Free steps you can take immediately

Our Master List of 100% Free Mental Health Self-Care Tactics

What are you supposed to do if you’re experiencing a mental health crisis and you don’t have a therapist? Or money for healthcare? Or supportive parents? Or transportation and time off to visit a doctor? Or like, the ability to shower and leave the house?

We see you.

Whether you have a serious diagnosed condition, or you’re just feeling stressed or blue, this list details free steps that you can take immediately that might help mitigate your circumstances. Nothing on here is revolutionary. Nothing here will “cure” you of whatever ails you. You cannot solve mental health problems with rationalizing and motivation. But because most of such struggles are chronic, it helps to have a sizable toolbox of behaviors to turn to.

Here’s what we’ve got.

Physiological

  • Drink a glass of water. Don’t gulp it down, drink it sip by sip.
  • Eat something. It doesn’t have to be a whole meal. A banana or a granola bar is great. Maybe avoid super salty or sugary stuff. Unless you’re in a place where you need to drive to Five Guys in your pajamas with no shoes on because I have been there.
  • Stretch and change your position. If you’ve been standing and moving, try sitting or lying down—and vice versa. Stretch like a bear awakening from hibernation. Even if you don’t feel like you have to, your limbs will appreciate it.
  • Get some light. If your blinds are drawn, pull them up. If you’re in a dark room, move to a lighter room. If it’s possible to put sun on your skin, do so. Your poor brain is confused; help her out by having lights on in the day and off at night.
  • Get some fresh air. If you can go for a walk, awesome. If not, just stand outside for a moment. Breathe deeply and listen to the sounds you don’t usually notice: birds singing, wind moving, cars going by.
    • If that’s too much: Open the windows if the weather is nice. If the weather’s not nice, just open them for a minute or two. Light a scented candle.
  • Move your body. Walks are a solid response to basically all feelings and situations. If you have the energy and focus to do more (go to the gym, go for a run), do that. Exercise almost always helps improve and stabilize moods.
    • If that’s too much: Put a time limit on it. Tell yourself “I only have to do this for five minutes, and if I want to stop after that, I can.” The hardest part is to get going. Once you’re there, you may decide you can continue after all. In any case, you have permission to stop.
  • Don’t do anything dangerous. If you’re experiencing severe anxiety or depression, please don’t get into a car or operate heavy machinery.

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Can it be doubted that three-kilogramme brains were once a nearly fatal defect in the evolution of the human race?"

Econ Nerd Review: Kurt Vonnegut’s Galapagos and Your Big Brain

This post discusses depression, anxiety, addiction, suicide, and self-harm. I think it does so in a pretty constructive and helpful way? But I wrote it, so here are some large grains of kosher salt.

Boy howdy do I love this gif.

Reading! It’s just like they said it would be! “I can go anywhere. Friends to know. Ways to grow.”

Today I want to share with you my favorite book about mental health. It’s not a memoir or a self-help book. It’s not even nonfiction! No, it’s a little ditty from 1985 about evolution, ghosts, Armageddon, and nubbins. Kurt Vonnegut’s Galapagos is a brilliant satire on the evolutionary advantages and disadvantages of the human brain. And it completely changed the way I think about mental health, including my own depression.

The opening scene follows a woman as she attempts suicide, and it’s narrated by the dispassionate ghost of a Richard Attenborough nature documentarian type. Here’s a brief excerpt, with a few plot things trimmed out:

“Mary taught that the human brain was the most admirable survival device yet produced by evolution. But now her own big brain was urging her to take the polyethylene garment bag from around a red evening dress in her closet, and to wrap it around her head, thus depriving her cells of oxygen.

“Before that, her wonderful brain had entrusted a thief at the airport with a suitcase containing all her toilet articles and clothes which would have been suitable for the hotel.

“Her colossal thinking machine could be so petty, too. It would not let her go downstairs in her combat fatigues on the grounds that everybody, even though there was practically nobody in the hotel, would find her comical in such a costume. Her brain told her: ‘They’ll laugh at you behind your back, and think you’re crazy and pitiful, and your life is over anyway. You’ve lost your husband and your teaching job, and you don’t have any children or anything else to live for, so just put yourself out of your misery with the garment bag. What could be easier? What could be more painless? What could make more sense?’

“Just about every adult human being back then had a brain weighing about three kilogrammes! There was no end to the evil schemes that a thought machine that oversized couldn’t imagine and execute. 

“So I raise this question, although there is nobody around to answer it: Can it be doubted that three-kilogramme brains were once nearly fatal defects in the evolution of the human race?”

Yeah. This novel completely changed the way I thought about the human mind.

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Congratulations! You've just had a panic attack.

Everything Is Stressful and I’m Dying: How to Survive a Panic Attack

Everyone has their own special mental weirdness. And your humble, almost perfect Bitches are no exception. (I know. Try not to die of shock. My sincerest apologies for ruining the illusion of our all-encompassing perfection.) And since May is Mental Health Month, we’re going to lay our personally atypical brain chemicals and lessons learned from life experience all over you!

