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In today’s fast-paced world where work, deadlines, and endless choices bombard us constantly, it’s all too easy to neglect our well-being in the pursuit of getting things done. As a result, our fatigued brains have little to no energy left to come up with a strategy that can effectively put an end to our stressors, keeping us stuck in a cycle of burnout and mental unwellness. And it doesn’t stop there: research from Healthline and MentalHelp.net shows that long-term stress and depression can even manifest as physical symptoms.
I know this firsthand: after years of neglecting my mental health, I experienced chronic pain that plagued me throughout my battle with an eating disorder and severe depression. Migraines, fatigue, insomnia, back pain, digestive issues, you name it. It was a long list. Thankfully, I’ve made progress, but I’ve learned to prioritize my mental well-being because I know how quickly things can spiral if I don’t.
The statistics speak for themselves. The National Institute of Mental Illnesses reports that approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. (that’s 46.6 million people) experience mental illness each year. That’s almost as many as those who get sick from foodborne illnesses. Mental health issues are just as common as catching the stomach flu! The challenge lies in the fact that mental illnesses can present themselves in various behavioral symptoms, making diagnosis difficult and leaving many people suffering unknowingly.
But here’s the question: Can we prioritize mental wellness without breaking the bank? Is affordable mental health care even possible? While it can be costly, there are still plenty of low-cost ways to take care of your mental health; you just need to think outside the box.
#1: Eliminate Big Sources of Stress
Taking a moment to step back from the overwhelming chaos of life and pausing to identify your stressors can be a game-changer. Chronic stressors have a way of perpetuating themselves, keeping us trapped in an unending cycle. So, why not take a breather and reflect on what’s causing you stress? Make a list of the things (or even people) in your life that are weighing you down. Once you have a clear picture, it’s time to devise an action plan to put an end to this draining cycle. Maybe it’s time to consider a more fulfilling job if your current one is making you miserable (trust me, it’s more common than you think). Are your friends contributing to your insecurities instead of bringing you peace? And what about your relationship? Is it truly fulfilling?
These are questions that might have crossed your mind at some point, but factors like burnout, depression, and even more physiological processes like our body’s natural resistance to change can make it difficult to take action. It’s not uncommon for us to feel stuck in a state of inertia, where the thought of making changes feels overwhelming or even impossible. These barriers can prevent many people from moving forward and taking the necessary steps to improve their situations. However, it’s important to recognize these obstacles and understand that they can be overcome. With determination and a willingness to challenge resistance, change is possible, and it often leads to positive transformations in our lives.
When you’re constantly stressed out and exhausted, the idea of exercising may be the last thing on your mind. However, moving your body can have remarkable benefits. It gets the blood pumping into your brain and releases endorphins, instantly boosting your mood and making you feel happier after a workout.
Here’s an important tip: if you’re not a fan of the gym, don’t force yourself to sign up for an annual membership. Exercise is not solely about physical fitness; it can also serve as a distraction from everyday stressors. It’s crucial to find a physical hobby that brings you joy and allows you to stick with it, reaping long-term rewards. If you’re in need of mentally engaging activities, consider sports like tennis or basketball. For those seeking an outlet to release aggression and pent-up frustration, boxing, kickboxing, Muay Thai, or Jiu Jitsu can be incredibly beneficial. On the other hand, if you struggle with an anxious mind that finds it difficult to relax, running or practicing yoga can help calm your thoughts.
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
- Nike Training Club: Free
- 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
Online counseling offers an affordable and effective alternative to traditional in-person sessions. You can conveniently connect with licensed professionals through a phone app or website, receiving support from the comfort of your home. Among the top online counseling services, BetterHelp and Talkspace stand out. However, I highly recommend BetterHelp for its affordability and wider range of therapists and communication options. With BetterHelp, you can expect to pay $48 per week, whereas Talkspace can range from $55 to $103 per week. Personally, I worked with a BetterHelp therapist for over a year, and it truly transformed my life.
When I faced a period of unemployment, I qualified for a discount on my monthly subscription. You can also save a significant amount of money by choosing to communicate solely through messaging, opting out of any additional forms of communication.
#4: Seek a Training Institute or Non-Profit Counseling Services
To save money on counseling, consider visiting training institutes where psychology students provide low-cost services on a sliding scale. Some may even offer free sessions as part of their field experience before certification. Rest assured, these graduate students are supervised by licensed psychologists, ensuring quality care.
Another option is to conduct a quick Google search for non-profit family counseling services in your area. Organizations like the YMCA, FSACA, and others often offer counseling services at affordable rates, akin to training institutes.
Additionally, platforms such as Open Counseling, Psychology Today, or Open Path Collective can help you find nearby licensed counselors who offer affordable services. Explore these resources to access the care you need without straining your budget.
#5: Take a Probiotic to Heal Your Gut
It may surprise you to know that about one-third of individuals with depression do not respond to SSRI medication. If you have had unsatisfactory experiences with antidepressants or are hesitant to seek a prescription, there is another avenue to explore: probiotic supplements. According to Psychiatry Advisor, there is a significant connection between mood, gastrointestinal dysfunction, and the impact of feeding behavior and nutrition on stress, anxiety, and depression. The gut possesses its own nervous system, which produces neurotransmitters such as acetylcholine and serotonin, just like the brain.
It’s important to note that probiotics are not intended to replace antidepressants or professional counseling. However, they might be worth considering for a month or two to observe any changes in mood, appetite, and overall well-being. Opt for a probiotic with multiple strains of bacteria and a higher number of colony-forming units (CFU) to maximize potential benefits. For instance, you could try this 20-strain probiotic by NewRhythm on Amazon.
