mental health on a budget: 4 ways to help with anxiety that cost absolutely nothing

mental health on a budget: 4 ways to help with anxiety that cost absolutely nothing

One of my biggest issues with the health and wellness industry? The costs.

  • Therapy session: $$$
  • Appointment with a medical specialist: $$$
  • Organic, better-for-you foods: $$
  • Vitamins and supplements: $$
  • Yoga class: $
  • Self-help book(s): $
  • And the list goes on

Full transparency, I’ve paid $150 for one therapy appointment more than once. And yes, I usually spend more for organic produce and grass-fed meats. This is a personal choice, of course, but I know firsthand that prioritizing both physical and mental health can be expensive – and honestly, that frustrates me. Dealing with a health obstacle is already hard enough, so why put another barrier on things that are imperative to our everyday lives? Sigh.

The silver lining here? While some things can be costly, there are plenty of ways to amp up your wellness game for FREE (and we all like free things, am I right?), and I’m pumped to share them with y’all!

Let’s dig in.

  1. Try therapy. Wait, what? Therapy costs money! Allow me to explain … While seeing a professional does cost money, I believe therapy means something different for everyone. The textbook definition of therapy is: a treatment intended to relieve or heal a disorder. Ask yourself, what makes me feel relief? What is healing for me? I’m a firm believer that expression in some form or fashion is therapeutic. Don’t want the expense of seeing a professional? Reach out to a friend or family member that you feel comfortable opening up to. Not ready to talk through things just yet? Write it out. Not a fan of writing? Go for a walk. Sweat. Breathe. I encourage you to look at therapy a little bit differently; there are so many ways to express yourself to feel relief from life stressors and anxiety. **Note: if you are currently a college student, there may be free mental health resources available on your college campus. I started therapy and had my first psychiatry appointment free of charge as a student at the University of Florida through the UF Counseling and Wellness Center!**
  2. Rethink what you’re consuming. I’m talking food and drink here. Try lowering your sugar intake. Studies show that sugar and other sweeteners may contribute to a number of mental health problems, including depression and anxiety. Reduce or eliminate caffeine. Limit your alcohol consumption (more on that here). Not only are these things free, they might even save you some money!
  3. Stop aiming for perfection. We live in a high-pressure society, where perfectionism is desired and failure is shamed. While most of us strive to do our best in everything we do, the key is to hone in on doing YOUR best, not necessarily aiming to be THE best. Set realistic goals, work hard toward them, and be kinder to yourself if reaching them takes time. … This is something I am working on daily, as I have habits and thought patterns of a perfectionist for sure.
  4. Download these free apps. Okay, okay … I’ll throw a modern-day tip in here, too 🙂 Most of us have heard that mindfulness meditation is great for those who deal with anxiety on the reg, but that doesn’t make it easy. Don’t worry – there’s an app for that! I highly recommend looking into meditation apps, such as HeadSpace, or my personal favorite, Insight Timer. Insight Timer is my go-to resource for guided meditation, and I probably use it once or twice a week! It’s a game-changer when I’m having trouble falling asleep at night. I’ve also read that the app TalkLife, a peer-support community where you can talk about your feelings, can be super helpful, too. These three apps are free, with in-app purchase options to amp them up a bit.
Here’s a screenshot of Insight Timer, featuring my FAV Guided Meditation by Sarah Blondin.

While I’ve had success with all of these zero-cost ways to help relieve anxiety, I do realize that none are a replacement if you want or need additional and/or professional help. I take a prescribed antidepressant every morning. I pay for therapy with a professional. These things costs money, and I prioritize them in my budget. Please don’t ever feel ashamed if you do, too!

Knowing that many of us are on a budget, I’m hopeful that at least one of these methods can relieve your anxious feelings … and your wallet. 🙂

Do you have any tips to add, or know of any other free apps? Please do share in the comments!



