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By Brad Krause
There is no one right way to do self-care for your mental health. Certain strategies and tools are useful for most people, but that doesn’t mean you are automatically able (or interested) in doing them yourself. When trying to design a supportive and beneficial self-care routine, it is useful to look for alternatives to the most popular and “obvious” suggestions. You may find something better suited to your budget, your interests, and your routine.
Can’t Afford a Vacation? Have a Staycation
According to Verywell Mind, vacations have tangible benefits for our mental health. They allow us to refresh and reset, staving off burnout and decreasing overall anxiety levels. We all know that vacations are good for us on an instinctive level, but they are not always affordable.
So why not do a staycation, right here in Los Angeles? A vacation rental can give you the break you need from your daily life, without spending all that money on flights. Find a property with a full kitchen and you can even save money and stay healthy by cooking your own meals. Whether you want to lounge by the beach in Santa Monica or chill out in Silverlake, you can find plenty of properties on sites like Turnkey to help you enjoy a local getaway.
Hate Yoga? Try Barre
Yoga is a wonderful form of exercise as well as being an excellent tool for mental health, but it’s not for everyone. Many people don’t enjoy the spiritual aspects of yoga or feel uncomfortable engaging in them without having any connection to the Hindu faith they are based upon.
Barre, on the other hand, is a workout derived from ballet, with influences of yoga and Pilates. Much like yoga, the benefits of barre include improved posture, flexibility, and core strength, all in a low-impact and accessible format. It also involves slow, controlled movement, which can be relaxing and meditative. However, it does this without any of the spiritual elements of yoga and with a more fitness-focused approach.
Can’t Get a Pet? Get Your Animal Fix at a Local Shelter
Several studies have shown that having a pet positively impacts your mental health. Our furry friends boost mood, reduce anxiety, and are an invaluable source of unconditional love and acceptance. However, not everyone can get a pet. Some people can’t afford one, others are too busy to take on the responsibility, and those who rent are often simply not allowed one.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t reap the benefits of some pet love. Volunteering at your local shelter is a great way to get the mental health boost that comes with taking care of animals. Even better, you also get the mental health boost that comes with volunteering. Alternatively, you can offer your services as a pet sitter and make some money in the process — just make sure you can have animals in your apartment and that you are prepared for the responsibility.
Don’t Have Time for Meditation? Try Some Breathing Exercises
Realistically, everyone has time for meditation. Guided meditations on apps like Headspace are fully tailored to today’s busy schedules, with options as short as three minutes. However, some people find it hard to make time for it in their routines. A regular meditation practice may seem intimidating, like too much of a commitment, or simply not appealing.
If this sounds familiar, try simple breathing exercises instead. Whenever you start to feel anxious, unfocused, or stressed, practice some belly breathing. Place one hand on your belly and one on your chest and breathe deeply, feeling how your stomach inflates and deflates. Do this 10 times. Once you get into this habit, you may want to try different exercises or even try mindfulness meditation; many guided meditations are essentially variations on this exercise.
Self-care should be deeply personal. It’s about you, your body, your mind, and what works for you to support their well-being. Besides, the more personalized your mental health self-care routine is, the easier it will be for you to stick to it. It’s always worth trying popular techniques, but if you think you can find an alternative that works better for you, that’s equally valid.