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In a culture where we are bombarded with work, deadlines and overwhelming choices, it’s too easy to sacrifice our health in order to get things done. As a result, we’re overworked and in constant pain – both emotionally and physically. But how come we don’t emphasize the importance of how emotional and mental stress can lead to physical pain? There are numerous studies that show a connection between depression and physical ailments (like these two articles from Healthline and MentalHelp.net).
For years, I neglected my mental health and experienced chronic pain as a result: throughout my 10+ years of struggling with an eating disorder and severe depression, I suffered from migraines, adrenal and muscular fatigue, insomnia, back pains, digestive sensitivities, stomach ulcers – the list goes on. And although I am healed, I still prioritize my mental health because if I don’t, I spiral downward quickly.
Because mental illnesses can manifest in a number of different behavioral symptoms, it can be very hard to diagnose, which leaves many people to suffer unknowingly. According to the National Institute of Mental Illnesses, approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. (46.6 million) experience mental illness each year. That’s roughly the same amount as the 48 million people that get sick from foodborne illnesses each year. Mental illnesses are just about as common as getting the stomach flu, so there’s no need to feel ashamed about it.
But how can we prioritize mental wellness without going broke? Is there even such a thing as affordable mental health care? Although mental health care can be expensive, there are many low-cost ways to take care of your mental health.
#1: Eliminate Big Sources of Stress
When we’re stressed and overwhelmed, taking a step back to identify and eliminate stressors can be one of the most effective ways to shift into a more positive space. Write a list of things or even people in your life that are causing you stress, then figure out how to remove or replace them with something better. Does your job make you miserable (this is more common than you think), and can you look for a more rewarding one? Do your friends make you feel insecure more than at peace? Is the relationship you’re in fulfilling? These are all things you’ve probably thought about but never took action on.
Although this is the most obvious step, it’s always avoided due to the aversion to change. Depression and even scientific causes like our body’s inertia cause us to be resistant to change, and thus, many refuse to be proactive about changing their situation. However, doing some spring cleaning on who and what is taking away from your previous energy is a huge step in the right direction – even if it’s a painful one.
I know you don’t want to. But moving your body can get the blood pumping into your brain and send endorphins running through your system, causing you to feel instantly happier after a workout.
And here’s an important tip: don’t sign up for an annual gym membership if you don’t like the gym. Exercise isn’t just a way to stay physically fit, but a way for us to take our minds off everyday stressors. Find a physical hobby that you enjoy so that you can stick to it and benefit from long-term results. If you need mentally challenging activities, consider a sport like tennis or basketball. Kickboxing, Muay Thai or Jiu Jitsu can work out your aggression and pent-up frustration. Running or yoga can calm anxious minds that can’t seem to relax.
Here are some of my favorite affordable ways to workout:
Free Fitness Youtube Channels
- Bad Yogi TV
- Ekhart Yoga
- Body Positive Yoga
- Popsugar Fitness
- The Run Experience
- Running Music
- The Fitness Marshall
Free/Low-Cost Fitness Classes and Gym Access
- YMCA: Check with your local YMCA for fees
- Fitness 19: $15/month single club, $21.99/month all-access
- Planet Fitness: $10/month single club, $19.99/month all-access
- Crunch: $11.95/mo single club, $19.95 all-access
Budget-Friendly And Engaging Fitness Apps
- 7 Minute Workout: Free
- Aaptiv: $14.99/mo
- Asana Rebel: $37.99/3 months
- Daily Yoga: Free, $3.99 – $9.99/mo for paid subscription
- Verv Weight Loss For Running: $29/year
- Zombies, Run!: Free, $5.99 – $7.99/mo for paid subscription
#3: Online Counseling
In-person counseling costs an average of $50 – $240 per session, which not many people can afford. If you want to see a licensed professional but don’t want insurance co-pays or pricier out-of-pocket expenses, I highly recommend online counseling since it’s an equally effective form of affordable mental health care.
Online counseling is convenient because you don’t have to go into a physical office: you can message your licensed counselor through a phone app or desktop website, hop on a video or a phone call and have your sessions in the comfort of your own home. And if you don’t like your therapist, you can easily switch therapists without wasting time, money or gas.
The two most popular online counseling services are BetterHelp and Talkspace; however, I recommend BetterHelp since it’s more affordable than Talkspace ($40 – $70/week vs. $49 – $79/week) and has more therapists and communication options to choose from. I worked with a BetterHelp therapist for over one year and it was truly a life-changing experience for me.
Additionally, when I lost my job, I was qualified for a discount on my monthly subscription. You can also save a considerable amount of money by opting out of all other communications except for messaging.
#4: Seek a Training Institute or Non-Profit Counseling Services
You can save money on in-person counseling by visiting training institutes. Psychology students offer low-cost services on a sliding scale (which can sometimes be free) to gain field experience prior to certification. These graduate students are also supervised by licensed psychologists, so you are in good hands.
You can also do a quick Google search and look for non-profit family counseling services in your area. Similar to training institutes, there are many non-profit organizations that offer counseling like the YMCA, FSCC, FSACA, and more.
