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Health & Beauty, Life & Style

18 Free Self-Care Ideas for a Covid Winter

free self-care ideas during covid

Winter is coming. Here is a whole host of free self-care ideas for you to help look after yourself this coming winter.

With winter on it’s way, and with Covid restrictions still in place, impacting on the things we can do and the people we can visit, it’s imperative that we look after ourselves more than ever. With finances especially tight for many of us, the question is how do we invest in self-care without spending money that we don’t really have?

It’s easy to feel that self-care is expensive. We’re constantly bombarded by newspapers, magazines, and influencers telling us that the only way to look after ourselves properly is to spend money on spa treatments, expensive moisturisers, cashmere socks, fancy candles, and other luxuries. Capitalism says do self-care any other way and you’re doing it wrong.

The truth is there are heaps of ways to look after yourself without buying anything. I’ve set out some free self-care ideas below, which may or may not work for you depending on your circumstances. I’d also love to hear your free self-care suggestions too.

free self-care ideas covid winter

18 No-Cost / Free Self-Care Ideas

1.Try and Make Space for the Basics

Depending on how you are feeling, some days it can be too tricky to even make space for the basics in life. Brushing your teeth or having a shower can feel like mountains that need climbing, but it’s an important aspect in self-care that you always feel better for doing it.

2. Unfollow Social Media Accounts That Make You Feel Bad

Instagram can sometimes make you feel like everyone else has this glossy amazing life, full of the latest ‘must-have’ stuff. I recommend unfollowing or muting accounts that make you feel inadequate, or make you feel like you need to constantly buy stuff to keep up.

The same with Facebook. If you have friends or family members that again, make you feel inadequate, then you can quietly unfollow them. They won’t get a notification saying that you have unfollowed them, and you’ll still be on their friends list, avoiding social drama.

3. Reconsider Your Morning/Evening Scroll Habit

Do you have a habit of scrolling social media or the news when you wake up, or before you go to bed? I know I do. Reading something awful before I get up for the day or just before bed sets me up badly for the rest of the day, or is a recipe for a poor nights sleep. As an act of free self-care, I am working on establishing new morning and bedtime routines, to stop me doing this.

4. Make Sure You Get Outside at Least Once a Day

If you’re working from home it can be incredibly easy to go for days without leaving the house. And if you working outside the home, it’s equally easy to go from home, to your car, and into your workplace, and back without ever really spending time outdoors.

I feel better when I get outside at least once a day, preferably for walk ,but even if it is just to stand outside for 10 minutes to get some fresh air and to clear my head.

5. Drink More Water

Hands up if you’re drinking enough water? Hands up if you are really drinking enough water? The NHS recommends drinking 6 to 8 glasses of water a day (about 1.2 litres). If you have a water bottle, keep it to hand throughout the day, otherwise, try setting regular reminders on your phone to drink a glass of water.

6. Investigate Free Exercise Options

Exercise doesn’t have to cost anything. I’m not a very sporty person, so my exercise of choice is walking. I’ve downloaded a free app on my phone called Pacer, and use that to track my steps. I aim for 10,000 steps a day to get the burst of confetti that Pacer rewards you with when you do over 10,000 in a day. What can I say, I’m a sucker for things like that! To meet my target I do a mix of walking outdoors and doing steps indoors. If you don’t feel safe walking outdoors alone in your neighbourhood, you could pair up with a friend, or do your steps indoors.

You can also use Pacer for running or jogging if walking is too slow-paced for you.

If walking isn’t your bag then there are a host of free exercise options. On YouTube, you can find a huge array of free exercise videos – from high-intensity cardio to yoga, Pilates, and more.

7. Get To Grips With Your Bank Account

Something I’ve learned this year is that financial wellness equals physical and mental wellness. I’ve also learned that financial wellness doesn’t mean zero debt, a large income, and a hefty savings fund, for I have none of these, but just being on top of your finances. Knowing what’s coming in, no matter how little, and what is going out, no matter how large, is a lot less stressful than occasionally glancing at your online banking and hoping for the best. I would say it’s one of the really key free self-care ideas.

The easiest entry point to financial wellness is to sit down and go through your bank statements and look at all of your direct debits. If you haven’t looked for a while, there may be things that you didn’t realise you were paying for, like subscriptions you forgot to cancel. Cancelling them is a great way to start making inroads into feeling more on top of your finances.

8. Make A Budget

The next step in financial wellness is making a budget and sticking to it. It sounds dry, it sounds boring, and maybe it doesn’t sound like a great free self-care idea. However, if you are used to financially winging it every month, then I promise that giving every penny that enters your bank account a job is completely life-changing. You can find some great tips on non-scary ways to make a budget online.

Meanwhile, Clare Seal from My Frugal Year has loads of great tips on her Instagram on budgeting, tackling emotional spending, paying off debt, and more. Clare is also the author of the book Real Life Money: An Honest Guide to Taking Control of Your Finances* that is well worth borrowing from your local library.

