10 Ways To Look After Yourself On A Budget

I know what you're thinking. How come we haven't had one of Men Tell Health's incredibly insightful 'Top 10' blogs for a while? We hear you! Let's bloody do one then!

Self-care sounds like something you can only do in private, something that, if done too much, will make you go blind, but no! Self-care is really important part of your recovery and it's vital to help manage, and even prevent, conditions like depression.

We all know things are financially tough out there. Austerity, cuts in welfare, job losses and rising prices mean there isn't always much money to go round. Often the money we need to look after our own sense of well-being is the first thing to be jettisoned when money is tight. After all, we need to keep a roof over our head, pay the bills and feed the kids (or ourselves), so it's easy to forget to look after number one.

It's also true that those with mental health issues are more likely to have financial problems, especially if you're on benefits. That's why we've come up with 10 ways we can look after ourselves, even on the tightest of budgets.

1. Get Out More

We're not talking about wild holidays or extravagant shopping trips, but the act of simply going outside. Staying in is easy and in many cases, staying in the comfort of your own home feels like the best option, but there's something to be said for getting out and about.

Getting some fresh air in your lungs (or as fresh as it can get) and feeling the rays of the sun on your skin are instant mood boosters. Best of all, it's free!

If you can get yourself into some green spaces like a park, forest, wood or even a really, really big garden, then even better. Being surrounded by trees, grass, flowers and bushes is beneficial to both your physical and psychological health, so get outside and soak it in.

2. Bang Tidy!

Once you've come back in from your lovely walk in the fresh air, and you look around your home and you feel down again, there may be a reason! The environment we call home can have a very real impact on how we feel.

If you look around your own place and feel stressed, down or it just makes day-to-day living harder than it needs to be, you might need a good old-fashioned declutter. We all accrue 'stuff' as we go through life and, if you're anything like us, we keep things we don't really need 'just in case' in your man draw. Clearing out, decluttering or just having a purge of this 'stuff' can help. You might even be able to find things you can sell to make a little money on the side.

This doesn't just have to stop with physical things. Clearing out cupboards, wardrobes, man-caves, sheds or garages will be useful, but you can also do that with virtual or digital clutter.

Purging your Facebook friends (you know who I mean), Twitter followers, unsubscribing to emails you no longer are interested in, deleting old emails, you name it, you can clear it. It all helps, even psychologically, to clear your mind.

3. Good Food = Good Mood

People often associate eating well to cost, but eating the right food to help your mood doesn't mean it has to cost a fortune. The food we eat is directly linked to how we feel. Nutrition, good and bad, can affect how our mood. Eat crappy takeaway foods and you'll feel sluggish and lethargic. That's not a coincidence, so it's true to say that the exact opposite must be true too.

Of course, if you want to eat the finest cuts of meat, goji berries or whatever the current superfood is, then it will cost, but there is nutritional benefits in even the cheapest of foods. Learn to love food labels which will help you make those decisions.

Certainly in the UK, food labelling isn't perfect, but it's a good place to start. Avoid the red signs which highlight foods with too much sugar, salt, etc.

As much as we'd like to give you a list of great (and cheap) recipes here, it's not really practical. If you want ideas, then there are plenty of blogs out there that specialise in eating well on a budget, so don't be afraid to give them a good Googling!

4. Get The Drinks In.....As Long As It's Water!

Sure water isn't the tastiest, most flavoursome drink in the world, but it's something we need to actually live. It's also something we need to drink more of to avoid feeling down. Being dehydrated, even a little bit, can have a negative impact on our mood. You don't need to drink expensive bottled water to stay hydrated, normal tap water is absolutely fine (and free...well sort of).

If water really isn't your tipple of choice, then you can also try herbal teas, as long as they're decaffeinated. These days you can get boxes of herbal teas relatively cheaply, particularly if you opt for supermarkets' own brand, rather than the fancy-dancy ones.

Most shops will have a plethora of different flavours of tea, which can look a bit daunting. There are some herbs, like chamomile, which can ease the symptoms of depression and anxiety. It's also worth noting that some herbs you get in these teas can affect the impact of some medication, so it might be a good idea to speak to your Doctor first (assuming you're on any pills).

