Life is busy. It seems like you always have a million things on your to-do list. Sure, seeing a therapist would be great. Therapy helps you manage stress, gives you a place to vent about the hard stuff in life so you’re not always depending on family and friends, and provides professional support from someone you can really trust. But with time limitations in your life, it may seem like too much to ask to add one more thing to your schedule. But do yourself a favor by making time for some of these alternate ways of taking care of your emotions and mental health.


1. Try an Online Therapy Session

These days, everything is online: grocery shopping, appointment booking and virtually anything else you need to keep your life running. And your therapy can be done online too. You can go in between business meetings, while you sit in the parking lot waiting for your kids to finish sports practice or while you’re on vacation or traveling for work. It’s a great option for those always on the go, since you don’t have to travel anywhere for the appointment. Plus, you have the anonymity of no longer having to go to an office and sit in a waiting room, and you no longer need to miss sessions with your therapist while traveling, which may help you stick with it.

Read more: 5 Ways Everyone Can Benefit from Seeing a Therapist

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2. Check Out a Mental Health Workshop

A day (or night) of self-reflection and caring for your mental health may help you reduce stress. Find events in your local newspaper, scroll through the Facebook events page in your city or search the web for “mental health conferences” in your area. Another great resource is the National Alliance for Mental Health website. There you’ll find local therapists, groups you can join and education on what’s going on around you. Don’t want to go alone? Suggest to your friend or significant other, instead of a dinner or date night, that you go together to see what this alternative experience provides for your relationship.

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3. Download a Relaxation App

Apps aren’t a replacement for therapy, but they can help ease stress and give you a mental break between sessions if you have to skip one or two. Over the past 50 years, extensive research has been done on psychotherapy and the types that work best with people. Every study has the same outcome: It’s the relationship with the clinician that best facilitates growth in mental health. So, although apps don’t promote a relationship with a clinician, they do help with stress. Try out apps like Calm and Insight Timer; they provide structured meditation through timers, mindfulness exercises and ways to overcome stress in time-limited daily programs.

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4. Read (or Listen to) a Book

The best way to take care of your mental health is by gaining knowledge. Knowledge is power, and the more you learn about your inner workings, the more you can feel comfortable about who you are. Can you carve out 20 minutes a day to read, or can you listen to an audiobook in the car? Find this time, and then grab some reading material. For example, listen to audio books about cognitive behavioral or solution-focused therapy during your commute to work. It’s like taking a little psychology 101 college course without having to shell out for tuition. Check out these books for future reading: “Mind Over Mood” and “Solution-Focused Therapy: Theory, Research and Practice.”

Read more: Why Reading Is the New Therapy (Except Way Cheaper)

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5. Become Your Own Therapist

How do you react when you spill coffee on yourself, don’t make it to a meeting on time or are unable to squeeze in your daily workout? The way you react to things that are out of your control can add to your stress level. Start paying attention to how you respond. Once you’ve recognized that you’re sweating the small stuff, come up with a healthier reaction. For example, try laughing for 30 seconds when you’re frustrated. Or look in a mirror and talk to yourself about all the good things in your life. Changing your behavioral patterns takes practice, so make sure you’re tracking them often.

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What Do YOU Think?

Are you too busy for therapy? Have you ever tried any of these alternatives? How many of these were you aware of? Which ones were new to you? Do you think you’ll try any of them? Are there any other options that you turn to when you can’t make the time to see a therapist? Share your thoughts, suggestions and questions in the comments section below.

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About the Author

Kate Cummins, PsyD

Kate Cummins, PsyD, is a licensed clinical psychologist who specializes in health and neuropsychology, depression, anxiety, life transitions, and relationship issues. She has two private practice locations in San Francisco and Los Angeles. She works at Stanford University with veterans and PTSD research, as well as in the acute rehabilitation hospital setting for a hospital in Los Angeles.