How often do you feel drained and find yourself wishing for more hours in the day?
You know you need a break and promise that you will take some time for yourself as soon as you finish… just one more thing. The problem is, there is always just one more thing. It might seem impossible to find extra time to squeeze in self-care activities like hitting the gym, eating healthy, or getting enough sleep. Even though you may not have much time, the busier you are, the more important self-care becomes.
There is a great deal of research about making self-care a priority in your daily routine. Learning how to eat right, reduce stress, exercise regularly, and take a time-out when you need it are touchstones of self-care and help you stay healthy, happy, and mentally strong. Making room in your day for time that’s meant only for you is a vital step in taking care of yourself. Giving yourself a daily dose of care helps you approach your work and relationships with a clear mind. Taking time for yourself is a form of productivity.
There may be some inner work and behavior changes you need to do to come to terms with this, and that’s okay. In fact, taking time for yourself can help you do this inner work. So, the more you do it, the easier it’ll become. You can practice self-reflection and self-awareness during your moments spent alone to understand yourself more. You can just be yourself and observe what that feels like. This way, taking some time helps you know what type of self-care you need. You can experiment with different things you want to try and see what works best.
Let’s look at 10 ways to practice self-care that might be right for you:
1. Question any guilt you have about taking time for yourself.
Do you feel guilty about taking time for yourself? If so, explore that guilt. Don’t push it back. Questioning yourself about your responsibilities is a crucial part of performing inner work. Ask yourself why you feel guilty for taking a little time for yourself. See what comes up, and address all of those reasons.
2. Schedule your self-care time.
While it can be hard to find extra time, it’s vitally important to plan regular self-care time as you plan. Schedule a time in your day, either in the morning before work, at night, on your lunch break, or right when you get home from work for self-care time. Take five minutes to decompress every day and just breathe. Just closing your eyes and focusing on your breathing for 5 minutes is an excellent form of self-care and relaxation.
3. Say no to others, and say yes to your self-care.
Saying no is hard. We often feel obligated to say yes when someone asks for our time. However, if you’re already stressed or overworked, saying yes to everyone can lead to burnout, anxiety, and overwhelm. Let your friends and family know that you need to take time for yourself. With some practice, once you learn how to politely say no, you’ll start to feel more self-confident, and you’ll have more time for your self-care and prioritizing what matters.
4. Disconnect from technology and work.
Especially since many of us work from home, it’s hard to move away from work and technology. Setting boundaries around work emails, phone calls, and texts are essential. Set up a work-hour plan, even if you’re working from home. Limit your screen time using your phone, which can help with setting up screen time daily limits.
5. Take a break by getting outside.
Taking time outside can help you reduce stress, lower your blood pressure, and clear your mind. Time outdoors can reduce fatigue, helping to overcome symptoms of depression or burnout. Getting outside can also help you sleep better at night, especially if you do some physical activity, like gardening, hiking, or walking.
6. Express your needs.
If you’re in dire need of free time alone for your mental health, it’s important to express it. Journaling is an excellent way of taking some self-care to confront any negativity on paper. Write down any self-doubts, negative talk, and conflicts you face, with time for self-reflection. You can then acknowledge the negative while not letting it overtake the positives in your life. Journaling also helps you sort out what you know to be accurate and what you’re capable of. For instance, ask yourself, “what do others really need from me?” Consider that you might be more helpful and supportive for others if you were well-rested and able to recharge by taking some time for yourself. Set boundaries with your work and talk it over with your employer. You are just as important to them as they are to you.
7. Implement an exercise routine.
Find a form of physical exercise that you enjoy. This can be a great way to spend time with yourself. An exercise routine can significantly improve your physical health and well-being. This can be a walk, a hike, or exercise from home.
8. Try doing nothing.
You don’t always have to be doing something productive. In fact, you don’t always have to be doing anything at all. While planning some time with yourself, you might experiment with something new and give yourself the time and space to do nothing. Doing nothing means staying off your phone or television and putting away the screens and social media to enjoy a distraction-free moment with yourself. You might make yourself a cup of coffee or tea, take deep breaths, and smile.
9. Create your own rituals.
If you get creative, you might be able to find a way to take advantage of an insane work week. For example, taking advantage of work travel by blocking off one night of room service and watching TV in a big hotel bed. Find other ways to make the most of the time you need to spend at the office or home, like scheduling lunches with work friends or different ways to leave your desk that are phone and email-free. Even if you only take 15 minutes away from your desk, it can make a big difference. Creating time for self-care with little rituals can help you stay on track. Since sleep is critical for your health, try setting the alarm for bed, set a time for meditating, or mindfully cook a healthy meal. While we often work 45 hours a week and multi-task to get as much done as possible, setting “me” time means your appointment with yourself is untouchable. No calls, no thoughts of work, and no stress.
10. Set a goal.
If you have a tough time with self-care, try the goal-based approach. Find a goal you love and enjoy and make a commitment to it. For instance, if reading makes you feel relaxed, try setting a goal to read one book a month. If you want to prioritize meditating, set a goal to work your way up to 15-minute sessions instead of five-minute quickies.
Self-care looks different for everyone; the goal should be to figure out which self-care strategies work best for you. Learn how to use these strategies, and implement them in your regular routine to boost your well-being and sustain it.