Please note that I am not a mental health professional. Always seek the advice of your mental health professional or other qualified health provider with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your condition.

how setting boundaries strengthened my relationships

how setting boundaries strengthened my relationships

Boundaries: a foreign topic to me until the last couple of years. I received a lot of “me, too!” comments and messages from my recent Instagram post about setting boundaries … So, along with the important role boundaries play during the busy holiday season, I’ve decided to expand on the topic here.

Pretty sure I was born a people-pleaser. I am the QUEEN of over-promising and over-committing myself to plans and activities – and most of the time, it’s to make others happy, not myself.

Too many commitments squeezed into my already busy schedule always amounts to added stress. The built-up stress leads to anxiety. The anxiety leads to panic attacks. Oh, and if I cancel or just don’t show up to plans I’ve committed to? The guilt I feel is paralyzing. It’s a vicious cycle, and one that takes its toll on me both physically and mentally.

I stumbled upon a quote that sums up boundaries (or the lack thereof) in my life:

“If you avoid conflict to keep the peace, you start a war inside yourself.” – Cheryl Richardson

The war I create inside myself when I don’t set boundaries not only causes me anxiety, but it also keeps me from developing real, meaningful relationships with myself and with others.

So, what exactly are boundaries?

According to The Center for Stress and Anxiety Management, boundaries help us to define who we are.  They orient us in our relationships,and signify to us and to others where “I end and you begin”.[1]

To me, setting boundaries simply means knowing my limits a.k.a. learning to say “no” to others, to plans, to activities, to anything, in order to benefit myself and my ability to develop meaningful relationships with others.

Now, boundaries can be physical, emotional, spiritual, etc., but I’m specifically talking about setting boundaries with others when it comes to commitment.

While I’m still a newbie to this, here’s how I set boundaries:

  1. Assess the situation – Instead of automatically agreeing, asking … Does this fit in my schedule? Is this something I want to do/attend?
  2. Ask myself what is best for me – Will this stress me out? I need to be aware of and respect my personal limits.
  3. Make a decision.
  4. Communicate my decision with emphasis on WHY I made it to the other person/group – honesty is key here!
  5. Move forward guilt-free.

I just made it sound easy, but this process takes time and effort. For me, the most important step I need to practice and put effort into is No. 4: communication.

Before learning about the importance of boundaries, I used to come up with not-exactly-true reasons why I couldn’t be somewhere for someone. For example, I’d say, “I don’t feel well. I’m out for tonight.” While that was kind of true (considering the guilt from bailing usually made me sick to my stomach), it often wasn’t the real reason.

With the help of therapy, I’ve learned that openness and honesty are key. Instead of making something up, I now do my best to speak the truth and communicate that to my family and friends. So, instead of “feeling sick” I’ll say, “I’m committed to another event tonight, so I’m unable to make this one,” OR “I’m worn out from the work week and am going to take some time to relax. Let’s reschedule for another time!

I communicate this in a calm and respectful manner, of course. And more often than not, my family and friends understand (if they don’t, then that’s a reason to assess that specific relationship in my life).

The hardest part in all of this for me? Learning that taking care of myself is NOT selfish.

Taking care of myself first allows me to be more present in life, and that alone benefits my relationships. It opens the line of communication, allows me to be 100 percent honest and 100 percent myself … Not only have I learned more about myself in this process, others have, too.

I truly believe that boundaries are essential to real, meaningful relationships.

You must set boundaries in your closest relationships so that you can feel accepted, heard and loved … Part of feeling connected to someone is allowing him or her to truly see youand what you’re all about.[2]

Boundaries have helped me to understand what true self-care is, how to love myself, and how to respect the boundaries that others need, too.

Now, I am still a serious work in progress over here – setting boundaries takes effort and does not happen overnight! I’m making it a priority to practice boundaries daily and it has benefitted me SO much so far. It’s helped me to stay true to myself and to the people in my life.

Do you struggle with setting boundaries? How do you plan to implement boundaries into your life, especially during the busy holiday season?



