Want to learn about a few budget-friendly activities that will reduce your stress? Here are some ideas to help you unwind without breaking the bank.
Vacations, massages, retail therapy ... Finding ways to relax can be crazy expensive! But blowing off steam doesn't have to stress your wallet. Here are some of our favorite ways to unwind and put that aaaahhhh back on your face without breaking the bank.
Yes, we're talking about exercise — but hear us out! Exercise is a proven stress reliever, but you don't have to hire a fancy trainer or buy all-new equipment. You can simply pick something you truly enjoy doing and commit to it a few times each week. Walking, biking, gardening, hula-hooping — anything that gets you moving. The instant mood boosts also add up over time, making you happier, healthier, and less stressed in the long term.
Progressive muscle relaxation is a stress-relieving technique that involves gradually releasing tension in muscles throughout your body. Start by finding a quiet space free from distractions. Put on some comfy, loose clothes. Sit or lay down in a comfortable position and spend a few moments taking slow, even breaths (in through the nose ... out through the mouth). Then start at the top of your head, squeezing muscles in your forehead and holding them for a few seconds before releasing them slowly. Note any differences in how your body feels and keep repeating this until your forehead muscles are completely relaxed.
Then move on to the rest of your body, repeating this tightening and relaxing process with your jaw muscles, neck and shoulders, arms and hands, midsection, and all the way to your feet. By the end, you should feel way more relaxed.
People have relied on meditation for thousands of years. Many cultures meditated for spiritual reasons, but today, meditation is popular for stress reduction and relaxation. Mindfulness meditation is a great way to get started and doesn't require lots of time or any special mantra. The goal is to be mindful of the present moment, fully focusing on your body and the sensations around you, like inhaling and exhaling. During mindfulness meditation, acknowledge and observe your thoughts but let them pass without analyzing or judging. When you're done you should feel calm, centered, and energized to take on the day!
Numerous studies over the years have shown that regular journaling (15-20 minutes a few times a week) reduces stress, improves mental clarity, and helps with problem-solving.
Choose a beautiful notebook or keep a digital diary. Decorate it with pretty fonts, stickers, clip art, or anything else that brings you joy. Write as much or as little as you want. Don't worry about grammar, themes, or other pesky details. Just have fun with it! You can even set a timer for 5 or 10 minutes and challenge yourself to write the whole time.
Music can reduce cortisol levels, and transport you from cranky to calm (or pumped!) in seconds. So find your musical happy place and go for it. Get the wiggles out, cook dinner to chill beats, or belt out ballads in the shower. Wherever you want to go, music is one of the fastest ways to get there.
Laughter really is medicine — there’s plenty of science to prove it. Laughing not only adds levity to tense moments, but it also releases underlying pressure that builds up throughout the day. Humor is subjective. What's hilarious to you? It could be crazy cat videos or a laugh-out-loud memoir. When you need a quick fix, find something funny — or better yet — share it with a friend.
Spa day doesn’t have to mean racking up hundreds on your credit card. Sometimes it's more relaxing to kick up your tootsies from your own couch. Self-care can be meditative, too. Try these easy at-home treats:
A bubble bath or aromatherapy shower
Taking a hot bath or a shower with soothing scents forces you to unwind. Extras like Epsom salts or essential oils are inexpensive ways to recreate those luxurious, restful spa feels while you soak.
DIY masks and skincare
Research shows that skincare regimens boost confidence and lower cortisol (the stress hormone). Lock the bathroom door, put on a podcast, and give yourself a DIY mask or facial. To make a clay mask you only need bentonite clay (find online or in beauty stores) and apple cider vinegar. To up the spa vibe, add your favorite essential oils or skin-soothing ingredients like aloe. Then, kick back with your favorite drink and relax while the mask sloughs off the day.
For everyday skin care, invest in scented body lotions that make you smile. Look for lotions that include scents like rosemary, lavender and ylang ylang, all of which are proven to help you relax.
Manicures and pedicures
You don’t have to go all out here, either. A simple foot soak can be incredibly relaxing, relieving achy muscles. It also softens your skin, perfect prep for a salt-sugar scrub to remove calluses and dry patches post-soak. Finish up with a quick nail file and trim (or skip that and keep soaking while you binge-watch).
Smartphones are our lifelines. But they can also be a huge source of stress. Doom-scrolling can leave you feeling drained.
Block out a phone-free time (yes, you can!) each day. It doesn’t have to be a lot. Just a half-hour when you’re unplugged and away from feeds, emails, texts, and all the other stressors that pop up in your notifications.