Too often, self-care is thought of as a form of luxurious indulgence: a weekend away at a cabin, weekly spa treatments, and frivolous purchases that easily eat into half your salary. It's no wonder so many of us assume that self-care is for people with all the money and time in the world (in other words: for others, not for ourselves). Guess what, though? That’s a terrible mistake. Self-care is vital for promoting healthy functioning and enhancing well-being; it helps build resilience toward inevitable stressors in life (1, 2). Fail to care for yourself, and you’d end up feeling overwhelmed, tired, and beaten down. It’s the absolute worst.
But what about having insufficient money or time for self-care? Let’s clear up the misconception once and for all. At its core, self-care is about taking care of your mental and physical health. It isn't necessary for you to part with a considerable chunk of your life savings or carve out 3 hours daily from your already-packed schedule – at all. Continue reading to find out 5 budget-friendly, time-efficient self-care practices you can do right away.
#1: Take care of your gut health
Your gut is home to trillions of bacteria (3, 4, 5). Some of them fight inflammation, while others promote it. The "good" bacteria keep the "bad" bacteria in check when you have a healthy gut. But when that delicate balance gets skewed? The "bad", inflammatory bacteria stage a take-over, causing countless knock-on effects on your mental and physical health – from poorer immunity to increased susceptibility to emotional stress to chronic illnesses (e.g., diabetes, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and some cancers). Meaning? If your gut isn’t healthy, you won’t be in optimal health, too.
So, to sum it all up … self-care starts in the gut. And how do you take care of your gut health? It’s simple: be more mindful of the foods you eat. More specifically, you should eat a diverse diet primarily made up of complex carbohydrates, lean proteins, and fiber-rich foods – including vegetables, legumes, beans, and fruits (6, 7, 8). It isn’t just about what you eat, either; promoting a healthy gut also involves cutting down on pro-inflammatory foods that can increase the levels of “bad” bacteria in your gut (which could lead to gut dysbiosis) (9). Examples of pro-inflammatory foods include red and processed meats, refined carbohydrates, and artificially sweetened beverages.
Any change you make to your diet, ask yourself: "Will this support "good" gut bacteria – or destroy it?" And speaking of supporting "good" gut bacteria, don't forget to boost their population with Dr. Danielle’s Probiotics! Supplementing with Dr. Danielle’s Gut Assist could also do your gut health good – since it could help repair the existing damage to your gut lining (thanks to all the inflammatory foods you’ve been, and are, eating!)
#2: Stay physically active
“If exercise could be packaged in a pill, it would be the single most widely prescribed and beneficial medicine in the nation” (10). Oh, how true. Exercise is linked to numerous positive mental and physical outcomes – including improved moods, enhanced cognitive functions, and reduced risk of various psychological disorders (e.g., anxiety and depression) and chronic health conditions (e.g., obesity, heart disease, type 3 diabetes, and some cancers) (11, 12, 13, 14). Why? Well, the mental well-being part comes down to the chemicals your body produces after working out. In addition to flooding your system with feel-good endorphins, exercise also ups the calming, good-mood brain chemicals serotonin and dopamine. Plus, there’s also no denying the massive confidence boost exercise can give; after all, you know what they say: “When you look good, you feel good!”
As for exercise’s positive impact on physical health? A large part of it has to do with it helping you maintain a healthy weight. As you probably already know, excess weight ranks as a risk factor for countless health conditions – including insulin resistance, cardiovascular disease, and even sleep apnea (15). By increasing your total daily energy expenditure (i.e., the "Calories Out" portion of your calorie balance), exercise could help you achieve the calorie deficit necessary to lose weight. And the best thing? You don’t necessarily need to sign up for a gym membership to exercise. Instead, you can simply find opportunities to move more throughout your day (e.g., take the stairs, go for a quick walk after dinner, and get yourself a standing desk); these activities can all help you reach your “exercise quota”.
By the way: if you’re looking to speed up your weight loss journey, Dr. Danielle’s Alpha Lipoic Acid might be worth a look. According to this 2017 study, participants who supplemented with the active ingredient (i.e., alpha-lipoic acid) lost an average of 1.27 kg more than those taking a placebo over 23 weeks (16).
