Self-care isn’t as easy as it seems.

If you’re someone who spends all day fielding demands from every direction, it can be hard to redirect some of your precious time and energy exclusively to yourself.

Adding to the difficulty of finding time to engage in self-care is finding the motivation.

We woefully underestimate the difference that small, kind gestures we do for ourselves can have on our overall sense of health and well-being.

The cumulative effect of self-care is powerfully positive. Unfortunately, the converse is also true; the cumulative effect of neglecting your self-care is powerfully negative.

Here’s the bottom line, self-care is crucial and it needs to happen every day.

Yep, I’m not talking about the occasional massage or yearly girls trip, I’m talking about everyday acts of kindness and attention given to you, by you.

The best thing about self-care is the smallest bit counts.

It doesn’t take much time, money or even much effort to yield deeply positive changes. The only hard part about self-care is knowing that you not only deserve it, you need it to be healthy.  In fact, the best kind of self-care (turning off the TV or your phone and making sure you get more sleep) is 100% free.  

But if you find wandering through your local drug store as stress-relieving as I do, I’ve put together this list of the 16 best drug store buys for self-care, happy restoring!

1. Calming lotion – especially lavender scented. Keep a bottle on your nightstand and smooth it on each night after you get into bed. In about a week, the routine (particularly the smell) will help cue your body into sleep mode. You’ll fall asleep faster, and wake up to silky soft skin.

2. Bath Sprtiz ball – I dare you to draw yourself a bath one night this week.

3. New lipstick – A rich, warm red is an instant mood boost anytime of the day. Plus, lipstick couldn’t be more portable, so you can take it with you everywhere and be ready to pucker up to a better moment anytime of day.

4. Theraflu – Medicated hot drinks and soups are the best when you’re not feeling well. Even if you’re not sick, pick some up so that next time you’re feeling under the weather, you don’t have to run out to get it, wait for someone else to get it for you, or feel sick without having anything to make you feel better.

5. Eye Mask – Besides helping you to feel fancy for less than 3 bucks, eye masks are also especially useful in slowing down your circadian cycle. You know that phenomenon where you finally have the opportunity to sleep-in but your body clock wakes you up at your normal wake-up time for no reason? Next time, wear the eye mask to buy yourself at least another hour.

6. Heat stickers – These are great for long car rides or for when your back hurts and you have to sit at the office all day, so place them in your glove compartment or office drawer and know that you’re taking great care of yourself.

7. Hot hands – And speaking of commutes, if you have a long walk to the subway, put these guys in your pockets to keep your hands feelings cozy and warm.

8. Lip Balm – Somehow lip balm is incredibly elusive and easy to lose. Replace your supply and get a fun flavor, something that feels playful for you. Dr. Pepper lip balm, for example, or maybe watermelon cherry. You have to be an adult all day long, sneak in a little playfulness where you can.

9. Teas – The drug store is full of soothing teas. Green tea brimming with antioxidants, chamomile tea for a restful night, mint tea for a decaffeinated afternoon pick-me-up.

10. Nail polish.  Bright pops of color (as well as the slow, meditative type of attention required to apply the polish) can do wonders for the mind.  

11. Berries – Berries have been shown over and over again to be some of the healthiest foods on the planet. Packed with antioxidants, energy-boosting nutrients and just the right amount of sweetness, why not eat them every day?

12. Epson Salt – It isn’t really a salt, it’s a pure mineral compound full of muscle-soothing magnesium and nerve-calming sulfate. Since magnesium and sulfate are both absorbed directly through the skin, taking a bath or foot soak in epson salt is immediately relaxing. It gets better – a winter’s worth of this magic substance will only cost you about $5.

13. Vitamins – Harvard’s School of Public Health recently released a slew of new research promoting the myriad benefits of Vitamin D3, and several other studies have shown that Vitamin D3 can boost mood and overall perspective. Those same studies at Harvard show that due to decreased sunlight exposure, many people experience a vitamin D3 deficiency in the winter. Your local drug store has a solution for that. Echinacea, good old vitamin C, those chewy gummy vitamins and chocolate calcium ones…self-care points left and right.

14. Night Light Vaporizers – With a warm glow, these waterless vaporizers emit soothing menthol wherever you plug them in. Menthol is an incredibly underrated organic anesthetic. A completely natural compound found in peppermint leaves, menthol has been used in Japan for thousands of years for all kinds of ailments. In addition to its soothing properties, it also boasts incredibly strong anti-bacterial fighters (which is why it’s often put in mouth wash).

15. Pony tail holders – If you have hair that’s long enough to fit in a pony tail, you can never have enough of these. Making it so you don’t have to scour your purse or your home when you want to do something as simple as put your hair up? Now that’s a nice thing to do for yourself.

16. Dark Chocolate – Last but definitely not least. Dark chocolate is good for you in all kinds of surprising ways, its even been shown to improve brain function. With a little bit of caffeine in every bite, it’s the perfect way to prevent those afternoon energy lulls.

Self-care is great to do as a maintenance routine for good mental health, but especially if you’re tired, anxious about something, stressed or just in blah mode, self-care takes on new importance. Consider engaging in one or more of these ‘activities’ this week.

It’s often not the act of self-care in itself that makes the difference, but the meaning you ascribe to the act.

It’s not about just eating some chocolate or making a simple cup of tea — it’s because you’re doing those deliberately, somewhere inside, you know you’re prioritizing yourself and taking time to do something that releases you of stress and restores your energy. No matter how small the act, that feels really good.

Katherine Schafler is an NYC-based psychotherapist, writer and speaker. For more of her work, join her newsletter community, read her blog, or follow her on Instagram.

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  • Katherine Schafler

    NYC-based psychotherapist, writer and speaker.

    Katherine earned her Bachelor’s degree in psychology at UC Berkeley before obtaining two Masters from Columbia University, one focused on clinical assessment and the other on psychological counseling. Additionally, she completed post-graduate training and certification at the Association for Spirituality and Psychotherapy in NYC.