9. Ignore the Avalanche of Adverts for Leisurewear and Edit Your Own Wardrobe.

Retailers are really pushing advertising for leisurewear as many office workers continue to work from home. I say ignore these adverts and make your existing wardrobe work for you.

Pull out all of your clothes from your wardrobe and put to the side the clothes that no longer fit you, that are uncomfortable to wear, or that you just don’t feel good wearing. Only add the clothes that make you feel good back into your wardrobe, so that every day you aren’t faced with reminders of poor purchasing decisions, or annoyance that the things you want to wear don’t fit you.

10. Have An Audit of Your Food Cupboards

You might be wondering why this is on a list of free self-care ideas, but the thing is I always feel on top of things when my food cupboards are organised. Take everything out, wipe down your cupboards, and compost anything that is well past its expiry date. If something is not long past it’s best before date, then it might be ok to eat – use your sense of smell and judge it on how it looks before deciding to eat it.

If there is anything unopened that you know you aren’t going to eat but is still within date, try offering it to someone through the Olio food-sharing app. Or, if it’s something that your local food bank is in need of (here is what goes into a typical food parcel) then do donate it there. Food banks are preparing for their busiest winter yet, so everything that you donate helps a family in need.

Next put everything that you are going to keep back in, putting the foods due to expire first at the front, so that you help avoid food waste.

11. Book Your Flu Jab

I don’t know who needs to hear this, but if you are eligible for a free flu vaccine but haven’t booked it yet, then just book your flu vaccine. With Covid-19 circulating at the same time as the flu, it is more important than ever to get vaccinated this year, so make this your free self-care priority.

12. Schedule Those Appointments

Similar to the flu jab, if you’ve been putting off a doctor’s appointment, or a dental check-up then book it now. Nothing makes you feel like you are on top of things than being on top of life admin.

13. Join Your Local Library

It’s free and local libraries are amazing places – giving you access to a whole host of books and services. Whilst you may not feel comfortable perusing the shelves at the moment, most libraries have their entire catalogue online, and offer a click and collect service.

Many libraries now also offer a huge selection of digital magazines in almost every genre. Access them on your phone, tablet, or PC, all at no charge, and cancel those pricey magazine subscriptions.

14. Re-read a Favourite Book

Resist the urge to buy yourself a new book. Instead, re-read one of your favourite books – one that makes you feel good every time you turn a page. The book I turn to again and again is this one* – the writing is nothing short of magic.

15. Swap Books With a Friend

Whilst restrictions mean we can’t meet up with friends and family as we would like, one way to stay close is to share books with a friend. Swap your favourite book with each other, have a read, and then get together over Zoom or over the phone and chat about them. Think of it as a mini book club.

16. Go Down a Youtube Tutorial Wormhole

Maybe you’re like me, and have some makeup items that you don’t really use, or know how to apply properly. Want to learn how to do eyeliner properly? I know I do – once I learn that I know I’ll feel like I have mastered life. Let’s do this!

17. Beat Boredom

We’ve spent a lot of time outdoors throughout the spring, summer, and autumn this year, but winter in Scotland is a different beast. Even with the right clothing, it’s not always conducive to being outdoors. With many indoor activities that we would normally do closed for now, planning free activities we can do indoors from home to keep boredom at bay is key.

Many museums and galleries are offering free online tours. Earlier in lockdown I discovered free online jigsaws, and free drawing tutorials on YouTube. We’ve watched free gigs online (this Talking Heads one is a classic). Here are some more ideas if none of these are up your street.

18. Ask For Help If You Need It

Finally, I think the single most important aspect in self-care is asking for help if you need it.

If you’re struggling to make ends meet, you might be able to ask your mortgage provider for a mortgage holiday, or you can ask your creditors for payment holidays or reduced interest rates. It is also worth checking if there are any benefits you may be eligible for.

If you are struggling mentally, and constantly feeling that you are wading through treacle, then scheduling an appointment with your doctor is really important.

What are your best free self-care ideas and tips? Do share in the comments below!

Health & Beauty, Life & Style

Six Soaps Leading the Clean Revolution

best ethical soaps

This post contains affiliate links

Today I have a post from Ethical Consumer magazine on the best ethical soaps to look out for at a time when washing your hands is more important than ever.


Who would have thought this time last year that soap would be making the headlines?  

Strange days indeed and as we lather up a little more often, it’s never been more important to choose our soap wisely. Palm oil, toxic chemicals and plastics can all creep into our soap but there are some great brands out there keeping it clean. 

Jane Turner from Ethical Consumer Magazine reveals some of the best brands out there beating the bugs with good ingredients, minimal packaging, and ethical practices. 

Breaking It Down

The humble bar or splash of liquid soap is our most important weapon in fighting COVID-19. Using science that is thousands of years old, soap works by destroying the outer membranes of the virus, killing it and stopping it from spreading. Nothing else is more effective in this fight. But although soap has natural origins, some of the soaps available today are far from natural. 