#3: Practice meditation
Here, we have yet another (practically free) self-care method: meditation. Of course, we all know meditation’s positive effects on mental health: lower stress and anxiety levels, better focus and concentration, improved self-awareness and self-esteem, and even fostering kindness (17, 18, 19, 20, 21). But did you know that meditation could benefit your physical health, too? Yep. It's true! More specifically, it appears that meditation could boost your immunity (i.e., you’d fall sick less often).
If that sounds too far-fetched to be true, perhaps this 2016 study published in Translational Psychiatry could help convince you (22). In it, researchers found that the practice of meditation led to a shift in the expression of genes related to stress, inflammation, wound healing, and most relevant of all, fighting viral infection. It isn't just one solitary study, either. A 2016 meta-analysis of 20 randomized controlled trials also concluded that meditation could help enhance immune defenses that protect against viral and bacterial infection (23). Not sure how to start meditating? There are now plenty of meditation apps that’ll help guide you through your first few sessions – you’ll find your groove in no time at all!
But, of course, just meditating alone isn't going to keep your immune system functioning optimally. You’d also need to eat well, get enough exercise, and manage your stress levels. And if you’re looking for that extra “oomph”, you can always turn to supplements. Dr. Danielle’s Royal Jelly is a good example. Thanks to its antibacterial properties, studies suggest that royal jelly could enhance your body’s natural immune response to foreign bacteria and viruses (24, 25).
#4: Get enough sleep nightly
When you’re busy taking care of life’s numerous obligations (e.g., work and family responsibilities), it can be all too easy for sleep to fall to the wayside. After all, sleeping for 5 hours a night – instead of the oft-recommended 8 – gives you an "additional" 3 hours in your day you could spend as you wish. Right? Technically, it does. Unfortunately, though, you may not be functioning at your highest level possible in those hours. Sleep deprivation seriously hurts your cognition, concentration, productivity, and performance (26, 27). Worrying still, the adverse effects extend beyond day-to-day functioning, too. Studies show poor sleepers at increased risk of various mental and physical health issues, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and depression (28, 29, 30, 31, 32).
Bottom line? You do need to start sleeping more. At the very least, you should be getting 7 hours of shut-eye nightly (33). But what if you're tossing and turning in bed? Well, that's no surprise – your body is probably surprised that you're heading to bed so early! So here are a few tips that'll get you to a well-rested state ASAP: 1) reduce blue light exposure in the evening, 2) avoid consuming caffeine and alcohol near bedtime, and 3) keep your bedroom at a cool temperature. And if that’s still not enough … adding a stress-relieving supplement, like ashwagandha, could help. This ancient medicinal herb (which can be found in Dr. Danielle’s Vegan Stress Lift) has been found to be effective at alleviating stress and anxiety – mental states frequently connected to various sleeping problems.
#5: Light an aromatherapy candle
There's a reason why lighting candles ranks so high on many people's "self-care to-do list". It works, and better still, it works fast. But there's a caveat: you shouldn't just light any random candle. Instead, you'd see the most benefits with aromatherapy candles – in other words, candles crafted with essential oils. And what benefits can you expect to see from them? Answer: plenty. Many studies have shown essential oils to be a viable complementary therapy alongside traditional methods to treat anxiety and stress (34, 35, 36). Better still, studies consistently show lavender oil to exert positive effects on sleep habits (37, 38).
Before you start striking the match, though, bear the following statistic in mind. Candles cause roughly 8,200 home fires yearly in the U.S. (39)! As such, please do take the necessary precautions when using candles. For example, never leave a candle burning unattended (always snuff it out before you sleep!) – and make sure to place it away from drafts and vents, so it doesn't topple over. Also, note that you can be allergic to essential oils. So, if you notice any adverse effects (e.g., nausea, shortness of breath, or giddiness) when using an aromatherapy candle, blow it out immediately.
Don’t neglect self-care
Despite its association with terms like “indulgence”, “luxury”, and “unnecessary expense”, self-care is crucial for physical, emotional, and mental well-being. You shouldn't neglect it. And besides, as this article has shown, there's no real reason for you to, either – there are plenty of ways you could take better care of yourself without spending a ridiculous amount of money or time. So, don't put self-care off for the following weekend or when you remember to. Start today. It won't be long before you become the best version of yourself.