When taking probiotics, be aware that if you have poor digestion, you may experience increased bowel movements in the initial days. This occurrence is a result of the beneficial bacteria eliminating toxins from your system.
#6: Try Your Hand at Mindfulness and Meditation
It’s remarkable to know that meditation offers the nervous system a level of rest that is five times deeper than sleep. Often overlooked, this practice can effectively reduce stress and anxiety while improving your attention span and patience. With time, you might even develop a heightened self-awareness, empowering you to become a proactive problem-solver.
Similar to exercise, meditation offers various approaches to suit different individuals. The key to incorporating it into your daily routine is finding a method that resonates with you. Here are a few of my personal favorites that you can try:
- Concentration: Take a moment to close your eyes and focus on your breath for 10 minutes whenever you feel anxious or stressed.
- Hypnotherapy: Listen to Brian Weiss’s enlightening Past Life Regression, Michael Sealey’s Let Go of Negative Attachments, or Dauchsy’s Self-Love before bedtime or upon waking up.
- Yoga: Refer to the yoga apps and YouTube channels I mentioned earlier for guided sessions.
- Prayer and devotional reading.
In addition, you can incorporate tools like a Tibetan singing bowl or crystals (check out my Crystal Guide to Emotional Healing) to enhance your meditation experience. Remember, mindfulness is essential for your overall well-being, and committing to a regular meditation practice can cultivate a sense of calm, composure, and inner peace.
#7: Start a Gratitude Journal
Did you know that practicing gratitude can have profound and lasting effects on your brain? A study conducted at UC Berkeley revealed that not only does gratitude help us become more resilient by shifting our focus towards positive aspects, but it also yields physiological advantages such as strengthening the immune system, reducing blood pressure, and alleviating symptoms of illness. Moreover, it enhances our relationships and boosts our ability to navigate life’s challenges with resilience.
Gratitude journals provide a practical and sustainable way to cultivate a positive mindset in just a few minutes a day. Simply jot down everything you are grateful for each day, keeping it simple and concise. It only takes 3-5 minutes for this powerful journaling exercise. In the beginning, it might feel challenging, but you can start by appreciating the sun, being alive, or having the ability to walk on two legs. As you continue this practice, it will become second nature to you.
Keep your gratitude journal by your bedside table, and make it a habit to write in it right before bedtime. This way, you can end your day on a positive note, reflecting on the blessings and moments of gratitude you have experienced.
If traditional pen and notebook journaling isn’t your cup of tea, there are also gratitude journaling apps available that you can explore.
#8: Read a Self-Help Book
Self-help books can offer an extremely affordable and effective avenue for therapy. Usually written by licensed professionals, these books provide you with over 100+ pages of expert advice at a fraction of the cost of a single therapy visit.
Here are a few of my favorite self-help books that hold a permanent place on my bookshelf:
- How to Do the Work
- 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: Use a Guided Therapy Workbook for Personal Growth
For those seeking personal growth and emotional well-being, guided therapy workbooks can be a true game-changer. These workbooks are filled with exercises and thought-provoking prompts that help you delve into your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. By following the structured approach they provide, you can gain valuable insights and develop practical coping strategies.
Here are a few workbooks that have been instrumental in my own journey of self-discovery and growth:
- The Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Workbook: Practical DBT Exercises for Learning Mindfulness, Interpersonal Effectiveness, Emotion Regulation, and Distress Tolerance
- How to Meet Your Self: The Workbook for Self-Discovery
- The Interpersonal Problems Workbook: Act to End Painful Relationship Patterns
- The Set Boundaries Workbook: Practical Exercises for Understanding Your Needs and Setting Healthy Limits
- Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: The Workbook: A Toolkit for Editing Your Story and Changing Your Life
- The Complex PTSD Workbook: A Mind-Body Approach to Regaining Emotional Control and Becoming Whole
- Workbook for The Body Keeps The Score: Brain, Mind and Body in The Healing of Trauma
- Self-Love Workbook for Women: Release Self-Doubt, Build Self-Compassion, and Embrace Who You Are
#10: Listen to Podcasts and Videos
Listening to podcasts and YouTube videos is a great way to expand your knowledge of psychology and gain valuable insights, all without spending a dime. This accessible and underrated form of affordable mental health care is readily available at your fingertips. Personally, I enjoy listening to soul-enriching podcasts during my daily walks with my dog and watching YouTube videos on my TV while cooking or working.
If you have an iPhone, you can download the Podcast app, while Android users can opt for Podbean or Stitcher to access a wide range of podcasts. Alternatively, you can visit the podcast show’s website directly to tune in and benefit from their content.
- 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
#11: Create a Self-Care Regimen
Carving out time for yourself each day is essential for decompressing and maintaining good mental health. Engaging in hobbies can be therapeutic, providing an outlet to release emotions, while exercise helps release physical tension. Even dedicating just 30 minutes to self-care can make a significant difference in your overall well-being. Consider activities like drawing a relaxing bath, applying a face mask, or simply cozying up in your pajamas with a glass of wine and a captivating book. Remember, self-care doesn’t have to be expensive; it’s about finding moments where you can decompress and fully enjoy uninterrupted bliss.
Alternatively, starting a self-care journal can help you stay accountable and committed 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
- Budget-Friendly Ways to Create an At-Home Spa
- How I Use Essential Oils For Depression and Emotional Wellness
- How to Use Crystals For Emotional Healing
- 10 Low-Cost Options For Affordable Mental Health Care