For anyone that knows me professionally, one of my side-passions is teaching others how to care for themselves. I feel like this serves as one of the most effective ways of becoming a happy and fully satisfied person. It might seem obvious – make some time to get your hair cut or watch a movie – but it’s not. We live in a society that values hard work. Underlying that narrative is the implication that taking time for yourself is selfish or superfluous.
Now-a-days, I don’t find myself having to convince others that this implication is false. Most people, I find, generally buy into the fact that you can’t pour from an empty cup. However, what I do find is that people struggle to engage in self-care anyway.
Here’s the thing: Self-care isn’t just taking a long hot shower or exercising (although that certainly might be a piece of it). IT IS MAKING THE TIME TO DO THOSE THINGS.
What you do during that time is very personal, and hopefully enjoyable. Pick up learning to play the Ukulele. Learn how to knit (then teach me, please…). Start a new sport… whatever you chose. But that’s not really the hardest part. Most of us WANT to do those things, but we can’t find the time to do them. That’s why, in my opinion, one of the best things that you can do for yourself in the name of self-care is carving out the time to do those things that you really enjoy.
It is rare that we hear someone offering to take stressors or tasks off of our plate. With that in mind, self-care is also something that will rarely be OFFERED to you, it must be prioritized by YOU. Since that’s the trickiest part, let’s talk about some of the things that you can do to find that time:
- Consider Waking up Earlier. I shudder at this one. Anyone that knows me personally knows that I am the farthest thing from a morning person that could possibly exist. However, there is a potential pocket of serenity in the early morning that does not repeat during the hustle of the day. Whether you choose to use that morning-time as a means to get some of the work out of the way so that you can enjoy your evening with less stress later, or if you choose to engage in one of your activities to help you feel at peace, this is potentially un-tapped time.
- Consider Staying up Later. Some folks blossom in the nighttime, and would rather catch that peace and quiet for self-care after the trials of the day have ended. Whether you’re the type of person that can stay up late working so you can wake up the next morning worry-free, or find that you need the time to de-compress at night, this is another area where we can carve out some time for ourselves.
- Consider Saying “No.” This one can be a little bit (okay, A LOT) harder. The extra shift at work means more money to pay your bills. The long phone call listening to a friend fosters a relationship that’s important to you. The party that you don’t really want to go to means that you are nurturing your “village.” Here’s the thing – you don’t HAVE to say yes to ALL of it. What you choose to say “no” to will change depending on… well, a lot… but some of it does not have to happen RIGHT NOW. Everyone else’s crisis is not ALWAYS your problem to address, and sometimes setting that boundary affords you the opportunity to care for yourself in a way that then allows you to attend to those needs more effectively the next day.
- Try Not to Catastrophize When You’ve Said “No.” One of two things typically happen when we articulate and enforce a boundary. The person you’ve said no to may initially protest or feel hurt, but ultimately (if they care about you), they are willing to work with you. This is most typically the case. Navigating those boundaries at first is usually kind of scary because we don’t know how the other person will react. If you remind yourself that, most often, they will respond in kind. To be fair, one of the other things that may occur is that the person you attempted to established that boundary with becomes so hurt that they distance themselves from you. I’m not much of a betting woman, but I would fancy a wager that the people you care about would be able to ultimately handle it when you step back from something to care for yourself. Have faith in your ability to present that boundary well, but also in your village that you’ve created that they will support you in that.
- Have designated on/off times of day. We schedule everything in our lives, and self-care really shouldn’t be any different. For some people, they compartmentalize their time such that they can be fully focused on the role that they are currently in at a particular time of day (and only that role). And when one role is done, put it to bed for the day, and focus on the next one. That means that one of your roles throughout the day is one of prioritizing self-care, and you designate/schedule a specific time to do so.
- Consider getting a healthy night’s sleep. This sounds kind of obvious, but most people just can’t function at their best when they are under-slept. When you aren’t getting enough sleep, you are setting yourself up to have a day tomorrow in which you’re already behind. When you can, and as often as you can, nurture your sleep hygiene routine and catch as many ZZZ’s as you can. The average adult needs 7-9 hours per night. How are you measuring up?
The answer to where you will find your time for self-care (and how often you will find it) will be a little bit different for everyone based on your own unique situation, but hopefully these suggestions have given you a place to start thinking about where you can begin. I am certainly not suggesting that we all just toss aside our responsibilities and selfishly attend to our every whim and desire. However, there is a compromise between giving every piece of yourself to others and selfishly focusing inward. Even if it is only 5 minutes per day to do something that you truly enjoy, you are making an investment in your own happiness.
Trust me… it’s worth it. Here is a Seven Minute Relaxation Exercise to get you started.