Scrolling through TikTok, I often stumble upon a video urging me to buy various items promised to elevate my self-care routine. Things like facial ice rollers, LED light teeth whitening trays, sea moss supplements, infrared sauna pods — the list only gets more absurd.
Women have historically been targeted by this insidious attempt at equating taking care of oneself with the purchasing of various products — which we will, of course, never have enough of.
Here are some ways I practice self-care that I believe can truly improve overall mental wellness and do not involve spending money and increasing your material possessions.
Appreciate the outdoors
Especially as we head into pleasant fall weather, be intentional about spending time outdoors by going on a walk, bike ride, sitting on your porch or having a picnic. It is easy to feel cramped and uninspired if you are spending most of your time in a small bedroom or dorm, and sunlight and fresh air never fail to pick up my mood. As the days grow shorter, I find prioritizing time in the daylight to be especially important to keep me feeling grounded.
Practice regular gratitude and forgiveness
Practicing gratitude and recognizing aspects of your day or life that you appreciate can be uplifting and help bring you out of negative funks. When I am intentional about being thankful for the great breakfast I had, laughing with my friends, doing well on an exam or even just the way the sunlight is hitting the flowers in my kitchen, I have much more energy and patience to handle the more difficult and frustrating parts of my day.
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Additionally, giving grace to the people around me helps me feel more comfortable making my own mistakes or becoming a better person. Try to let go of frivolous grudges, take note of your harsh judgments and practice being more accepting and forgiving of others. This will go far in the way you view and treat yourself.
Take part in activities that fill you with joy and motivation
While it may seem obvious, I find it essential to participate in activities that energize me and I can look forward to, as so much of my day as a college student can feel daunting and tedious. If going to class is something you dread, be sure you set aside some time to go to a club, do a sport or create art in a way that makes you feel inspired or at peace. Life is too short to spend all your time on activities you only view as obligations.
Try something new
Beginning a new hobby, learning a skill and otherwise doing something to shock your system can help remind you how capable you are of change and growth. While it can be difficult, learning something new can allow you to tap into an entirely new community of people and discover another side of yourself.
Care for those around you
Self-care is often viewed through the neoliberal lens that we must be constantly focusing on individual improvement and hustling. From my experience, turning inwards often leads to loneliness, isolation and the festering of any negative emotions I have toward society or the people in my life. Challenge this idea by doing nice things for others and doing them often.
Bake something to share with your roommates, volunteer with a local organization that is meaningful to you, text someone you’ve been out of touch with recently and remind your loved ones of how much they mean to you. Prioritizing your relationships and connection with your community will go far in the way you feel about yourself.
Leila Faraday (she/her) is a sophomore studying policy analysis with minors in geography and urban planning. Unfortunately, her self-care this weekend was eating a mini chocolate chip muffin, which did involve spending money.