Please note that I am not a mental health professional. Always seek the advice of your mental health professional or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding your condition.



the positive impact of therapy

the positive impact of therapy

Ah, yet another vulnerable, not-so-easy-to-talk-about topic: therapy. It’s crazy to actually type this out, but it’s 2018 and there’s still a stigma around going to therapy (ugh *eye roll*).

I wish I could say that “therapy isn’t for everyone” but honestly, I don’t believe that – I’m a firm believer that every single person can benefit from therapy. While therapy is a proven method for changing harmful thinking, relational and behavioral patterns[1], it can also help to make good lives great.

Therapy can mean something different for everyone: seeking professional guidance, writing your thoughts out, going for a hike/walk (preferably in a place like Colorado, in the image seen above), meditating, or simply talking to a friend. And while all of those things are beneficial for mental health, the most valuable form of therapy for me (and what I’m going to expand on) is regularly talking to a professional.

It was in my first therapy session that I finally figured out what anxiety was, and that experiencing a panic attack didn’t mean I was dying. It was in my first therapy session that I started to find answers to all the questions I had about myself growing up. It was in my first therapy session, at 19 years old, that I felt hopeful and more confident about my future. And to this day, regular therapy sessions positively impact my life.

Therapy is a journey – a journey that takes hard work, patience and time – so, here’s a little bit about mine.

my first therapy session

Ha, this one was a doozy. I had recently suffered my first panic attack and visited the UF Counseling & Wellness Center to make an appointment with a therapist (college-student perk: it was FREE!). I sat down at my appointment the following day, and the therapist started with, “so, tell me why you’re here.”

My mind raced to a million different places to try and begin my story – I didn’t know where to start. I was overwhelmed, and I eventually started to cry and blubbered something like, “I don’t know what’s happening to me, or what’s going to happen to me.” Just getting that much out made me feel better. I don’t remember much else about my first session, but I do remember feeling exhausted, yet relieved, afterward. A weight had been lifted from my tight chest.

making therapy part of my routine, with the right therapist

I thought one or two sessions, along with taking a newly prescribed medication, would do the trick. So, I didn’t make a follow-up appointment after my first couple. A few weeks went by and I realized I needed to continue to express myself to a professional. I needed to continue to heal. I needed and wanted to continue to learn.

In order to do so, though, I wanted to make sure I was consistently seeing a professional that understood me and challenged me. So, I started to do some research online and visited two other therapists before finding THE ONE (it’s really just like dating, I swear!). Her name was Jocelyn, and she had a calming effect on me. She made me feel safe, but also challenged me to get better with every appointment. I would say it took about 3 months of going consistently to see and to feel noticeable results. After seeing Jocelyn for over a year, I had made immense progress.

Since then, I’ve moved and had to endure the process of finding the right therapist for me again, and again. It takes patience each time – you have to put in some work! – but it’s always worth it.

that time when I thought I didn’t need therapy anymore

After years of regularly attending therapy, I felt like I was in my prime mental state – I had made serious progress with my anxiety and panic, and thought I could figure out everything from there on my own. So, along with the reason of saving a little money every month, I decided to stop going to therapy.

Three months or so went by, and the regular stressors of life (work, family, finances, etc.) had taken their toll. I had been bottling all of my anxiety inside and suffered my first panic attack in years. Unfortunately, this panic attack was at work in front of my colleagues. Needless to say, I was traumatized. It was then that I realized the positive difference therapy made for me, and that I needed to continue to invest in it.

recognizing the positive impact therapy has on me

Currently, I do my best to attend therapy biweekly for 60 minutes. If I miss an appointment, I make sure to take the initiative to schedule another one. I have a wonderful relationship with my current therapist, and I truly believe that is key to seeing success!

To me, therapy is a never-ending learning experience about myself. It’s an hour every other week (or once a month, depending on my schedule) to help me understand and make sense of why I feel what I feel, why I react the way I react, and simply, why I am the woman I have become.

And trust me, that’s not always easy.

I’m a work in progress, but therapy has taught me and continues to teach me to love and accept myself. I feel strongly that with a little dedication and time, it can do the same for anyone who is willing to give it a try.