Alternative self-care ideas can be hard to find. There are lots of articles out there that will remind you take write in your journal, meditate, or indulge in a hot bubble bath. Those things are all awesome and super-important.
So why didn’t I feel better after I did that lovely thing?
Sometimes taking a bath just isn’t enough. Self-care runs deeper than we give it credit for. It’s not just about taking our minds off our problems, or nourishing our bodies. Self-care is also about reminding ourselves of our capabilities, seeking pleasure, honouring our values, bringing out our wild side, letting loved ones know how much we appreciate being seen by them, and justice-doing to name a few.
Here are 28 red hot alternative self-care activities you can indulge in at your leisure.
- Buy a bubble-making gun. Make bubbles EVERYWHERE.
- Make a cake for a treasured family member or a friend and invite them over to eat the whole thing. If taking care of others genuinely makes you feel good- do it. Do not do it if you’re going to feel resentful.
- Write a blog post or an angry ‘Letter to the Editor’ about an issue you really care about. It’s easy to feel like a failure when you’re struggling with ‘self-care’ but being held down by genuine injustice is heavy. As counsellors we feel this frustration and helplessness too, and it’s hard sometimes. ‘Getting a massage’- while awesome- doesn’t respond to that injustice, so finding a way to speak out and find ‘alternative justice’ is a great self care tool.
- Post a picture of yourself on social media at your absolutely worst. Really looking like crap. Don’t caption it.
- Go to the library and borrow a whole heap of children’s books. I like Enid Blyton and Roald Dahl but you can go for picture books, RL Stine, The Babysitters Club, Where’s Wally or whatever grabs your attention. When you get home surround yourself on your bed or in a special space with them all.
- Sing. Loudly. Crank the tunes. In your house or in public or on a mountain or in your car. Ignore stares or the voices (real or imagined) that tell you your voice is awful. Sing louder. Dance too- dance like everyone is watching.
- Ring someone. Someone you don’t usually call but really want to talk to when you scroll through the numbers on your phone. Out of the blue. They’ll be cranky initially (because let’s face it, who RINGS anymore without at least 3 pre-planning text messages) but then they’ll be so happy you called. You’ll talk for an hour. That’s a week-long buzz right there my friend.
- Binge-watch Season 2 of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK with carrot sticks and hummus or Lindt chocolate and your own wig collection. Maybe Zoom with a mate at the same time. Shout at the telly a lot. And remember: “If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?!” Can I get an Amen in here?
- Recall a time you were kind to yourself. What did that kindness look like? What thought did you have or action did you do to support ‘being kind to yourself’? Think or Do that thing again. Right. Now.
- Get drunk. Go out, sit in a bar, watch a band, talk shit to your friends and get stupid-drunk. Dance your arse off. Do not engage with fears of ‘what will people think?’ Just cut loose. TomorrowYou will want to kill TonightYou, but maybe, just for now, TonightYou needs to LIVE.
- Don’t get drunk. Go out, sit in a bar, watch a band, talk shit to your friends, dance your arse off, stay out all night completely sober but with the freedom of a drunk. Tell everyone proudly that you were sober the next day. Or tell them you were drunk, whatever: who cares what they think.
- Fill up a hot water bottle and lay it on your chest, on your heart.
- Text a friend- old or new- and say ‘Hey. I’ve had a bad week and I really need someone to talk to. Coffee’s my treat, are you free tomorrow at 10am?’ Authenticity is brave and amazing, and 99% of the time people love being needed.
- Text a friend and say ‘S.O.S: I need you to come over and keep an eye on the baby for an hour while I sleep. Please, I’m desperate’. Your friends do not think you are being ‘needy’. You are IN NEED.
- Have wonderful consensual fulfilling sex with someone who loves and respects you and your body, and who you love and respect. This person may not be someone you are in a committed relationship with, but they should be someone who absolutely adores you, who cares for you and your needs, can look you in the eye with love, and makes you feel good about yourself without any kind of empty hole or self-questioning. Have a damn good time.
- Masturbate. Have wonderful fulfilling sex with yourself. Use whatever help you need with your body type and whatever watching/reading material turns you on (so long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else of course). There are sexy websites that celebrate genuine diversity and are not misogynistic or violent featuring a variety of consenting adults. One such subscription service is ‘make love not porn’. Masturbation is an excellent form of anxiety-relief as well as helping you feel more in control of your own body and giving you a good idea of what turns you on. Make it an event even if you feel nervous.
