They say you can officially call yourself a New Yorker once you’ve lived in the city for a full decade, and while I may have just crossed that threshold (pats self on back), truth be told, I’ve felt like a New Yorker for a long time. Not because I know at least three alternate subway routes to any given destination or the best little hole-in-the-wall Italian restaurant in Brooklyn, but because I have unlocked the true secret to success in this city that never sleeps: affordable ways to de-stress.
If you’re wondering how a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed 20-something could possibly afford to manage stress in Manhattan, you are not alone. After paying rent, monthly student loans, purchasing daily provisions, and the occasional item of professional business woman attire, there really isn’t much left over. Which is precisely why it’s helpful to know that you can find almost anything in New York, at any price. Sure, you can splurge for the $300 an hour massage at a fancy hotel spa, but folks on a budget know that a $20 foot rub in Chinatown is nearly as satisfying (plus, you have cash left over for takeout from across the street)!
Lucky for you, one way that I help myself unwind is by helping others, which is why I’ve compiled a list of ways to de-stress at any budget. Read on for a few of my favorites below (I’m not telling you the name of my secret Chinatown spot, but I will tell you that it has a photo of Mary Louise Parker out front—if you know, you know), and then find me at @DrewBlahBlah or in our Facebook group to share your tips, too.
You Have Literally $0 to Spend
Trust me, I have been there, so hear me out: Take a walk. Literally, go outside and find your way to somewhere green and/or with a view of the water. Press play on a free podcast if you like and take a moment to appreciate where you are. You might have zero dollars, but it's fine—you're here.
Read a book. A genuine, physical book. You can pick one up at the New York Public Library (membership is free with proof of residency!), or borrow one from a friend. Hopefully, it’s entertaining and not at all work-related, but hey, whatever helps you unwind. Bonus points if you can read on a stoop or fire escape.
Reclaim your space. Take it from me, a person who hates cleaning—this really helps.
It’s amazing what a few clear surfaces will do for your psyche. Plus, your future self will thank you for giving her a beautiful, uncluttered place to come home to after work.
You Have $50 to Spend
If you’re really in need of some self-care, fifty bucks are more than enough to fuel your way back to mental clarity.
If you have the energy, treat yourself to a group fitness class. Even if you tend to be more of a solo elliptical type of person, there’s truly nothing like being part of a pack to really feel energized.
If you just need to sit for a spell, get thee to the nearest nail salon (a clean, reputable one)—fortunately, there’s one on every other block these days. Go for the mani/pedi, and definitely don’t skip the 10-minute chair massage—it’s a game changer.
If you are an unruly combination of stressed and starving, I highly recommend taking yourself to that impossible-to-get-into restaurant that has bar seating and treating yourself to a nice meal (and let’s be real, maybe a cocktail or glass of wine). I’ve had the best experiences dining alone at popular restaurants, and actually, sometimes prefer it to the whole group dinner thing.
You Have $100 to Spend
Congratulations, you’ve done it! You’re either financially secure enough to afford to spend a little money on yourself or seriously stressed out enough to require some urgent self-care. Either way, you’re probably feeling like a real New Yorker right now.
In addition to finding anything at almost any price, you can also get anything at almost any time. This is what I love most about on-demand services like HeyDay for skincare and FaceLove for facial massage: You can almost always get a same-day appointment.
The glow starts here with a facial. Go for the basic 30-minute refresher, or for another $30, you can try a few enhancements like light therapy or microdermabrasion.
If your job requires you to stare at a screen all day, you probably hold a lot of tension in between your eyebrows. When I can't quite squash my squint, I head to FaceLove for the most relaxing head, neck, and yes, facial massage you could imagine—then, straight to sleep!
While building up stress and de-stressing take time, there are a few products that keep me at peace day to day. Below, shop a few of the must-haves I’ve acquired over the past decade of surviving, thriving, and commuting via the MTA in NYC.
It wasn't until I moved to NYC that I realized how much I actually appreciate nature. Keeping a few succulents and potted plants in my home provide a happy medium between the concrete jungle and an actual jungle and require very little effort to sustain life.
I actually spray this body mist on my duvet and pillow right before bedtime. The scent is calming without being overpowering, and signals to my brain that it is time to relax, or as my favorite fictional New Yorker, Frank Costanza says, "Serenity now!"
After a really stressful day, I like to come home to my apartment and immediately light a candle. Then, I'll either take it into the bathroom and enjoy a bubble bath or put it in my bedroom for a few minutes before going to sleep. The Wake scent smells like the ocean and is my absolute favorite.