Recession-proof Self-Care

If you’ve known me for long enough, you’re aware that I have one very concrete goal in life: weekly massage. When the day comes that I can afford to hit up my local spa every Sunday for 90 minutes of essential-oil-infused, deep-tissue bliss, I’ll know I’ve really made it.

Unfortunately, now is not that time. Every few weeks I can maybe manage one of those 5 minute neck rubs at the noxious smelling nail salon, but other than that, I just don’t have it in the budget.

One of my go-to excuses when I’m stuck in a self-pitying funk is that it’s just too expensive to practice self-care. I mean, when I think of the things that make me feel relaxed and happy, my mind goes straight to massage and shopping for new clothes. Or shoes. Or anything offered at Anthropologie.

But that’s a croc! I mean, it really is just an excuse. It’s me being too lazy to come up with more affordable, more readily available self-care activities. The great news is, there are so many ideas that fit this bill. So I’ve started a running list of self-care ideas that I keep on my cellphone. That way, when start to feel dark and stormy, I have an abundance of strategies right at my fingertips to help me see the light.

Creative self-care: makeup play time!

One of my favorite ways to practice self-care is to bust out my old art bin filled with a makeup collection several years strong (a lifetime ago, I was on my way to becoming a makeup artist). I take a seat at my heirloom vanity, where I imagine my grandmother sat and looked at herself many times before, and I just… start to play. The key here is that I’m not getting ready to go anywhere – no one may see the final product, and no one needs to. It’s just me and my brushes as I start to paint, using my face as the palette. Sometimes, makeup play time turns into imaginary photo-shoot time, wherein I take a few selfies and tinker with them in a photo-editing program. When it’s time to take the makeup off, I mindfully massage coconut oil into my skin (it’s a great makeup remover), and then wipe it all away with a warm washcloth, moving gently over my face and décolletage with a great deal of care.

So that’s my makeup play time idea. True, it’s a little image-centric, so it might not work for all people or all moods; but the point is, it’s totally free. You don’t even have to leave the house!

I have a client who told me that nothing feels as good as changing the sheets on her bed. “It takes a little bit of effort,” she explained, “but when it’s done, and I snuggle into those crisp, clean, new sheets…” She paused. “I feel like I’m in heaven.” This absolutely blew me away. What a totally creative idea for self-care! And most of us think of changing our bed sheets as a chore. I left that session realizing that my options for creative self-care were truly infinite.

Other affordable self-care ideas include:

  • Create a friendship pyramid. Though I’m fairly certain this idea originated as a social skills worksheet for the special ed classroom, I think it’s a fab idea for us all. Grab some paper and a pencil and start filing in your friendship pyramid as a reminder that you are surrounded and supported by loved ones, friends, family, and community.
  • Make some music. Pick up that dusty guitar, plug in the ol’ keyboard, grab the nearest kazoo or even a red solo cup, and start making noise. The key here is that there are no expectations. Open your mouth and see what comes out! Express yo-self.
  • Give yourself a non-manicure. Listen to some soothing tunes while you remove any chipped polish, clip, file, and buff your nails. Next, add a few drops of essential oil to a big bowl of warm water and soak your hands for a few minutes – dare to get pruny. Afterwards, slowly and methodically massage an oil of your choice into your fingertips and cuticle beds. Take your time with this. Hell, massage all the knuckles as well. You can do this anywhere, and it feels amazing. When you’re all done, wipe away the oil with a warm washcloth and thank your hands for all of the amazing work they do.
  • Pick up an affordable hobby. One that has nothing to do with your job or any other pursuit that makes you feel stressed. Something that’s yours alone. Years ago, before I started this blog, I began tinkering with photo-editing programs and became somewhat of a graphic design enthusiast. It felt totally enriching and really helped me to zen-out. Now, of course, that passion has become a part of what I do here at MindBodyPlate, so on to something new… perhaps I’ll teach myself to knit!
  • Fall down the inspirational quote rabbit hole. Go ahead and Google the term inspirational quote. Oh, just do it. Click on something – anything – and start reading. Found one that you really like? Copy the name of whoever said it, and next, do a Google search for all of their quotes! You can go on and on like this. As long as you watch your posture and jaw tension while you’re parked in front of the computer screen, this free activity can be absolutely invigorating and uplifting.
  • Massage your face. The first time I pressed my fingertips into my cheeks and jaw line, it was a revelation. The human face has at least 42 different muscles, and they get used all day long! For most of us, facial tension is at an all-time high, and a little bit of love up there can go a long way. There are a multitude of tips and how-tos for facial self-massage online, but you needn’t even look at them. Just wash your hands and start poking around. What feels good? What doesn’t? What feels not-so-good but it’s probably just because of major tension so you should keep going anyway? Play with different strokes, different rhythms, using different parts of the hand. Use oil or don’t. Whatever anxiety you may have about clogging your pores will be vastly overshadowed by how amazing you feel afterward. I’m telling you – don’t hesitate. Try it today!

