The Secret to Making Time for Self Care
Life had gotten out of control. In the span of two months, the following happened:
- My husband had a back injury so bad we spent a day at the ER and it left him unable to move by himself for days. Limited mobility for at least a month, and lots of pain and trouble carrying on normal activities two months later.
- My husband had a minor surgical procedure that left him unable to do much for a few days.
- A second trip to the emergency room for Little E who had a scary fall.
Add all that on top of taking care of an almost 2-year-old, a dog, two cats, a house, and working my regular job.
Writing it out it doesn’t seem like all that much but living it proved to be another story. I was the primary caretaker for EVERYTHING. A role which I would gladly do again because I love my family, but one that is demanding and stressful at times. I’m extremely fortunate that we have wonderful people in our lives who helped with chores, meals, and watching Little E. I was/am grateful for a boss who was understanding and willing to let me have a flexible schedule.
But after those two months, I was BURNT OUT.
I was tired. I was stressed. Anxious. Struggling. I wasn’t eating healthy, exercising regularly, or taking care of myself.
Related: 10 Unexpected Things That May be Triggering Your Anxiety
It dawned on me one day that I couldn’t remember the last time I had stopped to take any time for myself. Something that I’m usually a pretty big advocate of for myself and others. Of course, in the thick of things, the concept is easier said than done.
But it is precisely during those times of craziness when you need self-care the most to keep yourself going strong.
And even if you’re not in the middle of a crisis (or more), making self-care time is crucial to be able to be the best version of you!
I’m going to guess you’ve been in a similar situation. Either you’re in the thick of some stressful events, or your life is so busy that you feel like you never have any time to make for yourself.
I was one of those people who couldn’t relax until everything on my to-do list was done. If there was a sink full of dishes, I couldn’t leave them. People have to be cared for. Chores have to be done. Meals made. But as I was on the verge of complete burnout – with my anxiety sky high – I knew that for my own sanity and mental health, this needed to happen.
Why do we, as women, as humans, wait until things are so bad to do something for ourselves (not blaming here, sincerely asking)?
Going from no self-care to an hour of self care was not likely to happen (at least not on a regular basis). So, to ensure that I carved out time for myself and start to create the habit, I told myself I had to set aside 10 minutes a day. 10 minutes may not seem like a lot. But stick with me here.
I started with taking 5 minutes in the mornings, and 5 minutes in the evening for myself, to do something I like to do.
This included, but was not limited to:
- Walking around my garden
- Light stretching (Youtube has great restorative/yin yoga videos)
- Going for a very short walk
- 2-minute guided meditations
- Drinking coffee/tea on my porch
- Delegating tasks
- Asking for help
This did NOT include:
- Anything on my to-do list
- Checking email
- Anything social media related (in fact, I didn’t even have my phone with me)
- Caring for anyone but myself
- Basically, anything I felt I ‘HAD’ to do
Related: 7 Ways to Detach Yourself from Social Media
Why Start Small?
Have you ever read the book Mini Habits: Smaller Habits, Bigger Results by Stephen Guise? If not, I would HIGHLY recommend it. The idea behind a ‘Mini Habit’ is that you start with something so small it seems ridiculous. For example, the author, Stephen Guise, wanted to start exercising more. He had tried all the motivational methods out there but was not able to get into the habit. One day, he decided to start with one push up. Just one. Nothing more, nothing less. Without going into too much detail (perhaps in another post), Guise made a goal from then on to do one push-up a day. Eventually, he worked his way up to more and more, and that turned into incorporating other exercises into his routine, and soon enough, he was exercising regularly!
The idea is to essentially trick your brain into getting started. In the push-up example, Guise knew he would do one push-up. It was almost more ridiculous not to do one push-up. Of course, some days he did more once he completed his ‘one’.
The reason I started with 10 minutes is that it was a time limit that I felt was doable with how my life was going at that time and a time-frame that I would stick with. 5 minutes in the morning and evening almost seemed a ridiculously short amount of time to commit to self-care. But of course, like in the push-up example, there were days that I committed more time.
