In the past few years, “self-care” has firmly cemented itself into our collective consciousness as something we should all prioritize.

We understand that both our physical and mental health are important and that we are, to a great extent, responsible for taking care of them. However, it’s not always obvious what self-care is meant to look like, especially for men and when it comes to mental health.

It’s not always obvious what self-care is meant to look like, especially for men and when it comes to mental health.

This is made even harder by the fact that most things labeled as “self-care” happen to be sort of expensive and a bit less masculine that we’d like.

A spa day is self-care, and so is eating an organic diet rich in superfoods, but neither of those things feel very accessible to a guy on a budget. They also don’t do much to make us feel macho and virile. 

Even the most manly men can engage in effective self-care, without feeling embarrassed or out of their depth. The truth is, self-care has nothing to do with money or masculinity. And the following checklist gives you options to prove that.

1. Make your bedroom your man cave

Your mind needs a good night’s sleep to function, and one way to sleep better is to make sure your bedroom is as calm and comfortable a place as possible.

Invest in a few things that make your bedroom a well-prepared, sleep-only zone. The right pillow and mattress topper can help you stay asleep, and you can use free online white noise videos to fall asleep more quickly and easily.

If light leaks into your room from the street or in the early morning, consider getting some blackout shades — available cheap at places like Walmart, Amazon, or even your local dollar store.

Too sexy for your shirt?

Your body temperature also significantly impacts your sleep. In the hour before bed, kill two self-care ‘birds’ with one stone: take a hot shower to drop your body temperature.

The hot water surprisingly helps your core body temperature come down, closer to the 1 degree temperature drop that triggers sleepiness.

2. Learn to make healthy meals on the cheap

Despite the high prices at your local health food store, healthy meals don’t have to be ultra-expensive, and you don’t have to don your frilly apron to prepare them.

You just need to plan your meals, to create a menu made from cheaper whole foods. When grocery shopping, look for nutrient-dense, unprocessed foods such as beans, frozen vegetables, and in-season produce.

Check out more tips on eating for a strong body, here, and get excited to provide for and nourish yourself.

3. Practice free meditation

Mindfulness meditation is a proven, gender-neutral tool for mental well-being, and it is also incredibly accessible.

There are a wide range of free meditation apps on the market, as well as free Youtube videos, all of which can guide you in the starting steps of your practice.

Alternatively, for the most evidence-based meditation options, visit the Greater Good Science Center website. There, you will find free science-backed practices, organized by situation, effect, difficulty level, etc. It is a great one-stop-shop and source of knowledge for any ability level.

Commit to meditating at a doable frequency – start as infrequently as once a week, or commit to twice a day. Whichever it is, pick a schedule that you will find easy to maintain. Stick with it a few weeks and see the benefits for yourself.

4. Take care of your teeth

Oral hygiene is part of good daily self-care and, when neglected, can be a contributing factor to disorders like depression.

The easiest way to save on dental care is to visit your dentist regularly, so go ahead and book your next appointment, or you can use an online search tool to find a dentist if necessary.

Added perk: women like men who take care of themselves. And clean teeth and gums are one of the most obvious signs of self-care ability.

Think of your oral hygiene as the first impression before your actual first impression. It is important.

5. Trek through local parks

If you live in the city, it can be hard to get close to nature, which is a problem because exposure to the outdoors is crucial to our mental well-being.

Good news: you don’t have to be a rough-and-tumble grizzly bear to benefit from the outdoors.

Take advantage of your city’s parks and green spaces to counteract the urban mood suck – take a detour on the way to or from work, or make an effort to sit and eat your lunch in the nearest park.

6. Work out at home

Is your budget too tight for a gym membership? At-home fitness is convenient and just as healthy for your mind and body — and it’s completely free.

YouTube is your friend here, with dozens of high-quality, free channels offering a variety of workouts from HIIT to yoga, and from core exercises to strength training. You just have to look, and you’ll find the right workout for you.

7. DIY some sexy self-care

Just because you can’t afford (or wouldn’t dare visit) a day spa doesn’t mean you can’t treat yourself to some unwinding relaxation. Self-care while helping someone else may be your best bet, here.

Have some fun with your partner by learning how to give each other a relaxing massage.

By giving your partner a massage, you’ll feel strong, capable, and needed; and when it’s your turn, you’ll get to let go for a moment and relax into some much-needed TLC.

8. Get stuff off your chest

We all need to get things off our chest, and science shows how harmful it is to hold things in. But for men, it can feel like there aren’t so many opportunities to vent.

Conversation tends to stay light among friends, and diving into deep, emotional topics may not align with the vibe you want to give off.

Luckily, there are plenty of ways to get emotions off your chest without feeling overly sensitive or embarrassed. Your best bet may be an online, anonymous place to talk, like Supportiv’s anonymous chat.

Just hit “Chat Now,” enter your thoughts, and you’ll get connected to people who understand – all without ever revealing your identity.

What self care is all about

Despite what countless companies, magazines, and influencers want you to believe, self-care for your mental health isn’t about buying things.

It’s about cultivating healthy habits, having a positive relationship with yourself, and knowing how to identify your mental health needs. All of these things can be achieved for free or with very little money if you know where to look.

Knowing how to take care of yourself is one of the most manly things you can do. If you’re a man wondering how to apply common self-care strategies to your own life, we hope you’ll try out some items from this checklist.


Written by Brad Krause, of SelfCaring.