Recently Kitty and I were talking about how our personal mental weirdnesses have affected our lives. Financially, emotionally, physically. And we realized we had a lot to say on the topic, a lot that our darling readers might relate to or take comfort from. Being an adult is stressful as fuck! And brains are complicated organs full of chemicals doing unpredictable things. So why not share with the rest of Bitch Nation?

A few years ago, I was diagnosed with anxiety. This didn’t come as a surprise to me, as I’ve always been prone to stress, hyper-focusing on mildly important stuff to the point of panic and despair, and constant worrying about small stuff. But it did come as a surprise to my familiars, since over my lifetime I’ve become pretty damn good at hiding my symptoms.

I just wasn’t good at actually dealing with them.

An anxiety disorder is a mental condition in which a patient tends to… well, to freak out more than is normal. A clinical anxiety disorder is not only bothersome, but it interferes with your life. It’s not only unpleasant, but constant and overwhelming. And while everyone feels stressed or panicked from time to time, the thing that sets those with clinical anxiety disorders apart is that their stress, their anxiety and panic attacks, are completely uncontrollable, disproportionate, and inappropriate to the situation.

There is no “just relax” to someone with anxiety. We literally cannot relax when in the throes of a panic attack or anxious episode. That’s kind of the problem.

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Doesn't it make sense to put DISH soap in the DISH washer!?

How the Hell Does One Wash Dishes? Asking for a Friend.

Seat yourselves around the campfire, children, and I’ll tell you a tale of some grade-A dumbass sitcom shit I did when I was your age.

I spent the summer between my freshman and sophomore year of college in the same town where my father lived. He had just moved in with my soon-to-be stepmother, leaving his bachelor pad vacant. He agreed to let me live there rent-free while the place was on the market, but part of our agreement was that I had to keep the place spotlessly clean and ready to be shown at a moment’s notice. It was a sweet deal and I took it.

One day my father alerted me that a couple would be stopping by to see it that very afternoon. No problemo! I decided the first thing I needed to do was wash the dishes.

In the past, I’d always washed dishes by hand, because I only used a plate or two at a time. But I had a bunch of drinking glasses accumulated, and I wanted to go vacuum and do other things, so I decided to use the dishwasher. I loaded it up the same way I had seen my parents do it. Then I looked around for a place to put the soap, and saw a little pop-open divot labeled “soap.” Feeling self-reliant, I squirted about half of a cup of dish soap into the machine, turned the dial to “normal wash,” and pressed the start button.

… Did you catch that?

Yep, I just told you that I squirted dish soap into the dishwasher. Yeah, like Dawn or some shit. Some of you already know what this punch line is going to be!

MAH LIFE WIF DA BUBBLES

I went upstairs to make my bed and stash my small suitcase of belongings out of sight. When I cam back downstairs ten minutes later, the entire first floor of the condominium had vanished. In its place was a sea of tiny, pearlescent soap bubbles. When I stepped into it, I disappeared up to my ankles. And god, the smell… the lemony fresh scent was like a brick wall where the bricks were also made of lemons.

Honestly, can you blame me? Doesn’t it make sense to put dish soap in the dish washer? I was nineteen years old and had never run a dishwasher in my life, which makes me sound awfully royal. To be fair to me, many adult responsibilities were foisted on me at a young age. But for whatever reason, this was one task my parents had always done for me. I’d loaded it, I’d unloaded it. But I’d never actually added the dishwasher liquid and run it.

Adults must use a vast set of skills to navigate their lives. Everybody has gaps in their learning. I don’t know a single adult who isn’t embarrassed over their inability to perform some “normal” menial task like driving, cooking, doing laundry, or filing taxes.

So today we’re kicking off a basic life skills category. If you missed this information at some point in your life, we’ll teach you how to do it with no shade and no shame. And if you already know all this stuff, who knows, your ass still might learn something! At the very least, you’ll be entertained by our adolescent failures.

On an unrelated note, I’ll also tell you how to get rid of five hundred square feet of bubbles in twenty minutes!

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Like a real-life heroine in a YA novel featuring vampires and forbidden love, my most benign character flaw is that I'm clumsy as fuck.

Financial Lessons Learned from a Night in the ER

I have always been accident prone. Like a real-life heroine in a YA novel featuring vampires and forbidden romance, my most benign character flaw is that I’m clumsy as fuck.

I guess I just never grew out of that stage of puberty where you walk smack into walls that have been there for your whole life and end up with bruises of mysterious origin all over your legs. I just don’t know where my ends are! I’m missing whatever survival instinct informs the human body not to grievously injure itself on a regular basis.

So I guess it was just a matter of time before I ended up in the emergency room, writhing and blinded by the worst pain I have ever experienced in my life.

You guys. I hurt myself really, really badly. And I’m going to be paying for it for a long time.

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If it is also your goal to save money, eat well, and become my mother, then settle in.