#5: Take a Probiotic to Heal Your Gut
You’d be surprised to learn that approximately one-third of patients with depression do not respond to SSRI medication. If you’ve had ineffective experiences with antidepressants or are hesitant to ask your doctor for a prescription, try a probiotic supplement. According to Psychiatry Advisor, the interplay of mood and gastrointestinal dysfunction shows that feeding behavior and nutrition havea a direct impact on stress, anxiety, and depression. The intestine is complete with its own nervous system, which includes the same neurotransmitters that the brain also generates (like acetylcholine and serotonin).
Probiotics are not a replacement for antidepressants and professional counseling, but might be worth trying for a month or two to see if there are changes in your mood, appetite, and overall health. Consider a probiotic with multiple strains of bacteria and a higher number of colony-forming units (CFU) for maximum benefits, such as this 20-strain probiotic by NewRhythm on Amazon.
A note on taking probiotics: Be aware that if you have poor digestion, you might experience active bowel movements over the first few days due to the good bacteria flushing out toxins from your system.
#6: Try Your Hand at Meditation
Did you know that meditation provides the nervous system with a rest that is five times deeper than sleep? Another obvious yet ignored solution, meditation helps with reducing stress and anxiety and also lengthens your attention span and patience. Over time, you may also gain a heightened self-awareness which can help you become a proactive problem-solver.
Just like exercise, there are many ways to meditate. The key to incorporating it into your daily regimen is to find a method that works for you. Here are a few of my favorites you can try:
- Concentration: close your eyes and focus on your breath for 10 minutes when you feel anxious or stressed
- Hypnotherapy (Listen to Brian Weiss’s amazing Past Life Regression as well as Michael Sealey’s Let Go of Negative Attachments and Dauchsy’s Self-Love before bedtime or upon waking up)
- Yoga (refer to the yoga apps and Youtube channels I mentioned in #2)
- Prayer and devotional reading
Additionally, you can use spiritual tools like a Tibetan singing bowl or crystals (Check out my Crystal Guide to Emotional Healing) to aid you during meditation. But the bottom line is: spiritual hygiene is critical for your wellness, and practicing meditation on a regular basis can help you feel a lot more calm, collected, and peaceful.
#7: Start a Gratitude Journal
Although writing your thoughts on paper can be cathartic, it’s often not a solution-oriented activity that moves you into a more positive mind space. Gratitude journals are a great way to focus on building positivity. Simply write down everything you are grateful for that day. It can be challenging at first, so start with things as simple as being grateful for the sun, being alive, or having two legs. Over time, the exercise will become second nature.
Keep the journal by your bedside table and be sure to use it right before bedtime so that you can end your day on a positive note.
If you hate writing, you can also try some of these apps:
#8: Read a Self-Help Book
Self-help books are the most affordable form of effective therapy. They’re usually written by licensed professionals, which means you can get over 100+ pages of professional and profound advice for even less than a co-pay for a single therapy visit.
Here are some of my favorite self-help books that have a permanent spot on my bookshelf:
- Feeling Good
- You Can Heal Your Life
- The Body Keeps the Score
- The Power of Now
- Make Your Bed
- The Secret
- The Four Agreements
- The Miracle Morning
- The 5 Love Languages
- True Love
- Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends On It
- Healing Your Hungry Heart
#9: Listen to Podcasts and Videos
Podcasts and Youtube videos are a great way to receive enlightenment without paying a dime – it’s one of the most underrated affordable mental health care options instantly available. I often listen to my favorite soul-enriching podcasts while I walk my dog every day and watch Youtube videos on TV while I cook or work.
iPhone users can download the Podcast app and Android users can download Podbean or Stitcher to listen to some of these podcasts. Additionally, you can go to the podcast show’s website and listen to it directly:
- The Lively Show
- Kristen and Ch(ill)
- The Life Coach School
- Expanded by To Be Magnetic
- Relationship Advice
- Healing Generations
- The Struggle Bus
- Oprah’s SuperSoul Conversations
- Relationship Advice
- Manifestation Babe
#10: Create a Self-Care Regimen
Schedule some time for yourself each day to do something you love or make you feel better. Even 30 minutes or an hour of your day to indulge can make a huge difference in your mental wellness. Perhaps draw a hot bath and put on a face mask or curl up in your pajamas with a glass of wine and a good book. It doesn’t have to be expensive! Just make sure that this is a time you can enjoy completely uninterrupted.
Alternatively, you can start a self-care journal to hold yourself accountable and commit to your routine.
What ways can you try today to start focusing on your mental wellness? Let’s chat in the comments below. Don’t forget to follow me on Instagram and subscribe to my newsletter for more affordable mental health tips. Remember, if it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you.
More Emotional Wellness Posts:
- My 10-Year Battle With An Eating Disorder
- What is Occupational Burnout? 5 Ways to Combat Work-Related Stress
- 10 Low-Cost Options For Affordable Mental Health Care
- How I Use Essential Oils For Depression and Emotional Wellness
- Creating an Easy At-Home Spa Ritual