How to Get Better at Self-Care

The global wellness economy is becoming one of the most popular markets in today’s world. It consists of many different areas, like nutrition, self -care and spa services. In 2017 alone, it was valued at approximately $4.5 trillion USD. 

Ever since Instagram and YouTube became part of people’s daily routines, influencers and celebrities alike have flocked to social media, promoting self-care tips and tricks that they swear the average person should be including in their everyday lives. We are told over and over again that if we buy the matching pj set, the jade roller or the fit tea, we’ll be happier people. While these tips may work for some people, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution to self care. We can still take care of ourselves simply by listening to our body and its needs, without spending half of a hard-earned pay cheque on things that only bring us temporary happiness. 

A woman looking at the Instagram sign up page Photo by Tofros.com from Pexels

One of the reasons why I’m skeptical of generalized self-care tips is simply because I’m a full-time university student living away from home. I have a part-time job and student loans, so I don’t have the financial means to be spending money every time I see something I like. That being said, you should absolutely not feel guilty for buying yourself a cute shirt or that bracelet you can’t stop thinking about. You absolutely deserve to order takeout or go to that fancy restaurant with your friends and spend way too much money on cocktails that are probably half water. Spending money you’ve earned on yourself is not a bad thing.But these days, it’s easier than ever to get your wires crossed. This is especially true when Instagram has turned into a not-so-subtle advertising platform and COVID-19 has made online shopping so much more appealing.

While everyone has different self-care needs, one of the best tips anyone will give you is to create a budget for yourself. You don’t need an accounting degree or know how to properly use Excel (let’s all admit it can get confusing) to be able to create a monthly or weekly budget.

  •  I often divide my expenses into three categories. First, what I consider non-negotiable (rent, credit card payments, etc). Second, payments that tend to fluctuate (utilities, groceries, academic expenses, phone bills, etc... ), and finally any non-mandatory purchases (you know what they are).

  •  Make sure to calculate how much income you have coming in, and when it comes in. This could be student loans, paycheques, or contributions from your parents or friends. I often lowball this number, because it’s always better to be overcautious.

  • You can find free, online services that can help you figure out your personalized budget. Even your banking institutions can help you keep track of your spending habits. Don’t be afraid to ask your parents or your commerce buddies how they budget, so they can help make a you-friendly version that will keep you accountable. Personally, I use Mint, and my housemates use Koho. In addition to these, “The Financial Diet” on Instagram is also a great place to find financial tips and tricks!

  •  I find that automatic deposits into my savings accounts help keep me under-budget and grow my savings. If I can, I try not to use the money in my savings account (but sometimes ,you gotta do what you gotta do).

  •  If you can, setting aside some money in your monthly budget for fun and not-necessary items will help you feel less restricted and stressed out.

budget hero image Photo by Kelly Sikkema from Unsplash

Remember that spending money on yourself isn’t you being frivolous or greedy. It’s nice having candles to light after a rough day and a cute outfit that instantly alleviates feelings of insecurity. As long as we try to spend our money consciously and with purpose, we can make smart choices that will go beyond the moment, and make us happier long-term. 

Another reason why I don’t find most self-care helpful is because what you see on social media isn’t tailored to our individual needs and circumstances. It’s easy to tell yourself that you’re going to journal for an hour every day or to go for a walk and hit 10,000 steps. On busy days, these are simply not realistic goals. Instead, I’ve found that focusing on general daily, weekly, and monthly goals that are both flexible and easily incorporated into a routine works the best. 

  • Instead of feeling like a failure for not meeting your physical self-care goal, try to get in any sort of activity or movement that day. Moving your body everyday can be 15 minutes of “stretching” (a 15-minute child’s pose counts), walking to Crave to get a very sugary latte, or doing a free YouTube workout with items around your house. 

  • If your self-care goal was to journal for 30 minutes and you don’t feel like it that day, try to focus on your intentions behind the goal. If journaling was meant to keep you off your phone, go talk to your housemates. Personally, I like to give my phone to my friends so I can force myself to look at my readings with no distractions. 

  • If you don’t have the time to take a long bath (or realistically, you don’t want to lie down in your bathtub because #studenthousing), try a quick shower with music instead. Using great-smelling soaps and doing a face mask can still make you feel great. I always like to romance myself with a candle or incense while I “study”. 

  • During exam season, feeding yourself Canada Health Guide-approved meals might be unrealistic, but force feeding yourself microwaved frozen vegetables is still a win. I’ve discovered that you can hide frozen spinach in almost every recipe.

2 journals spread out on a blank background with a pen and faux plant Photo by Gabrielle Henderson from Unsplash

I’ve also found that self-care is often glamorized on social media, and we don’t get a glimpse of what challenging or realistic self-care can look like. Taking care of yourself can also mean making those hard choices or committing to difficult things, because you know it’ll help in the long run. Self-care methods should let us take care of ourselves in the moment, while also helping us achieve our long-term goals in a healthy way. 

Self-care can look like:

  • Dragging yourself to your online therapy appointment, even if it’s the last thing you want to be doing.  

  • Skipping a zoom class for whatever reason, but still emailing your professor so you don’t miss out on participation grades or course information. It can also look like giving yourself permission to skip class for your own health, without asking for approval. 

  • Swallowing your pride and asking your professor for another extension as needed (if you’ve already asked for one for the same assignment, don’t stress). 

  • Removing the cracked nail polish on your fingers and applying a fresh coat, or dressing up for class and the grocery store (I have personally made trips to Metro while rocking a full-on Stages fit). 

  • Doubling back home on your way to work because you forgot to take your meds, or calling your friends so you support each other through any sadness or frustration.

laptop open with Photo by Polina Zimmerman from Pexels

Taking care of yourself doesn’t always mean spending the big bucks at UO or ordering McDonalds for the third time this week (I’ll admit it helps, those fries are out of this world). Your needs and wants will differ on the daily. Learning how to listen and respond to your body without judgement or shame is a big part of taking care of yourself. No one can do the work for you, but you deserve to treat yourself with kindness. And if you can’t muster self-kindness all the time, just try to treat yourself with begrudging respect.