There’s no denying that self-care is has become a buzzword in the wellness world.
But take it from your bank account, what we’ve come to accept as self-care — from getting a massage to seeing a therapist — is rarely free.
There is a no-cost option that can help you feel balanced: feeling our feelings.
Taking the time to identify your feeling and develop your emotional intelligence can help you quickly kick stress to the curb.
“Emotional intelligence is the ability to recognize our feelings, emotions and moods to better identify what we are feeling and why,” says Jen Shirkani, author of “Ego vs. EQ” and “Choose Resilience.”
Shirkani emphasizes the importance of being able to “channel our emotions to respond in healthy, intelligent ways rather than allowing our emotions to take over and undermine us.”
Here are four cost-free ways to take good emotional care of yourself.
1. Practice gratitude
Taking stock of your life and what you have is a great path to self-care. Plus, gratitude is more than a thank-you note to yourself. Practicing gratitude allows you to be humble, according to Grace Suh, a mental health counselor based in New York.
“Humbleness is the key in gratitude, having different perspectives in life, and being able to see the source of generosity or unearned privileges,” Suh says.
She recommends spending time in nature, journaling and taking the time to reflect on what makes you feel gratitude. (A cheap, local pizza place totally counts.)
2. Dare to hope
Hope is both an incredibly powerful feeling — and a terrifying one. It’s all to easy to let hope be countered by with the expectation that we’ll be let down. But that’s giving hope a bad name.
“Despite trying circumstances, belief that things can change can actually motivate you to change. Hope is empowerment,” Suh says.
Suh recommends anticipating a positive future. Try keeping a goal journal, in which you write the wildest, most outlandish dreams you can think of. Once you admit to yourself what you truly want, you might be surprised how you find the ambition to achieve it.
3. Validate yourself
Can you guess whose opinion of what you do matters the most? Look in the mirror if you need a clue.
Giving yourself validation for difficult decisions you’ve made or the times you gave it your best is just as important as celebrating your winning moments.
Validation also can be a way of giving yourself permission to be human.
“At the end of the day, spend some time reflecting on both positive and negative interactions and ask yourself what made them feel good or bad,” Shirkani says. Being aware of how individual situations made you feel allows you to grow emotionally.
Of course, you’ll also seek validation from others; it’s only natural. But by identifying who you’re seeking validation from and why, you can gain insight into your needs and motivations.
4. Welcome relaxation
What’s relaxing is different for everyone. Whether it’s putting your phone in airplane mode (with a heads-up to friends and family), going hiking or having quality time with friends, the most important thing to remember about relaxing is that you deserve to do it — often. In fact, making relaxation a regular practice lays the foundation for all self-care. That, and being in tune with your emotions, go a long way toward creating a healthier, happier you.