The Five-Minute Self-Care Activity That Can Change A Woman's Entire Day

When we say the words "self-care," what comes to mind? Is it a long, luxurious bubble bath with essential oils and a glass of wine? Is it a day at the spa with absolutely no responsibilities except deciding which color to paint your nails? Or are you just looking for a way to start and end your day a little less stressed than you are 24/7? If you're anything like us, you see these "perfect self-care hacks" as you scroll TikTok after a long day of being a human being and you think, "There just aren't enough hours in a day to take care of everything that needs to be done, and still have time for self-care."

Influencers on social media might make it seem like the only way to practice self-care is to spend money on every gadget and gizmo aplenty, but Women's Health reminds us to, "Nix the idea that there's a perfect or correct way to do it." There are plenty of ways to take care of yourself in small ways, every day, for no cost at all. All it will take is a little time and focus — we're talking five minutes of your day, girl, you got this.

This self-care trick won't blow your budget

Those of us who cannot afford the latest trendy product and excursion claiming to reinvigorate and de-stress need to still find ways to practice self-care without breaking the bank. Psychotherapist Kathleen Dahlen deVos told HuffPost, "Spending excessive money or funds we don't have in the name of 'self-care' can actually be distressing, destructive and work against our mental and emotional wellbeing." So, what should those of us without a ton of disposable income do to relax? Well, for starters, let's take a deep breath.

Alexandra Elle, author of "Growing in Gratitude," shared her best tip for cost-effective self-care that you can practice anywhere, at any time. "Take five minutes to decompress every day," she told Women's Health. "It's important to take time to breathe." Seems simple enough, right? We breathe every day, all the time, so what makes this practice any different? The trick is breath-control and mindfulness. Free yourself from distractions, find a nice, quiet place to breathe in through your nose, hold, and breathe out through your mouth. There are guided meditations all over YouTube and helpful breathing and meditation apps that make deep, focused breathing easy and purposeful. Or you can guide yourself whenever you need to pause and de-stress — after all, oxygen is free, right?

Being mindful can lead to a healthier, happier lifestyle

Okay, so you started breathing, but now you notice your mind is racing and won't quiet down long enough for you to relax, then your stomach starts growling and you remember you skipped breakfast, again. That's okay! Your body is trying to tell you something, and you should listen. Alexandra Elle told Women's Health, "[Self-care] can look as simple as putting your phone (or any other device) away for five minutes to just sit with your own thoughts." A five minute check-in with yourself — with no distractions — might be just what your body needs to maintain a healthy, balanced mentality. This practice is called mindfulness, and it's been around for thousands of years (via Forbes).

Mindfulness is the practice "of paying attention to the present moment with an accepting, nonjudgmental disposition," as noted by The New York Times. Your mind might still be racing, but the goal is to just listen, so you are aware of what your body needs. Once you know and have listened without judgment, you will be more likely to take care of those needs. You can practice mindfulness anywhere: at work, while running errands, right when you wake up, anytime you feel a little overwhelmed or anxious. According to Forbes, practicing mindfulness — even for just five minutes — can reduce anxiety, depression, body dysmorphia, and can lead to a healthier, happier brain and lifestyle.

Making the time for self-care isn't as difficult as you might think

Before you dedicate an entire weekend (and an entire paycheck) to self-care soaps, scrubs, and spa days, start small by breathing and practicing mindfulness. Begin allowing yourself time to experience self-care, even if it's only for five minutes. For most of us, we actually do have the time during the day to check in with our bodies, relax, or practice a quick mindful exercise, but we don't often allow our busy selves the time and space to do it (via Psychology Today). We tend to think that self-care has to be costly and time-consuming or it doesn't work — but that couldn't be further from the truth. Contrary to what you might believe, self-care is not selfish or something you have to earn, and it definitely doesn't need to be Instagram worthy.

With that in mind, every person is different and so are their needs. It would only make sense that their self-care practices look different, too. So next time you see that gorgeous Instagram model in her 24-karat face mask relaxing in Bali, remember to be happy for her because that's what she needs, but all you need right now is to just breathe – and maybe a dream vacation, too, but we'll plan that later.