As soon as I started implementing this, I honestly noticed a difference. More importantly, I starting noticing on the days that I DIDN’T do it. Yes, even with just 5 minutes in the morning and in the evening. It started my mornings off on a calm and positive note, and the evenings ended the same way. That in itself made a lot of difference.
In conversation with family members and friends, they mention that they have trouble prioritizing time for themselves as well. And as I mentioned earlier, I think this is an issue for a lot of others out there too.
However, making time for self-care is super important for for us mentally (especially for reducing mental clutter) – and there is research out there to prove it.
Don’t believe me?
“Self care reduces the negative effects of stress: A small amount of stress can serve a purpose, but after a while, it just breaks down your mind and body. Taking care of yourself means keeping your stress from taking over so you can function at full capacity. ” (source)
And this one…
“Solitude helps to improve concentration and increase productivity. When you remove as many distractions and interruptions as you can from your day, you are better able to concentrate, which will help you get more work done in a shorter amount of time. ” (source)
Not that I am advocating for you to take on even MORE in your day (this is a simple living blog after all), but if you find yourself in a situation like I described at the beginning of this post, this may be good to keep in mind.
Now that I have developed the habit, I look forward to my ‘10 minutes a day’, especially my time in the morning. I am a morning person and love waking up before everyone else when it is still quiet and calm. I love making my coffee, exercising, walking through my garden, or just relaxing with a book. As I said above, it really makes a big difference in my day. Of course, I have my mornings where I enjoy sleeping in or staying in bed and reading or cuddling with my cat. And that is OK too!
One thing to keep in mind that really helped me shift my mindset around making time for myself:
” …self care is not a reward. It’s part of the process” (source)
Here are 6 steps to start implementing the ‘10 minutes a day’ rule into your routine and stick with it:
- Set time aside – Start with an amount of time that is realistic for you. As much as an hour in the morning and evening sounds amazing, that would not have been a realistic time for me and because of that, I probably wouldn’t have stuck with my ‘me’ time. Start with a small amount of time to allow yourself to get into the habit of doing it, and to start noticing the benefits. This way, you’re more likely to stick with it.
- Make a list – Write down a short list of activities you want to do during your ‘me’ time. That way if you’re tempted to use that time to clean, for example, you can quickly go back to your ‘me time’ list and get back on track.
- Buddy up – Tell a family member or friend who can help keep you accountable of your ‘10 minute a day goal’, or, bonus, do it with you! Ask this person to check in with you once a day, twice a week, whatever schedule you want. Have them ask you what activities you did, and how you felt/feel afterward.
- Add more time – Once you start getting into the habit, work on extending your time!
- Write it down – if you are someone who likes to journal, a good accountability method would be to write down how much time you spent, what you did, and how you felt afterward. If you’re ever in doubt about spending the time for yourself, you can look back and be reminded why you should!
- Ask and delegate – Self-care isn’t always bubble baths and candles. That can definitely be a component, but self-care is also asking for help when you need it, and delegating tasks to others. This can be hard to do, but it is so important! Plus, the more you do it, the easier it gets.
Related: Why You Need More Gratitude In Your Life Right. Now.
Setting aside time for self-care is so important, and something that seems to be somewhat rare these days. People feel guilty for doing it, or, like me, have a hard time taking ‘me’ time when there are so many other things to get done. But those things will be there, waiting, when you’re done with your ‘me’ time. I promise. But you will be in a much better place to tackle them.
And when you’re ready to start taking control of your life and bringing more intention into your daily living (aka – making room for the things that have meaning for you), check out three of my posts on Intentional Living:
- Intentional Living 101: The What, The Why, and The How
- How a 100 Things List Can Help you Live a More Intentional Life
- 5 Mindful and Intentional Living Podcasts You Need to Know About
What types of activities do you like to do during your ‘me’ time? Do you have any tips for making sure you are able to take time for yourself? I’d love to hear about them in the comments!
Starting out small is a great idea! The pushup is an excellent example because like you said it seems ridiculous to not do it. My problem is saying I only have 5 minutes but extending it haha. One thing I have found helpful is to get done everything (or most of the things) on my to do list and that makes “me time” much more relaxing when I’m not thinking about all the things I have to get up and do!