How to Shop for Groceries like a Boss

It’s happened. That thing countless rom coms and heteronormative popcorn flicks from the 90s warned me about. The thing I swore at the tender age of sixteen would never, ever happen to me.

Dear readers, I have become… my mother.

My fate is sealed and I’ve got proof! At the grocery store, I haughtily wave my cloth bags at the bagger and proclaim, “I prefer to bag for myself.”

It’s not that I hate baggers and seek to force their entire profession out of employment. It’s just that they don’t do it right, with “right” defined as “according to my very particular and neurotic specifications.”

The one time I was in a hurry and neglected to bag for myself, I lost a bag to the straining weight of all the most heavy items on my grocery list. It burst right there on my front stoop, ripped apart by the carelessness of a bagger who clearly had not trained for extreme grocery bagging at the feet of the expert: my mother.

All of which is to say: I take every step of the grocery-shopping process extremely seriously. And if it is also your goal to save money, eat well, and become my mother, then settle in.

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Here are five easy, lightning-fast things you can do right fucking now to help your financial situation. DO THEM.

5 Easy Things You Can Do Right Fucking Now to Help Your Finances

When you wake up from the capitalist, consumerist nightmare that is our socioeconomic system (#SJW #eattherich), the thought of getting your financial shit together can be daunting. Where do you begin? What can you do right away to make an improvement in your financial prospects? How do you avoid fucking everything up even further?

It can all be a bit overwhelming.

But it doesn’t have to be.

Here are five easy, lightning-fast things you can do right fucking now to help your financial situation. Do them.

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Like your fingerprint, or your RuPaul's Drag Race fantasy league, your emergency fund is unique to you and you alone.

You Must Be This Big to Be an Emergency Fund

Here’s a horrifying fact. 46% of Americans can’t come up with $400 to pay for an emergency. Instead of an emergency fund, those people have to use credit cards, borrow from friends and family, or just… not pay for the emergency.

Scary, right? That means almost half of my countrymen are one fender bender, one slip on the ice, one infant with pneumonia away from—at best—massive debt. And at worst, massive bankruptcy. Homelessness. Abject poverty and desperation.

Think I’m being dramatic? I’m not.

My purpose in bringing up the nightmare that is living just above the poverty line is not to nag those who can’t afford an emergency. What kind of monster would belittle people so poor they have no way of saving themselves from one minor stumble on the road to making ends meet?

I’m also not here to advocate filing for bankruptcy multiple times (let’s say six) as a legitimate means of making emergencies go away.

Instead, we’re here to plumb the depths of one of personal finance’s most enigmatic puzzles:

How much money should you have in your emergency fund?

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When you live alone, no one will kick you out of bed for eating crackers.

Ask the Bitches: Why Are Painted Mason Jars the Internet’s Only Solution to My Tiny Apartment Woes?

In finance, Piggy and I are as the knuckle-dragging Australopithecus. We’re upright, we get the job done, don’t yell at us! But we’re the clumsiest possibly hominids. Our knowledge is erratically cobbled together from history books, finance podcasts, Kitty’s racist-yet-thrifty grandpa, and poorly-sourced socialist Facebook memes.

Thankfully, there are other areas where we are Homo neanderthalensis: graceful and erect, with powerful bodies and minds, superbly adapted to the cold, with cosmopolitan attitudes on interspecies breeding. Our knowledge in these areas is instinctual, virtuosic. And one of these areas is organizing small spaces.

Today we have a great reader question from our Tumblr on this very topic:

Hi! I love your blog and I find it really helpful!! I’m a mid-20s human in the SF Bay Area. I got a job and and was able to get an extra $15k in my salary (thanks to your advice!), and have now moved into my own little studio. My problem is this: Everything to help you “save space” on the web seems to actually be “how to move your entire kitchen into hand-painted mason jars”. Any advice on how to organize my space without buying useless storage buckets on Amazon?

Is… is this what I think it is? IS THIS PERMISSION TO GO ON MY BIG RANT ABOUT MASON JARS? Oh, thank the stars! (Jars?)

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Hold your lectures, bikevangelists.

The Joys of Getting Around Without a Damn Car

Loyal citizens of Bitch Nation, I have a confession to make.

I fucking hate driving.

It’s tedious and boring. It takes up time I could spend in other ways. It raises my blood pressure because everyone else is a really fucking bad driver but definitely not me I’m perfect. Cars are noisy, dirty, and expensive. And I’m expected to follow the rules of the road when I just wanna be all

So yeah. Me and cars? We don’t get a long.

And I’m not alone. Haunt the halls of lifestyle blogs and personal finance advice long enough and you’ll run into people who have gone to great lengths to go without driving.

Living a carless lifestyle is entirely possible for a lot of us, and the joys and benefits are many. Getting around without a car saves you a trunkload of cash (see what I did there?), it’s better for your health, and it’s better for the environment. It can even save you time, in certain circumstances.

Below I examine the joys and practicalities of carless modes of transportation. It’s by no means a complete list, so I encourage class participation! Tell me all about your car-free mobility in a comment.

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