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.
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
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.
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!