Hi Megan, I am so glad you found a method to help you get some quality ‘me’ time in! I can definitely see how that would really help a person relax and shut off! Thanks for sharing your tip, and for stopping by!
Self-care is so important, so we have the energy to take care of others around us. I always say self-care is similar to what you see on those signs on an airplane, make sure you have an oxygen supply first then help your kids. How can you help another person when you are not present, and exhausted. I am glad that you decided to take some time to yourself. thank you for sharing your tips.
That is a great analogy about the oxygen mask. It is so true, but even though I know this, sometimes I don’t prioritize myself! Thanks for stopping by!
Great post! So very true. I’m going to have to start taking my 10 minutes a day. AND NOT FEELING GUILTY ABOUT IT! Caps was for me not you, LOL 😉 I’m kinda serious though. I seem to always think about everything else I need to get done, or beating myself up for what I haven’t gotten done, which really is defeating the purpose and certainly not helpful. I love your idea of start small!
I am the same way. It can be so easy to push the ‘me’ time aside just to get one more thing done off the to-do list. Liz – DO NOT FEEL GUILTY 😉 I hope you are able to find some ‘me’ time ASAP!
These are great tips. I finally had some me time today after two weeks of single parenting. I was worn out. I feel so refreshed and my husband got some time with our son.
Kelsey! I’m SO glad you were able to get some ‘me’ time in. I’m always amazed at how much better I feel, especially if it has been a while. It is so hard when your partner is gone and everything is up to you. I’ve definitely been there before as well. Thanks for your comment!
I love Stephen Guise! Few people have influenced my personal growth more, honestly. He has amazing advice. I remember how my mind was completely blown by the pushup story when he first published an article about it! I guess I just never allowed myself to apply it to my own life. Intentional living is something I’m really trying to focus on more, so I absolutely loved these tips. Thank you for a great post!!
Hi Katie! Thank you for stopping by! My mind was blown too about the push-up story. It seriously seems to simple, as in, ‘why didn’t I think of that’? I but I think we just try to go all in or nothing, and as many have found, that doesn’t always work. I definitely need to start following him more. I resonate with a lot of what he says!
YES YES!! So much this!! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve told other fellow moms to take “me time” and don’t feel guilty about it! Even the a little bit helps! Fabulous post!
Thank you so much! It can be so hard, especially I’ve found, as a mom. But as you say, so so so important!
So very important!!! I realized this when I was having weekly break downs! When I would drop the kids off at school I would head back home to do housework, cooking, etc. Bow, I make sure to take an hour of “me” time. I head to the library, work out, drink my coffee in peace! It’s so much better when I get these times!
That all sounds wonderful. I am so glad you found time for yourself to refresh! Thanks for sharing your experience!
Thank you so much for the advice! I have been covered in things to do and I find it hard to have a moment to just relax. Hopefully that will change soon! 🙂
I hope so too! Try starting with small amounts of time and see how it grows from there. Good luck!
These are amazing tips! I always tell people it’s important to have “me” time and these are great ways to start!
Thanks, Megan Anne! Sometimes easier said than done, but we all have to start somewhere!
I love this idea of just 5 minutes at a time. I have really learned recently how important that me time is, but still struggle to make it happen a lot of the time. I’m definitely going to try this and commit!
I totally hear you, Tiffany! Good luck and remember, start small 😉
Wow, you certainly have had to deal with so many things all at once!
Yes, taking some “Me” time is absolutely necessary even if it’s only for a few minutes!
I actually take some time away from work and go for a walk. It’s great to breathe fresh air and get some natural vitamin D or liquid sunshine but it takes your mind away and focus on the surroundings!
Life is a journey and we must make the best out of it day in, day out right?
Stay strong & all the best!
Walking is one of my favorite ways to decompress as well. It is so beneficial! Thanks for stopping by!
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This is absolutely genius and so crucial. I forget this way too often.
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I recommend reading Shawn Achor’s book- The Happiness Advantage. He talks about making habits through a similar way, by reducing the activation energy it takes to complete a task until it becomes so natural that it is a habit! Great post 🙂
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