Soap doesn’t need complex synthetic chemicals, plastics or exotic ingredients grown on deforested land. Here are the nasties to look out for in your soap and the brands that are leading a clean revolution. 

Ethical Consumer Recommends…

Following an intensive investigation into over 50 soap brands that are included in our ethical shopping guide to soap, we recommend the following six brands as our Best Buys. 

Lucy Bee

Lucy Bee is a business founded on the humble coconut, providing everything from milk to sugar, skincare, and soap. Lucy Bee soaps are organic, vegan, and Fairtrade and contain no palm oil or palm oil-derived ingredients or nasties, such as parabens, phthalates, or triclosan.

The whole range carries the Leaping Bunny mark and no ingredients are tested on animals. The soap bars come in generous 150g chunks in paper packaging with four delicious scents to choose from. 

Odylique

Skincare brand Odylique uses virgin olive oil to create plant glycerine as the basis of its organic, vegan, castile soap bars. Although the bars do have palm oil-derived ingredients, these are present in small quantities and are from RPSO-assured sources. Ingredients are locally sourced wherever possible and Fairtrade when sourced further afield. The bars are free from synthetic chemicals and come wrapped in non-toxic recyclable packaging. 

Friendly Soap

Friendly Soap certainly knows how to bring the fun to handwashing. Not only can you find a wide variety of bright, scented soap bars on its website, but also a range of travel soaps, shave, shampoo, and conditioner bars. Friendly Soap uses an ancient cold-press method, pouring, cutting, and stamping the soaps by hand and maintaining a small carbon footprint. 

The ingredients are biodegradable so there’s no waste; poppy seeds and hemp take the place of microplastics to gently exfoliate the skin. None of the products or ingredients are tested on animals. The soaps are Vegan certified, contain no palm oil and the shea butter is sourced from a women’s cooperative in Ghana. 

Bio-D

Bio-D supplies a wide variety of household and personal care products and the brand is sold on the high street, as well as in various independent health food and whole food stores. Vegan and cruelty-free, Bio-D soap bars and liquids contain no plastics. Although some products contain palm oil derivatives, Bio-D is actively reducing its use and uses only RSPO-accredited supplies. The liquid soap is sold in bulk online at just £18.99 for 5 litres, and is also widely available through refillable liquid soap stations. 

Caurnie 

Caurnie Soap uses organic herbs and essential oils to produce its rustic, handmade soaps. The bars and liquid soaps are chemical-free, containing only pure vegan ingredients and no palm oil or derivatives. Many of the ingredients are sourced locally. 

ALTER/NATIVE

ALTER/NATIVE is the own-brand soap line from wholefood collective Suma. Choose from a huge variety of vegan, cruelty-free bars and liquids and access refillable soap stations in health food stores.

Suma is a vegetarian company and uses only RPSO-accredited palm oil in its products. You won’t find any plastics in these soaps and all packaging is 100% recycled and recyclable, although we strongly advise the refillable route with the hand wash option. 

For more on these companies and to see the full list of brand researched visit Ethical Consumer’s guide to soap.

Make Soap a Hobby

If you’re looking for a new hobby, why not make your own soap bars? Take a base recipe, and then once you’ve mastered that you can experiment with different natural fragrances, and drop bars off as gifts for your friends and family.

What Else to Look Out For

If these brands aren’t easily available to you there are some top tips of things you can look for in some of the more widely available brands.

Plastics

Microplastics have been banned in soap in the UK since 2018 but companies can still use non-degradable liquid plastic polymers and petroleum-based chemicals. And of course, plastic packaging is a clear problem, especially when it comes to liquid handwash and non-recyclable pumps. 

We recommend bars of soap over liquid handwash. Bars work just as well and come in a fraction of the packaging (mostly paper) and some with none at all.

Animal Products

Although plant-based ingredients are just as effective as animal-derived products, some manufacturers continue to use substances like sodium tallowate and stearic acid, while glycerine may also be animal-derived. The good news is that there are loads of vegan brands out there, many from purely vegan companies.

Look out for the Leaping Bunny label endorsing cruelty-free soaps. Some brands carry this label across their entire product range, showing a strong commitment to avoid any ingredient that has been tested on animals. 

Palm Oil 

Although many companies source palm oil sustainably and are members of groups such as the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), these accreditations have been criticised for not doing enough to break links with deforestation. 

Whether to buy or boycott palm oil remains a controversial subject and you can find out more about the issues in our palm oil section. Palm oil-derived ingredients are trickier to identify but there are companies out there who use neither. See our palm oil free soap page for more.

Fairtrade

Many ethical brands choose locally sourced ingredients to cut their carbon footprint. For those who use ingredients such as coconut, cocoa or soy, look for the Fairtrade logo to be sure that the farmers are getting a fair price for their crops. 

You can find out more about all the companies and issues in our guide to soap on our website, where you can also find over 130 other ethical shopping guides covering everything from bread to banks.