At one of the lowest points in my mental health I was also really poor. I could barely afford to pay my rent every month, I’d take loans from friends to cover the difference, I would search my room for change to pay the bus to get to work. I had very little and the little I did have went on coping mechanisms which didn’t help me overcome the deep depression I was in.
I didn’t see it at the time but the deprivation I was experiencing in terms of my finances was having a big impact on my ability to feel deserving of self-care. Deprivation comes in many forms; love, food, finances, opportunity. Not having what you need or want, especially from a young age, can have a really negative impact on your outlook and ability to look after yourself. The deprivation I experienced as a child made me believe I didn’t deserve good things. I wasn’t good enough to deserve love or comfort or to achieve. Everything I had was always tainted. But not believing I deserved those things didn’t stop me needing them. Psychologically everyone needs to be comforted and loved, by others, and by themselves. But having no money was a real barrier to getting the things I needed, my negative coping mechanism worked to silence my needs and desires but strengthened my feelings of worthlessness.
It would take years for me to allow myself to have good things. When I did “treat myself” I always punished myself later or felt hugely guilty for spending what I had on something frivolous. As frustrating as it is to hear when you are at your lowest, it takes time, it takes repetition, you need to remind yourself that no matter how terrible you think you are – you deserve to be loved and comforted.
Finding those comforting things is much harder when you have no money because you have to think creatively as to how to do it and when you’re depressed your creativity isn’t all that high! But remember continuing to beat yourself up and avoid the things that will make you happy doesn’t help it just perpetuates it! You feel awful, you can’t afford to do anything nice, you feel worse, you beat yourself up for not having saved/being able to get a better paid job/ being able to get over it, it’s a pretty shitty place to be.
The first and easiest (but scariest) self-care on a budget tip is… tell someone.
I was always telling people I had no money, they knew I lived in a nasty cheap flat but they didn’t know I was having panic attacks. They didn’t realise I was feeling so wretched that I was suicidal.
Self-care is about looking after yourself and a key step in looking after yourself is letting other people know you are struggling to do it alone. It isn’t easy to tell people you know and you might want to call a helpline like the Samaritans or your GP. Whether you call a stranger, your parent or your doctor, tell yourself this is you looking after yourself. This is self-care, it might not feel like a treat and it won’t change how you feel immediately but it is a really important step.
I still hate talking to my doctor about my mental health but I know after all the therapy and opportunities to try new more positive coping mechanisms it’s an important part of self-care. As is telling people. I didn’t want people to know because I didn’t want to be pitied but really I deprived the people who loved me the chance to do something nice for me which could have helped me.
Do something silly
Being depressed really, really sucks. Your self-esteem is non-existent and being around people, at least for me, made me so anxious I felt exhausted after it. Depression and anxiety have a physical effect on you, it affects your nervous system, your muscles tense up and your immune system takes a hit too!
When you’re in a real crisis going to the gym, jogging or even just walking round the park can be too much. So just find a way to move your body which makes you smile, dance to a song that you like, try doing a forward roll again, do finger painting! Just consciously use your body in a way that makes you happy. Whether for five minutes or fifty just move around, you don’t have to leave your room. Just move around and if your confident and have the space maybe find a youtube video.
If you have an idea of something to cheer you up try and add it into your routine, dance for five minutes while brushing your teeth? It will help to ease the stress in your body which will have a knock-on effect on your mood.
Allow yourself to have nice things
I always told myself I couldn’t afford nice clothes or to go out anywhere so I felt trapped. I told myself it was shallow to want to spend money on gigs or clothes or a haircut but really I wasn’t allowing myself to do the things I enjoyed. Yes if you have no money you can’t go wild and buy everything you want all the time but that doesn’t mean you can’t go meet a friend and have a coffee and some cake. Budget for it and do it, you’ll feel better for not having to feel guilty and doing something nice with someone else.
For some more info on deprivation and psychology check out these podcasts for a little inspiration
If you have any tips for self-care on a budget then let me know! Always looking for new ways to look after myself!