- Did that make you uncomfortable? Then you need more on that topic! Buy yourself an expensive silicon lady-friendly vibrator (you can read fun reviews of products on Oh Joy Sex Toy and you can buy from women-owned and gender-diverse-friendly online stores such as Pleasure Box). Light some candles and pick up a sexy novel or Google something you’ve always wanted to. Be loving and kind to yourself. Be cheeky and really tune into your body, what feels good. Touch that. Do some Mindfulness practice if shame is holding you back: Notice the thoughts coming into your mind: ‘this is embarrassing. I’m ashamed. I can’t do this’ Notice them. Allow them to be as they are, don’t try to change them. Envision them floating down a beautiful trickling creek away from you. Then pick up the vibrator. And remember: women can have multiple orgasms, or continuous orgasms. So you don’t need to stop after one. You may find yourself rolling around in a fit of giggles or exhausted the likes of which you didn’t know! NB: If you’ve never masturbated before, please know that nothing has to go ‘inside’ your body if you don’t want it to. The clitoris nub is on the outside after all. But if you aren’t aware of that, check out information and advice from Cyndi Darnell (she was featured on ‘Luke Warm Sex’ on the ABC) or other lovely sex therapist websites to get your self-game on.
- Go ‘forest bathing’. Spend 2 hours walking sloooowwwwwly through the bush. Experience it. No photos. Just you and the trees.
- Find a photo or an image that represents something you value in your life and recall a memory that supports why you value that something. An example could be“Cooking With Grandma”. Drench yourself in that loving memory, and form a narrative over time of how you received and continue a tradition of “Cooking with…”
- Make a complaint to a professional conduct body, or the Ombudsmen, either online or on the phone. Don’t listen when people tell you to calm down, if something is seriously bugging you about the way you’ve been treated by a service then you have a right to complain. The Ombudsman can let you know if your matter can be taken further. You can also write to the Minister. I have seen real change happen for those courageous enough to do this. Even if you don’t send it, it can help to gather your thoughts and feelings into a strong, succinct complaint.
- Do you live in the tropics? Indulge in a ‘doona day’ (just once in a blue moon) by cranking the air con and getting super dooper snuggly in front of your favourite movies or with a great book.
- Do a Google search of every gym/yoga studio/dance class/music lesson in your area (whatever ‘that thing’ is you want to try but haven’t for some reason). Get the free lesson or the reduced cost ‘two week’ trial or whatever is offered. Then allow yourself to do the next freebie on offer. Don’t feel obligated to sign up until you feel ‘This Is The One’. Sign up with whoever or whatever makes your heart sing or your body happy or your brain sparkle.
- Head out into the evening and howl at the moon. Loudly. Beat your chest like Godzilla. Howl until your heart hears it.
- Grow something. Anything. Some parsley or a $2.50 ‘pot of colour’ from your local nursery in a bucket with a hole poked in the bottom. Be proud of however long it survives for. Put it on Instagram! Do not feel like a loser when/if it dies. Just chuck something else in there. Dig your fingers right deep in the soil and wriggle. Get dirty and enjoy it.
- Write a letter to someone who would stand beside you in knowing that you are an OK person. A person who gave you hope or love or kindness when you really needed it. A person who, through those actions, showed that you are valuable and worthy or made you feel like you COULD. You may not even know them- they may be a musician or a sports star, or a beloved pet, or someone who has passed away. Write to them from your very soul, don’t leave a thing out. Decide if you want to give it to them, and if not then store it somewhere you keep Treasured Things.
- Stroke your own naked arms. Seriously. Downward, slowly, from the shoulder to the fingertips. Experiment with softer or harder pressure, with love, take you time. Do the other side. This kind of arm-stroking is called ‘Self-Soothing, and it’s great for kids too (you can show them by doing it on their arm for them at first).
- Find a forum online that is dedicated to an issue you experience or a situation you have survived. Instead of giving out meaningless advice or getting angry at the jerks that have inevitably commented, find someone who you really think you can help with your story, in all it’s uniqueness. Reply to this person anonymously if you wish, but dig into your vulnerability.
Write to this person as though your life depended on it. As though theirs does.
Exit the forum.
Know that what you wrote made someone feel heard, understood, braver and stronger.
28. Get comfortable in your body and hug yourself. Tightly as possible, with your arms or in a sheet. A major swaddle. If your body doesn’t quite do that, get someone safe to hug you, or wrap you in a blanket if you don’t like touch. Seriously give yourself the most almighty cuddle. You deserve it.
Did you enjoy this post? Here’s another one on how to make change by using memory to get in touch with your senses. And you can sign up here to receive more quirky and fresh ideas on dealing with problems and caring for yourself and yours.
Don’t hesitate to reach out to me if you want counselling support that a blog post can’t provide. And of course, please do add in COMMENTS BELOW your very own alternative self-care ideas.
Main image by Team Fredi on Unsplash. Protest image by Zoe VandeWater on Unsplash Grandma/grandson image by CDC on Unsplash