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Free Self Care Ideas (that aren’t painting your nails)

Self care doesn’t have to be expensive or time consuming. In fact, you need self care more than ever when you’re broke and busy! Discover these free self care ideas for moms and stressed women without much free time.

It’s fantastic that people are becoming more aware of the importance of nurturing their mind, body, and soul, but sometimes it seems there are mixed messages on what self-care is, how often you should engage in self-care, and what you should do to take care of yourself.

Self-care doesn’t have to be expensive or time consuming.

Today, I’m sharing free self care ideas for moms (and other people without much time!). 

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This post may include affiliate links, which means I may make a commission on purchases made through these links at no additional cost to you. 

What is self-care?

We live in a materialistic, consumer-oriented society. A lot of times we’re given the message that self-care is “treating yourself.” We’re told that self-care is getting a massage or going out for dinner or something that you either a) do like once a month or b) have to buy/spend money on.

There’s nothing wrong with going out with friends once a month, but that isn’t really what I mean by “self-care!” Self-care isn’t a one and done thing that you can check off your to-do list like an annual trip to the doctor.

Self-care is self-respect. It’s treating yourself and your body like a cherished friend. It’s speaking lovingly to yourself, forgiving yourself, and respecting yourself. Self-care is a lifelong journey.

How to find time for self care

I know that finding time for self care can be challenging, especially when you’re a mom.

Here are some ways to find time for self care, even if you’re super busy:

  • Remember that something is more than nothing. It’s okay if you only have a few minutes at a time – small, frequent acts of self care are better than putting off something “big” for “someday.”
  • Ask for help. It’s so difficult for many women to ask for help. Ask a friend or partner to remind you to take time for yourself. If you need someone to watch your child for a few minutes, work up the courage to ask. Ask specifically – don’t just make oblique references to your partner and hope they pick up on what you really want.
  • Bring mindfulness to everyday actions you already do. Stop multitasking and take a moment to enjoy your sip of coffee. Put down your phone and actually taste your lunch.
  • Print and use the free printable affirmation cards (at the bottom of this post) whenever you have a spare moment.
  • If you can’t find someone else to watch your kids (I totally understand – my husband works 12+ hour days), keep them busy with activities you can feel good about. This free printable woodland animal activity pack has games and puzzles for children of all ages so you can catch some me time without screen time.

Alright, let’s get into the self care ideas!

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Free mental/emotional self care ideas

Take a deep, diaphragmatic breath and then let it out fully. Repeat. Repeat again. You’d be amazed by how much three deep breaths can help.

Show your appreciation. Tell someone that you appreciate them. Be specific. For example, tell them “I appreciate that you made the coffee this morning.” To feel even better, try to express an appreciation every hour you’re awake. Appreciate how blue the sky is or how much the plants need the rain that’s falling. Appreciate that you are alive and fortunate enough to have internet access to research self-care!

Stop saying “sorry” unless you truly need to. We’re programed to say “sorry” all the time. We say “sorry” instead of “I didn’t hear that.” We apologize constantly! Challenge yourself to say thank you instead of sorry whenever possible and see how different it feels. For example, change “Sorry I’m running late” to “thank you for waiting for me.”

Meditate. If you find meditation challenging, try a guided meditation.

Listen to inspiring podcasts or TED talks.

Do a “brain dump.” Set a timer for 5 minutes and just write whatever comes to mind. Don’t judge or censor yourself. Don’t read back over it. Rip it up, throw it in the trash, and let it go.

Ask for help. You don’t need to be everything and do everything. Ask for help if you need it!

Accept complements gracefully. Instead of putting yourself down when someone complements you, say thank you and accept the complement without argument.

Feel your feelings. Try to be present with your feelings and accept them without judgement instead of repressing them.

Do yoga. Truthfully, yoga can be mental, physical, and spiritual self-care rolled into one! Yin yoga is my favorite style, which is why it’s what I focus on teaching now. This 15 minute yin yoga sequence for the hips is particularly helpful for releasing tension and being present with your emotions. 

Free physical self-care ideas

Stretch while you brush your teeth. It sounds silly, but you can do some stretching while you brush your teeth! You’re supposed to brush them for 2 solid minutes, so that’s enough time to help relieve some tightness. I like to do a standing figure 4 stretch (or “standing pigeon”), skater lunges, or even hold a squat while brushing my teeth. When my baby was a newborn, brushing my teeth at night was virtually the only time I had to myself and those two minutes of stretching helped me in a big way.

Eat well. You don’t need to spend a lot of money or read up on a trendy diet to eat wholesome foods. Adding something is easier than taking something away – begin by adding an extra serving of vegetables to your day, for example.

