“Self care” is all the rage right now, and whether you subscribe to Parks and Recreation’s “Treat Yo Self Day” tradition or just like to schedule “me time” into your calendar, there’s good reason to get on board the trend. We’re all overworked and stressed -- and generally pride ourselves on being the most overworked and stressed. That’s no good for our mental health. But treating yourself doesn’t have to break the bank -- or take up an entire day (or be limited to an annual event ala Parks’ Tom and Donna, for that matter). Here are several easy ways you can take care of numero uno in your daily routine.
Pop on noise-canceling headphones
Whether you’re at your desk, trudging through a nightmare commute, or even lounging around your apartment, noise-cancelling headphones can make it feel as though the space around you is yours, and yours alone. It’ll make it easier to focus, especially if you’re listening to music, and give you a sense of serenity, even in a busy office.
Sleep in nice pajamas
After the age of 25, falling asleep in your jeans becomes physically impossible. While you could just throw on some sweatpants and a 10-year-old high school track T-shirt, dozing off in luxe, soft pajamas (be they satin, flannel, or jersey) will feel like a decadent treat. (Nearly as decadent as sleeping in a cushy hotel bed -- without the $200 per night price tag.)
Buy fancy coffee to brew at home
There’s something about a fancy cup of coffee before work that instantly makes you feel like the whole day is going to be better. But instead of turning over $5 to the barista at the local cafe, buy some of their gourmet beans, have them ground, and make the good stuff at home. You’ll get the same caffeine fix for less money, plus have the time to actually enjoy your first cup of the day (in a real mug), rather than gulping down a takeout latte at your desk.
Eat breakfast in bed
Of course, you’re not going to be enjoying eggs benedict and a fruit bowl on a Monday morning. But simply climbing back into bed with your coffee for a few minutes will be enough to trigger those indulgent, lazy Sunday morning vibes. Just get a tray for whatever quick breakfast you’re noshing on -- no one wants to crash at the end of the day in sheets filled with crumbs.
New socks? Get ’em.
There are few treats simpler than a pair of socks you just love. Whether you’re into fun designs or just want super-warm fuzzy ones for wearing around the house, pick out a pair that you’ll be happy to put on in the morning. Looking for suggestions? Bombas were created after two years of extensive sock research to achieve maximum comfiness, and the company donates a pair of socks to someone in need with each purchase. For crazy prints, like pizzas or unicorns, hit up The Sock Drawer. It will instantly make you cheery knowing that you’re wearing something you adore -- even if no one else will see them.
Listen to music while you shower
Hitting snooze three times, finally rolling out of bed, and jumping into the shower is a surefire way to start your day frazzled and stressed. Instead, give your shower a laid-back feel by playing some tunes while you suds up. Researchers have found that listening to different types of music can change your perception, so if you want to relax, play something calming; to get pumped up to take on the day, play something poppy. (Bonus: There’s no one else around to judge your song selection.)
Take your lunch break
Nearly 62% of professionals say they usually eat lunch at their desk, which means all that’s breaking up the 9-to-5 is a sad desk salad. While you may think that makes you super productive and the boss’ favorite, you’re actually jeopardizing your health and creativity. So take an actual lunch break -- whether that means going for a walk after your brown-bagged meal or dining at a restaurant for half an hour. You’ll sneakily squeeze in some exercise, maybe read a book, or get a good laugh people-watching. Trust us, the office won’t fall apart without you.
Allow yourself a nap
Fun fact: Humans are one of the only mammals that are “monophasic” sleepers -- meaning we sleep in a single phase at night, rather than sporadically throughout the day. But even though most of us need to be awake for a large chunk of the day (sigh, desk jobs), that doesn’t mean you can’t sneak in the occasional nap. (John F. Kennedy was apparently a regular napper, and he was President.) A quick 20-30 minute nap can boost your mood, alertness, and performance, so explain that to your boss when he finds you snoozing in an empty conference room.
Put your phone on airplane mode for an hour
Yes, you read that right -- an entire 60 minutes where no one can reach you. Where there is no mindless Instagram-scrolling or Reddit-lurking. Before you spiral into a full-on panic attack, hear us out: For one thing, you’re most likely developing neck and back problems from staring at your phone all day. Second, you’re probably snubbing the people closest to you in favor of that magic pocket computer. Think of your phone sabbatical as gifting you an hour of peace and quiet (sans chirping email notifications). Maybe even meditate for a few minutes instead.
Tell someone “no”
In a society where we pride ourselves on how busy we are, telling someone “no” can trigger more anxiety than making small talk at a networking event. So, we go to the pointless happy hours against our better judgement. Instead, give yourself a break, cancel plans, decline an invite, skip out on your weekly spin class, and relish in your found time. When you’ve been stretching yourself thin, telling someone you can’t make their event will be as much of a treat as ordering that bacon cheeseburger from your favorite restaurant -- without the cholesterol intake.
Make sure there are puppies (or kitties) in your life
If you’ve already got a ball of cute fluffiness in your life, skip this one. You don’t have to become a fur parent, though, to reap the benefits of having a pet. Simply looking at adorable animals on the internet has a 100% success rate of putting a smile on your face, and studies show it immediately improves mood and productivity. For those of us already obsessively checking r/aww, do some animal-gawking IRL by volunteering as a dog walker at your local shelter, or for feline lovers, cat cafes provide a place to pop in for a quick snuggle.
Take the scenic route home
Unless you’re an Instagram influencer who gets paid to travel the world, most of our day-to-day lives are pretty routine. When you need a pick-me-up, taking the extra time to drive down a tree-lined street or make a pit stop at the local park can help boost creativity and productivity. Besides that practical bonus, getting to see some nature every day can make you feel better mentally and physically.
Keep chicken noodle soup in your freezer
Or mac & cheese. Or your mom’s baked ziti. Whatever your ultimate comfort food is, make sure you have some stockpiled. That way, when you have a bad day, or just want a special dish, you’ll know there’s something delicious just a defrost setting away. A study out of the University of Cincinnati even found that eating comfort foods inhibit your brain’s anxiety response, and that the effects can stick around for nearly a week. So the next time you’re feeling like you need to breathe into a paper bag, dig your fork into a pile of pasta instead.
Plate your meals like you’re in a restaurant
Food always tastes better when someone else cooks it, sure, but when out to eat, it’s also because restaurants take time to plate their dishes, which can actually make you more excited about a meal. According to a 2016 St. Joseph’s University study, those who interact with their food by taking a photo (#nomnom) before taking a bite are more likely to enjoy it. So make your dinner Insta-worthy by carefully garnishing with fresh herbs or serving on a color-contrasting plate. Even microwaved lasagna feels fancy with an artful sprinkle of parmesan.
Transform your apartment, simply
When your apartment is a 300 square foot studio, you can dread coming home after a long day as much as you dread getting out of bed to go to work in the morning. But a few simple additions can make your space feel like a sanctuary, even if there’s only room in there for a bed. Pick up an inexpensive bouquet of flowers to stick in the window, or buy an essential oil diffuser with your favorite scent. The small indulgence will instantly brighten up the room -- without having to drop serious coin on an interior decorator.