Seven little ideas for self-care (from a recovering shopaholic)

A Tuesday that feels like a Monday usually means one thing: another long weekend is behind us. Long holiday weekends can hit differently for everyone — they may mean time off work or putting in overtime; trips, cookouts or parties; time with or away from family; relaxation or more stress; and of course, lots of social media content finding ever-newer ways to commemorate whatever holiday it happens to be, along with at least one ad for a holiday weekend sale inviting you to honor the spirit of the holiday by… buying some stuff! 

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This is the part where I admit to you that I am a recovering recreational shopper, very much in the “I’m bored, let’s go to the mall/Target/HomeGoods and see what we find” vein. 

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We relocated to northern California for my husband’s job about nine years ago, and I took a job in retail for most of the year and a half or so that we lived there. Most of my paychecks were spent before I actually made it out of the mall (this was, I must note, before we started budgeting). I learned a lot from working in retail, and one of the most important things I learned was that retailers writ large are never doing anything because it’s a good deal for you

  • A sale is just an advertisement to get you in the store.
  • Any sale that drives you to buy more than you wanted or needed isn’t actually saving you money. 
  • Whatever discount that you get from opening or using a store credit card pales in comparison with the piles of interest that these credit cards generate. This eerily prophetic article about how credit cards are papering over the cracks in the retail industry is four years old – RIP, Toys “R” Us:

“These stores are propping up their failing businesses on the backs of lower-middle-class people,” said Charles Juntikka, a bankruptcy lawyer in New York, whose clients often have rung up thousands of dollars in debt on retail cards.

Profits From Store-Branded Credit Cards Hide Depth of Retailers’ Troubles

During that timeframe, my husband and I also got two huge deliveries of stuff that had been in storage while we were living overseas. Cracking open time capsules full of things that we hadn’t seen in years was a rude awakening for me. The boxes ate up entire swaths of our living space, and in order to get our house back, we had to spend hours upon hours curating, sorting, and disposing of pound after pound of random crap we’d bought years earlier, and that we’d paid to keep in storage… most of which we turned out not to need or want at all. 

Not long after that, I started decluttering, living on a budget, and just generally revisiting my relationship to acquiring things. Do I still like shopping? Yes – I’m much more thoughtful about it, but there are times when I’m sucked into the “I need to feel better so let me just buy something” vortex. It really does give you a temporary rush, probably based as much on a quick look at our aspirational selves as on a sense of control amid the cruel and unknowable chaos of existence.

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It’s a hard habit to break, is what I’m saying. I stay on budget, and I have cut way back, but it’s there! But it is significantly diminished, and part of why I rely on it less is that I’ve found a few other things that work for me.

It’s difficult to kill a habit without replacing it with something else that meets the need that the habit was trying to fill. Over the last couple of years, I’ve made a real effort to cultivate things that support my well-being without an unpleasant downside. When I was sharing my list with a friend recently, I realized… most of them don’t actually cost money. They also aren’t rocket science, but I’m sharing them with you just in case you need a reminder or a new idea, or are maybe experiencing a little shopping hangover.

First, make sure you’ve had enough water and tasty, nourishing food, and take any medications or supplements that you need to support your health. You know how your body responds to caffeine, alcohol, and sugar — and any other substances that can cause pleasure or problems or mood swings, depending on your biology and psychology — so consume them in whatever quantities are appropriate for your well-being.

Now, here you go: 

  • Even if you aren’t going anywhere, shower or wash your face, fix your hair, and do whatever makes you feel good about your appearance. If you wear makeup, maybe put on a little bit of makeup. If you’ve already showered and gotten ready for the day, you can add something that makes you smell or look extra nice and makes you feel relaxed or happy.  
  • Go to a part of your house that is already clean and relax for a bit if you need to feel calmer; go to a part that needs cleaning up or decluttering and get started if you need to feel like you’ve accomplished something. 
  • Go outside to a green space and move around in whatever way feels good to you – breathing in trees is really good for your health, science says so! On a related note, you can also do some gardening, or even just play with water, prune, or repot your houseplants. It’s weird how much this helps me but it does. (Yes, buying plants is one of my remaining retail vices.) 
  • Listen to happy music — you can make your own happy playlist or find one that works for you (here’s one of mine. Warning: contains bad words and preposterous amounts of girl power). Even if you love podcasts or audiobooks, it can be nice to give your brain a little break from learning and just let it wander around. 
  • Take pen (or pencil) to paper. Make a to-do list with any tasks broken down into small and achievable goals, and feel free to include stuff you’ve already done – give yourself credit for the fact that you’re showing up! Cross off a thing or two from your list and you will probably get a little bit of momentum. Or try a lil bit of free-writing about problems or gratitude or worries or fears, whatever’s snarled up in your head. Although I love writing, I am sometimes a little bit resistant to journaling, but I will admit that when I do it, I get a lot out of it.
  • There’s this thing that Alexandra Franzen wrote about called the “give, ask, receive” technique at #11 on this list – I LOVE it and it is applicable when asking for emotional support, not just business support. The gist of it is, you first do something nice for someone else with no strings attached, big or small (it doesn’t have to be a monetary act of generosity, although it can be!); then, ask for what you need; and then sit back and appreciate literally anything good that flows your way. 
  • Connect with somebody you trust. Share a laugh. Talk about how you’re feeling. And get a hug – a nice, long one if you can. Twenty seconds is apparently the sweet spot.   

I’m leaving a few things off the list because I’m trying to keep it free, but herbal tea and aromatherapy and adult coloring books are some of my other favorite low-cost options that support my well-being and lower my personal stress levels. 

Ok, so what are your favorite free/v. affordable ways to take care of yourself?

*The Amazon links in this post are affiliate links. If you choose to make a purchase through the links, the price is the same for you, and Fortuna will get a small commission from Amazon’s Affiliate program.

The Jean’s Apothecare product links are not affiliate links and I am not being paid or compensated to mention them — I just love the business and the wonderful products. Full disclosure, I am friends with Casey Jean, the magnificent herbalist behind the Apothecare, but I didn’t even tell her I was going to talk about her stuff before I published the post.

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