Drink enough water. People talk about hydrating all the time for a reason! It’s so easy to forget to drink enough water, especially if you’re busy. I have a 1 liter water bottle that I keep close to remind me to hydrate,

Take a walk outdoors. Walking is good for the mind, body, and soul, plus it’s family friendly! Exercise, including walking, positively affects your brain and may make you may resilient to stress.

Exercise. Exercise is scientifically proven to boost your mood and your self-esteem. You don’t need to join a gym – there are a zillion exercise channels on YouTube that you can watch for free.

If you’re a new mom, you might be interested in this video with exercises to help you regain core strength after pregnancy.

Free spiritual self-care ideas

Spiritual self-care can seem similar to mental/emotional self-care. To me, some of the practices can actually overlap! Spiritual self-care is time focused on connecting with your highest, most authentic self. Emotional self-care can relate to other people, how you communicate with them, set boundaries, etc.

Practice gratitude journaling. You don’t need lots of time to gratitude journal. Writing down just three things a day you’re grateful for can have a huge impact on your happiness and wellbeing! If you’re having trouble, follow this simple gratitude journal formula: “I’m grateful for _______ because _______.”

If you need help with your gratitude practice, learn more about my free 30 day gratitude challenge!

A woman in grey leggings and a white sweater sitting cross legged on a pillow. Her hands are in prayer position and she is meditating.

Meditate. Yep, it’s listed twice in this post! Experiment with different types of meditation to find what works for you. I personally like guided meditations and mantra meditation. If you’re new to mediation, try an app like Headspace or Calm. One of my favorite introduction to meditation books is called Sit Like a Buddha. It’s very accessible and includes suggestions on how to find the time to medtiate.

Use oracle cards. I thought oracle cards seemed a little silly at first, but then I started using them! There are so many different oracle decks available today. Find a deck you really resonate with that that fits what you’re seeking. This Energy deck was my first deck and I still love it. There’s an affirmation for each card and thought-provoking guidance.

Energy Oracle Cards
  • Tarot Cards
  • Brand New
  • Sent Securely in Protective Packaging

I don’t personally own this Work your Light deck (yet!), but it is a good fit if you’re looking to connect with your higher self. It comes highly recommended by friends who are spiritual entrepreneurs and I can’t wait to get a copy!

Work Your Light Oracle Cards
  • Campbell, Rebecca (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 06/05/2018 (Publication Date) - Hay House UK (Publisher)
A woman in grey leggings performing a card reading

Get outside. Yes, this is listed separately from taking a walk. Simple spend time in nature and connect with the Earth’s rhythm and wisdom. To really get grounded, take your shoes off for a few minutes and dig your toes in the soil.

Pick up something that you’re been meaning to tidy away. If you have the time, declutter an entire space (bathroom counter, kitchen table, etc.) If you’re too busy for that, start by putting one out of place thing away. It can really help clear negative energy and lift your mood!

Connect with like-minded people. Look for a local women’s circle or find your tribe online. You might also find people to connect with at a local coffee shop, book store, yarn store, etc. 

Free printable affirmation cards for self-care. Beautiful watercolor affirmation cards for free!

Self-Care Affirmations

Affirmations are a powerful tool that can help you reprogram your conscious and subconscious mind. 

You can repeat affirmations throughout the day to help retrain your mind and raise your vibration. When you repeat positive phrases, you feel better and even more good things start coming to you!

I like to use affirmation cards. You can either draw one at random and focus on it during the day or select one that is meaningful and important to you at this moment. I used these pregnancy affirmation cards in both of these ways when I was pregnant with LG.

Here are nine self-care affirmations to get your self-care practice started! Make sure to grab your free printable affirmation cards for moms while you’re here, too! (Download information is below the preview image.)

  • I ask for help when I need it
  • I easily make time for self-care
  • I am enough
  • I can say no and still be respected
  • I enjoy taking care of my mind, body, and spirit
  • I trust my instincts
  • I connect more deeply with my higher self each day
  • I choose to release expectations of perfectionism
  • I am patient with myself

I recommend printing your cards on presentation paper. It’s a heavy paper/light cardstock with a special coating for vibrant colors and crisp images. 

Epson Premium Presentation Paper MATTE (8.5x11 Inches, 100 Sheets)...
  • Epson Premium Presentation Paper Matte (8.5" x 11") (100 Sheets/Pkg)
  • Premium Presentation Paper delivers long-lasting photographs with a matte finish
  • With its heavyweight, bright white, ultra-smooth finish, this paper is perfect for non-glare photographs, craft projects and signage
free printable watercolor affirmation cards for self-care

I truly hope that these free self-care ideas help you whether you’re an overwhelmed mom, feeling stressed & broke, or are simply looking for nurturing self-care ideas that won’t break the bank!

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What are your favorite free self-care activities? I’d love to hear if you have anything to add to the list!

Resources for busy women

Are you busy but want to take better care of yourself and improve your mindset?

Free printable affirmation cards for overwhelmed moms
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