The start of the new year is full of hopeful chatter about new health goals and routines. However, we know how hard it can be to form new habits when you are still recovering from a busy holiday season. Time is often the barrier, not a lack of desire to make good choices. Recently this was confirmed when we asked our tribe, what is the biggest wellness challenge you are facing? And the most popular answer was: finding time for self-care.
Before we dive into what self-care is and the simple ways anyone can incorporate it into their life, I want to stress what self-care is not. When people think about the term self-care they often mistake it for selfishness or self-indulgence. Wellness marketing promotes self-care in the form of fancy products or services often targeted to burned out moms, overworked individuals, and confused consumers. Businesses see our deepest pains and frustrations and use them to sell us their product as the solution. Many of these products and services have really great advertising that make us believe it could really be the answer. However, more often than not, it’s a waste of money or a band-aid covering up a deeper issue.
So, what is self-care?
I recently stumbled upon a study in BMC Palliative Care and fell in love with their definition. The article described self-care as “the self-initiated behavior that people choose to incorporate to promote good health and general well-being.” The words “self-initiated” made this stand out among any other description I’ve read. What this means is that self-care is based on what you need, and you get to decide when to practice it. Self-care looks different for everyone; for some it may be a skincare routine before bed, for others it may be a 5 minute meditation before starting the day, or eating healthy and moving their bodies regularly. All that matters is that the practice is on your terms and it’s something you do intentionally that brings you joy. When introducing self-care into your routine, remember to check in with your expectations, take some time to think about what you have the time and energy for, and know every little bit counts.
How do I make the time?
Now that we’ve covered what self-care is and is not, let’s discuss how you can make the time to incorporate it. At Well Balanced we understand there are some seasons of life where time is limited. That’s why we developed the tips below to help you sprinkle in self-care wherever and whenever possible.
Ways to add in self-care:
- Time blocking. It may feel silly at first, but setting aside time or making an appointment with yourself can help guarantee you are prioritizing your needs. Have 10 minutes between meetings? Block that time so you can spend those few moments doing something for yourself.
- Microbreaks. Taking 5-10 minutes to step away from your desk can help boost energy levels, decrease fatigue, and increase self-care. Get up and drink a glass of water, walk to the mailbox, or listen to your favorite song. Small breaks are a great way to add in self-care without having to rearrange your schedule.
- Check in with yourself. Taking a moment to ask yourself, “What do I need right now?” or “How can I support myself today?” creates the space for you to recognize and support your needs. Whatever it is, make sure you find time to incorporate it in small amounts during the day.
- Unwind after the day. Whether it’s a walk around the neighborhood, listening to a podcast on the commute home, or watching the sunset from your window, having an activity to transition into the evening is a great way to let go of the day while tending to yourself.
- Plan something to look forward to. Having something fun or relaxing planned is not only motivating, but it also allows you to set aside time to do things that bring you happiness. It can be as simple as catching up on a TV show after the kids go to bed, or it can be something more involved like a weekend getaway. Doing the things you enjoy, no matter what it looks like, is a wonderful form of self-care.
- Set and keep boundaries. Sometimes the ultimate self-care is drawing a line between what is ok and not okay. Whether that relates to how many things you are willing to put on your calendar, how much you respond to emails after hours, or how many activities your kids can be involved in. Those conversations can be difficult but worthwhile when they protect your wellbeing.
Self-care in seconds: If you are on a strict time crunch, look no further because here are some suggestions that can help you take care of yourself without having to sacrifice time.
- Deep breathing for 30-60 seconds. Take a few moments to focus only on your breath, deeply breathing in and out for as long as you need. Breathwork can help regulate blood pressure, calm the nervous system, and recenter your focus, promoting small moments of self-care.
- The 20/20/20 strategy. This tool can be a great way to add in microbreaks or moments of self-care throughout the day. Stop every 20 minutes to focus on an object 20 feet away for 20 seconds before returning to close up viewing. This will help prevent eye strain and allow you to reset in the midst of a busy day.
- Check-in with your body. Pay attention to your physical sensations, relax your shoulders, unclench your jaw, adjust your posture, and maybe stretch for a moment. Releasing the tension in your body is a simple yet effective way to care for yourself.
- The 54321 practice. Focus on 5 things you see, 4 things you can touch, 3 things you hear, 2 things you can smell, and 1 thing you can taste. This will help bring you into the present moment and tend to yourself for a few brief moments.
- Hug it out. If you have a friend, coworker, child, or loved one around then a brief embrace might be a great way to show love to yourself and another person, while receiving love in return.
Self-care does not need to be a drawn out process or costly activity. It can be done in seconds and practiced anywhere, at any time. It is accessible to everyone and essential for overall health and wellbeing. If you are interested in learning more about self-care or need more guidance on how to incorporate it into your life, we encourage you to reach out to one of our coaches. In the meantime, remember to take care of yourself the way you care for others!