Do you have any recession-proof ideas for self-care? Let me know what works for you. Let’s start a virtual database of easy self-care ideas!

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Navy Beans with Feta, Tomato, and Basil

navy beans with feta

Spring has sprung here in New York City, but it’s still cool enough to enjoy a warm, creamy dish like these navy beans with feta, tomato, and basil. I ate them today in front of my open window, enjoying the light breeze and marveling at how something could taste so comforting and so fresh.

navy beans with feta close up

With garlicky-sweet grape tomatoes and salty, luxurious feta, these beans are reminiscent of a creamy pasta dish, but without the pasta. It’s super simple to make, requires just one pan, and only calls for a few ingredients.

Don’t have any basil on hand? Chop up some arugula or kale instead. The greens do more than add color, they really elevate the flavor and give it a crisp brightness.

navy beans stove top collage

Navy Beans with Feta, Tomato, and Basil

Ingredients:

  • 1-2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small clove of garlic (or 1/2 large clove), minced
  • 3/4 c grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 c canned or pre-cooked navy beans
  • 1/4 c feta, crumbled (more or less, depending on the severity of your cheese addiction)
  • 1/4 c basil, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preparation:

  • In a large saucepan, heat 1-2 Tbsp of extra virgin olive oil over a low flame.
  • Add the halved grape tomatoes and the garlic, stir, and let them cook over low heat for anywhere between 15-20 minutes, stirring only occasionally, until the tomato skins are crinkled, the juices are gurgling, and the garlic is golden.
  • Add the navy beans, and increase the heat just a tad, stirring occasionally until the beans are warm, about 5 more minutes.
  • Add salt and pepper to taste, but don’t overdo it on the salt! Feta is pretty salty on its own.
  • Turn off the heat, and immediately add the feta, stirring constantly so that it melts a bit and incorporates fully.
  • Toss in a small handful of chopped basil, stir, and serve warm.

Serves one as a main dish, or two as a side dish

navy beans and window

Green Tahini Dip

This dip was inspired by an offering from my favorite Astoria restaurant, Mezze Place. This family owned and operated spot cooks up dee-LISH Mediterranean fare in a romantic café atmosphere. I love the owners and order their grilled halloumi salad with beets and quinoa on an all too frequent basis… But I digress.

Among their to-die-for spreads is the “green tahini,” a creamy, dreamy dip featuring cilantro and sesame, served with fresh baked pita and house made tapenade. I created my version on the fly, so it’s pretty different, but no less delicious. It stays true to the two main flavors in a format that is vegan and very easy to make raw!

What’s so great about sesame seeds? Well, they can help burn fat by activating liver enzymes that break down fatty acids. They also reduce cholesterol in the blood and the liver. They’re rich in minerals such as iron, magnesium, and potassium, and they pack more protein than any other nut or seed. Though very high in calcium, sesame seeds also contain oxalic acid, which makes the calcium less bioavailable. No biggie – I’ll take the high protein and the ability to burn fat, thank you very much.

I love any recipe that calls for just two steps: toss it in the food processor, and turn it on. This is one of those recipes. And I am not kidding – the flavor is out of this world! Eat it as a dip with whole wheat pita, seedy crackers, savory mochi, or fresh veggies; spread it on whole grain bread for a seriously scrumptious sandwich; or add a scoop to a simple salad.

Green Tahini Dip

Raw / Vegan / Gluten Free / Soy Free

Ingredients:

  • 1 c organic hulled sesame seeds (feel free to toast them if you’re not keeping it raw)
  • 2 handfuls fresh cilantro, rinsed and dried
  • The juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 c water
  • 1/4 c cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup raw coconut aminos*
  • 1 tbsp hot pepper sesame oil or toasted sesame oil (omit if you’re keeping it raw)

Preparation:

Toss all the ingredients into a food processor. Pulse the mixture at first, and then blend at the highest speed for upwards of 15 minutes, or until you’ve reached your desired smoothness. I took a few breaks to scrape down the sides and give the motor a rest.

*Be careful if you’re substituting wheat free tamari or Bragg’s liquid aminos for the coconut aminos, because I find them to be much more salty. The coconut aminos offer a sweet tang that really adds great dimension to this dip.

Makes about 1.5 cups

References

Bowden, Jonny, Ph.D., C.N.S., (2007). The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth: The surprising, unbiased truth about what you should eat and why. Gloucester, MA: Fair Winds Press.