The Commoditization of Wellness & How to Practice Self-Care for Free

I have bought my fair share of face masks, yoga classes, massages, and healing crystals over the past year. I initially made these purchases to reduce the mental stress from work and the physical strain from marathon training, but the collateral damage was the eventual impact on my credit card bill. Self-care and wellness, especially the way social media portrays it, is certainly not cheap.

As of last year, the wellness industry was estimated to be worth $4.2 trillion globally, which amounts to 5% of global economic output. “Wellness” is a broadly defined term that relates to activities that promote physical and mental well-being. The industry encompasses fitness, beauty, spa economy, alternative medicine, and even workplace wellness. To put the scale of the wellness industry into perspective, it’s more than half the size of the entire world’s health spending, which was last estimated at $7.2 trillion by the World Health Organization

However, the concept of wellness (as it’s often portrayed) is not easily accessible to everyone, and that’s the nature of how the industry’s economics work. An organic meal is more expensive than one that’s not, fitness classes in major metropolitan areas cost about $30 or more per class, and a robust nightly skincare routine will cost you hundreds of dollars in products. When it comes to the wellness industry, there’s a very fine line between what’s truly beneficial for your physical and mental well-being, versus what’s just a trend. For businesses, it’s the simple concept of supply and demand, and the ability to commoditize wellness into revenue.

While I do enjoy my organic beauty products, Headspace app, and vegan snacks, the most impactful factors to my wellness are the changes I’ve made to my lifestyle overall. While you can buy things to improve and maintain your wellness, it all comes down to making your physical and mental well-being a priority — however you choose to to do that.

Below are the most effective ways I practice self-care for free:

Blocking off time to work uninterrupted: Any wellness tip involving work sounds like a contradiction, but hear me out. I keep my work calendar meticulously updated and block off at least two hours of my work day to be uninterrupted by meetings, calls, or networking. Even though I’m still doing work during this blocked off time, it allows me to be productive and stay focused without any unnecessary stress or distractions. Sometimes I’ll pop in my headphones as a signal to my co-workers that I’m in the zone. It equates to taking a breather but without having to leave my desk, and it’s a totally manager-approved method that will help with minimizing the daily effects of burn-out.

Intermittent phone fasting: It’s exactly what it sounds like: intermittent fasting, but instead of food, it’s with your phone. I try to have 12 hours of phone-free time per day. This may seem like a lot, but you should hopefully be asleep for at least half of the fast, so it isn’t that difficult to part ways with your device.

Hydrating: Overpriced CBD drinks can help you feel great, but so can water. This New York Times article summarizes it pretty well: “Inadequate hydration can cause fatigue, poor appetite, heat intolerance, dizziness, constipation, kidney stones, and a dangerous drop in blood pressure.” We definitely want to avoid all of the above. As much as possible, I try to drink from a reusable water bottle and count how many times I refill it throughout the day.

Replacing social plans with video chats: I love my friends, but sometimes making plans and following through with them can be a process. Instead of going out on a Friday night or arranging boozy brunch on a Sunday, sometimes a Facetime call with your best friend is the best option if you’re feeling particularly burned out. While you probably don’t get a drink or have brunch with your friends multiple times per week, video chats can be arranged frequently, no matter where you are.

Wellness practices are different for everyone, therefore you should never feel pressured to add something to your self-care routine if you’re not convinced of its benefits, even if it’s backed by science (or influencers). Self-care can be complicated, but it can also be refreshingly simple. How you ultimately commit to your own personal wellness is up to you.


Overachiever Magazine was started by Rehana Paul in October of 2018 to give a platform to all Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities.

Our name is poking fun at the stereotype that all Asians are overachievers, especially Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities. It’s also in recognition of all of us who have had no choice but to be overachievers: managing societal expectations, family obligations, and educational opportunities, all while fighting the patriarchy.

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We do not claim to speak for all Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities. We are just here to give them a place to speak for themselves.

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