Social media has altered society’s views on what self care actually is. It’s been portrayed as something accessible for only the most luxurious of people, with expensive restaurants, solo trips to Mexico, spa days with all the works, and all those things are great and something to strive for. But there are times we want something more simple and personal that won’t leave us staring at our bank accounts in regret. I’m here to introduce you to some free and impactful self care tips to incorporate into your stressful daily routines.

  1. 1. Get up & go on a walk.

That’s right girl, I did just tell you to get off that couch and get some fresh air. The healing power of being in nature is so underrated. It can be something you plan for. Find a trail, park, or woods near you and experience being in the moment under the spring sun. I have incorporated daily walks in a trail behind my apartment complex and it has been life changing. I’ve been able to take a pause from classwork, projects, adulting, and come back to the task at hand more motivated and focused. I highly recommend this act of self care.

2. Dance like nobody’s watching.

For some of us who are introverted and morbidly afraid of being judged, this can be a hard task to complete. I have never been much of a dancer, mainly because I’m just not good at it (please don’t take my Black card, it’s all I have left). Someone could kidnap me, hold me at gunpoint, and command me to Dougie like my life depends on it, and that would the end of Nevaeh Richardson.

But within this last month, something magical happened to me. I managed to gather some courage (or plain recklessness) and went to New York City for the first time, by myself.

Yeah. If you’re impressed, you should be.

During that four-day trip, I discovered Afro-Brazilian samba classes. I absolutely fell in love with the culture and the dance style. Was I good at it? Absolutely not. In fact, I was placed in the back of the class. But it allowed me to bring myself out of my head and into the task at hand. It was a beautiful experience, and one I plan on continuing.

You don’t have to pay for courses, there are plenty of free online dance tutorials. So get out there, and dance like there’s not a crowd of people staring at the atrocity you call dancing.

3. Your mind is a tornado, your house probably is too.

If you’re anything like me, when your mind is out of whack, your space probably is too. You’re up ripping and running all day and when you finally sit down, it’s to stare soullessly into your laptop screen. You’re either too busy or too tired to fix your space, and the more chaotic it gets, the more it adds to your stress levels.

So clean it. Take a pause from your other activities to prioritize your sanctuary. The act of cleaning and organizing itself has become sort of a meditation for me. Pair cleaning with some good music, and it’s one of the best things ever, aside from the feeling of accomplishment as you look at your freshly organized space.

It is with pride that I light my candles and incense in a clean space, it always feels like putting icing on cake. Cleaning often leads me to other things, such as putting up new decorations, or changing the Feng shui of my space.

4. Put the phone down and read a goddamn book!

I used to be an avid reader. Now my books stare at me with contempt as my face is planted in my phone. Your phone is probably one of the main reasons you’re stressed. Your checking emails, you’re watching everyone else’s seemingly better life, you’re watching your crush on a date with his girlfriend, you’re on Twitter reading the worst takes of your life and it’s depleting whatever hope you had left in the world, and countless stories of injustice leaves you feeling heavy and hopeless.

I’m here to tell you (and myself), it’s time to put the damn phone down and pick up a book. It can be any book, a new book, a book you’ve read before, just make sure it’s a real book with real pages (none of that Kindle nonsense).

It’s high time you enjoy some brief escapism, whether you’re escaping to a world of fantasy, self-improvement, poetry, or science. The practice of reading calms you, gives your eyes a break from the screens of sorrow, and leaves you more knowledgeable than before.

5. When things seem bleak, remember to have gratitude.

It is too easy to get caught up in the descending spiral of what is going wrong in your life. When we’re stuck in this spiral, we fail to acknowledge the countless blessings and gifts in our lives that can come in the form of people, of health, of having somewhere safe to sleep, of the warmth of Spring time, etc. We’re designed to look for the negative, it’s a survival mechanism, but it doesn’t mean we can’t rewire the way we think.

Practicing gratitude is something I often forget to do, but I find that when I am actively grateful, I can’t help but find the abundance of blessings in a bleak situation. It encourages me to move forward, knowing that there are more gifts to come, just as there are more misfortunes.

I like to practice by writing at least three things that I’m grateful for in a journal or whiteboard. You can do this when you first wake up, or do it as your day comes to a close.