5. Sleep Costs Nothing

Looking after yourself doesn't come much easier or cheaper than having a good night's kip. Depression and lack of sleep are great bedfellows (pardon the pun) so get your Zzzzz's in helps to make you feel better. I know it's easier said than done at times, but don't underestimate it's power.

If you find it hard getting to sleep, there are a few things you can try. You don't have to be a kid to have a bedtime routine. Once the evening rolls around, get yourself into the habit of doing things that will help relax you; no caffeine after 6pm, limit your exposure to TV, your laptop, tablet or smartphone. These will all help to tell your body and brain that it's time to wind down.

6. Do Nothing....and Enjoy It.

We all place expectations on ourselves. We think we always need to be doing 'something', helping 'someone', being productive for 'some reason'. We put pressure on ourselves to contribute to 'something', which means there's too much stress on us.

It's nice to feel like we're contributing, but it can also be what's making us ill. If you're always on the go, it's nice sometimes to just stop and do nothing. That doesn't mean you literally do nothing, but instead do something for you; run a bath (we mean don't just 'run' it, actually get in and relax), watch your favourite movie, watch some crap TV (let's be honest, there's plenty to choose from), listen to some music, the list is endless.

It doesn't cost anything to do something just for you, but it will feel so much better.

7. Do Something....and Really Enjoy It

When you feel down, exercise is the last thing you might feel like doing, but that's exactly the time when it's the one of those things you need to do.

Exercise doesn't mean going to the gym and working out (but it can). Instead you can do some very simple things that cost nothing. Going for a walk is the easiest thing, but it's not the only one. Dance around the house with the tunes on, go for a run around the block or take a bike ride round town.

Exercise, even a short amount, releases endorphins (not to be confused with dolphins - they're a whole different topic, but don't get me started on those!) which makes us feel better. If we feel better, our mood obviously improves.

8. Get Creative

Creativity is often seen as something only the talented few can do, but that's not the case. Doing something 'creative' is a great way to look after your own wellbeing and doesn't have to be expensive.

Being creative doesn't just mean arts and crafts stuff, far from it. As long as you're expressing yourself, then the sky's the limit.

You might be thinking 'well I'm not very creative' or 'I really should buy one of Men Tell Health's wristbands because they're awesome and give me all this info for nothing', then you're wrong and right, all at the same time, and by that we mean respectively. 

You're wrong to say that you're not creative. Everyone is. We might not all be able to earn a living as an artist or musician, but everyone can draw to some degree and it doesn't have to be photorealistic or even recognisable to be art. Creativity can be anything from writing, painting, gardening, learning code, cooking, singing or expressive dance! As long as you're creating it, it's creative.

They will all help to boost your mood and will give you a great sense of achievement. No matter what you create, no-one in the world could have done it the way you did.....what is it again? ;-)

9. Treat Yo'Self (aka 'Yourself', for those that don't speak 'street')

Remember we're talking here about looking after yourself on a budget, so we're not discussing spending a fortune on something for yourself. There are loads of ways of treating yourself that don't cost a penny.

A treat doesn't have to cost anything to be beneficial. Go to a library and treat yourself to some new books, DVDs or audiobooks (you have to take them back obviously). Also, give charity shops a whirl for new clothes, board games, DVDs, CDs or something for the house.

I saw that! Don't turn your nose up at charity shops, they can be quite the little gold mine if you're willing to persevere. I once got a gold miners helmet ;-)

On top of that, there are plenty of websites, groups and apps that connect people who want stuff, with people who want to give stuff away. Facebook have some and Freecycle is good for that too.

10. The Art of Saying 'No'.

As much as we like to say 'yes' to everything and everyone, there's something to be said for saying 'no'... or 'sod off'.

Let's be honest, sometimes saying 'yes' is a way to make ourselves feel better. This is especially true if you have depression, which can manifest itself as low self-esteem as we look for validation or approval from other people. You need to stop doing that.

It's admiral that you want to help others, but it isn't always a good idea for your own wellbeing. Stressing out by always helping others isn't helping yourself. Learn to say no. This doesn't have to come across as being grumpy or aloof, just explain why and they'll be fine with it. If they're not, then they're not worth your time or money.

We hope you find something useful here that will help. If you've got any more ideas on things you can do to help, please leave a comment below.

We've also got more details on things you can try to look after your bad (or good) self in our Man-Kit.