9) Plan a passion project. 
After years and years of NYC living I'm so excited to have some land/time in one place to grow things! I've been sourcing free planters, perusing seeds, and growing seedlings while I wait for heavy rains to pass. What would you plan/plant?

10) Fix something/find a solution. 
You know those tiny things that can be very irritating? Whether it's a creaky door, a shirt tag, or a lack of a hook - fix it now and avoid down the line frustration.

11) "Meditate."
I'm not one for apps or actual meditation and when I realized that as long as it works for me I can do it however I want, things clicked. I stare at nature or just get outside. I watch a creek ripple by, listen to and watch birds, try following a squirrel with my eyes (they're so cute), watch the slow pastel rainbow that is a sunset, listen and watch the wind rustle, follow the moon as it traverses the sky ... these things clear my mind and remind me of the joy that is life.

12) Sing + dance. 
Make a playlist or put your favorite record on and have yourself a party. I'm a night owl so getting out of bed is hard for me. I moved my old ipod next to my bed and now I start every day this way. While I may not be jumping out of bed yet, it's energizing and gets my day moving on the right foot.

13) [Re] learn something.
Check out a tutorial, brush up on a language you knew, or simply research something that has intrigued you by heading to your library or using the good ole interwebs. I checked out a bunch of organizing books to hone my new profession and it's really inspiring and motivating me lately.

14) Window shop. 
Just because I'm not buying anything new doesn't mean I'm not going into stores. Pinterest is great but it can easily get overwhelming and involves staring at a screen - nothing beats real life design and product inspiration. Also, we I could always use a little exercise in self-control.

15) Have a countdown.
No matter how bleak things might be feeling there must be something you are looking forward to? Mine: 77 days until we have our apartment! Other countdowns on my mind: 38 days until summer, ~3 months until I'm an aunt!

16) Declutter or clean.
When I'm stressed I seriously enjoy cleaning. It's an easy way to distract myself and the end result is calming, obvious, and (with the former) something that will make a considerable difference daily.

17) Make something.
Cook, bake, craft ... Find a recipe that requires no shopping or get creative with tweaks. Up-cycle something that was headed to a landfill. Flex those creative muscles and delight in the pride that is being a producer versus a consumer.

18) Take a walk.
Exercise, fresh air, and relaxation at ze same time. You don't have to commit to a delayed process either. Even if it's just a quick jaunt, you'll feel refreshed. Working at a school, a lunch break is rare but when I did get a minute to myself I'd rush out the door to take in Brooklyn and the gingko trees. And don't just save this for nice days! I love wet and misty days too - they offer a fresh perspective and everything is so much greener.

19) Call someone you love. 
I am guilty of not calling people enough but every time I do it's a fresh reminder of two things: I'm not awkward on the phone as I think I am. I love this person and want to do this more often.

20) Work smarter, not harder.
Dedicate some time to streamlining a process or optimizing a routine - figure out what isn't working, set timers, go to a place without distractions, turn off wifi. Do whatever you need to make your precious, limited time more productive. Alternatively, (and a huge one for me) remind yourself that done is better than perfect.

21) Check in on your finances.
Probably the least fun item on this list but there is nothing better than living debt-free - it's literal freedom. I don't owe anyone anything and I consider it one of my greatest adult achievements. But ... it only happened because I looked at things closely and actively. Fresh out of college and nannying I was not concerned and paying the bare minimum on my student loan - what a mistake! Unless you are active with your finances - debts will grow, money will disappear, and funds for things that matter will seem impossible. Make a plan, live within your means and take steps towards financial freedom.

22) Exercise.
I'm going to say it - I hate the gym. Exercising indoors and in a room full of strangers - my nightmare. But as Elle Woods wisely reminds a bunch of lawyers: 'Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands, they just don’t!' My favorites are outdoor things - hikestennis, basketball, soccer, and occasional runs. Whatever you're into - get moving.

23) Mejor sola que mal acompaƱada. 
Better alone than in bad company. My mom said this to me when I was upset about a boy and it is something I will always carry with me. As an introvert, time alone is precious and something I need to function optimally, but it's relevance to toxic or virulent relationships is equally, if not more, important. Make sure that the people in your life uplift you, not the opposite. If it's a relationship you can't sever, seek ways to communicate your needs to improve it.

24) Make a (+) folder.
I started this when I knew I would be leaving my job. My students would say the nicest things to me and I didn't want to forget them. I started an email draft and jotted down sweet comments and compliments I received from my colleagues. Whenever I doubt my abilities I can look to this folder and remind myself that all I have to do to make a difference is try my best and be myself.

25) Make a list!
Is it a copout to include this? I don't think so because while all these things sound wonderful to me, you might be thinking - these aren't treats! Step 1: make a list of free things that bring you joy. Step 2: pursue them daily and relentlessly. But, also, lists are super fun! Some ideas: 'things I'm grateful for' / 'animals I've spotted' / 'recipes to try' / '20 by 2020' / 'aspirations' / 'things to drop.' The possibilities are endless (and gratis)!

I'd love, love, love to know - do you have a self-care routine? What would you add?


  1. I love the idea behind this post. Working on ourselves while using ways that are free is great, because it lifts the weight of stress linked with budgeting and money. Having a countdown is a fun one that I never thought about! Also using candlelight is a great idea - for pampering, but also for yoga or meditation! I've done it a few times and it makes me so relaxed. This was a lovely post to read, Steph :) Hope you're staying safe!

    Julia xx


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