How do you prioritize yourself with an already hectic, full day?
I know you're busy. Your days are packed full from the time you wake up until the moment you climb into bed at night. You know that self-care is important, you might even know that it's necessary. Yet, you struggle to get everything done in a day, so how can you possibly give time to yourself?
I know this feeling all too well. I used to feel it all the time. Until I learned that self-care is not a luxury, I don't wait until I have time for it. Self-care is a necessity, therefore it's a priority. I absolutely must create time within my day for me. I required years (decades in fact) to learn this the hard way. To learn that no outside thing and no person, other than myself, could fulfill me. It's my responsibility to care for and nurture myself to fill my own well.
Self-care is so much more than going for a massage once a month or enjoying a long soak in the tub. It's a multitude of everyday practices that you remain committed to. My dedication to my self-care practices naturally flows from the love and respect I feel for myself. But it didn't always. It began with baby steps. You can learn more about that journey in my blog, Learning to Love Myself.
In the beginning, for me self-care was about doing simple things that felt doable in my already jam-packed day. Small things that on the surface might seem insignificant, however they made big differences in my life. These are things that I still do daily as part of my self-care practice. Try implementing one of more of these practices in your life and note the difference in your day when you do.
7 Simple and Effective Self-Care Practices:
1) Give Yourself Permission
First and foremost it's important that you give yourself permission to make yourself a priority. So often women struggle with prioritizing themselves. Maybe this is you. Keeping yourself at the bottom of your to-do list, believing that everything else is more important. Sound familiar?
If so, first know that it's not uncommon to feel this way. Second, give yourself a little pep talk. Look at yourself in the mirror and tell your reflection that you are worthy of your time. You deserve to be well cared for and nobody else can fill your well for you. It's your responsibility to do so. Affirm that you're now ready and willing to make yourself a priority.
2) Allow Time to Breathe
Think you don't have time to be still and find calm? Think again!
The majority of people breathe quick, shallow breaths from their chest. The closest thing they have to a deep breath is a sigh that usually comes from frustration or exhaustion. If you're one of those millions of people, you're likely going through your day without ever stopping to allow your body to breathe. I mean really breathe; deep breaths that come from within your belly. The kind of breaths that help calm your nervous system. Guess what? You can change it! You can teach your body a new way of being, a new normal. Your body is actually a really great student! It will receive and work with whatever you give it. And when given the same thing consistently, it'll create a new pattern.
An easy way to begin breathing deep throughout the day is to set an alarm on your phone. Every time the alarm goes off, it's your reminder to pause what you're doing and allow a few deep breaths. Place your feet flat on the floor, allow 3-6 deep belly breaths with a long, slow, intentional exhale, then proceed with what you were doing. I recommend allowing these breaths every 20-30min throughout your day. After consistently doing this for a while, you'll notice that your body will begin to naturally allow these breaths on its own. (Remember, it's a very good student).
3) Value Sleep
Our culture is so good at devaluing the importance of sleep. So much so, that many wear it as a badge of honor to get little sleep. They see it as bragging rights for how much they can do while they neglect the sleep they require to thrive. The truth is that without adequate sleep, we humans don't do very well and it creates a multitude of other issues in our life. Forgetfulness, irritability, difficulty making decisions, food cravings, and a weakened immune system, to name a few. Need I go on?
By making sleep a priority, you make yourself a priority. One way you can begin prioritizing sleep is to implement what I call, an Evening Ritual into your life. There’s a reason why all parenting books teach about the importance of a bedtime routine for little ones ~ it’s because it works! And guess what? It doesn’t stop working or become less important once we become adults. Here's my Evening Ritual to help you get started with creating your own.
4) Eat Healthier
Eat Well to Live Well, that's what I believe. I also believe there’s a huge difference between eating to fill a hungry tummy and eating food that nourishes your mind and body. When we don't make ourselves a priority, we often don't make eating healthy a priority. Some easy ways to eat healthier are: increase the amount of water you drink in a day; add in more fruits and vegetables; and reduce your consumption of sugar, caffeine, and processed foods. If you're currently in the habit of eating take-out or pre-packaged food regularly, make a commitment do so less often. Perhaps you begin by committing to only getting take-out on the weekends and special occasions.
Smoothies are a super easy and effective way to add more fruits and veggies into your diet. You could also commit to eating a salad for one of your meals each day. Just beware of what you’re topping that salad with! Most salad dressings, particularly store-bought ones, are loaded with sodium, sugar, and other unhealthy ingredients that take away from the intention of why you’re eating a salad in the first place. If you aren’t already carrying a reusable water bottle with you wherever you go, now is good time to start. You’re more likely to drink more water if it’s right there beside you.
Need quick, easy, and healthy recipe ideas? Check out all my fave recipes here.
5) Move Your Body
The majority of people today don't receive near enough movement throughout the day. And I get why ~ it's super easy not to in the world we live in! Driving everywhere, elevators to move us up and down, desk jobs that require us to sit all day, along with a plethora of things to watch while we sit zoned out in front of the TV or computer, to name only a few. The truth is, we don't move our body as much as we used to and it's not good for us.
Every time you move your body throughout the day, you're contributing to filling your well. You're decreasing stress while increasing feel good hormones and enhancing your health and well-being. Not to mention helping to increase your life span! Easy ways to increase your movement throughout the day are: use the stairs whenever possible; enjoy a 20min walk during your lunch hour; stand up (rather than remain sitting) every time you talk on the phone or send a message to someone; and resist driving around trying to find the closest parking space. Instead, park far away and walk through the parking lot. For more ideas on how you can move more throughout the day, check out my blog, Increase Movement.
Learning to delegate is an important lesson to learn. And mastering it brings tremendous freedom because it means no longer living with all the shoulds and have to dos that so many women feel obligated by. When we aren't willing to say no to the things that don't work for us, and when we aren't willing to delegate, we easily go into over-doing. We easily end up overcommitting, overworking, and over-giving. None of which serve ourselves or anybody else. Who you are is who you give to those around you. Do you want to be giving your tired, overwhelmed self or, your fulfilled self?
It's OK to admit that you can't do it all. Nobody can do it all. It doesn't make you less of a person or mean you care less about helping others. It's healthy to recognize and admit that you can't do everything. And when you recognize this and begin delegating, you prioritize your time, your needs, and your desires. You prioritize yourself.
7) Put You in Your Agenda
Everything else of importance goes into your calendar, you deserve to be in it too. Schedule small acts of self-care, such as allowing a minute to pause and deep breathe (see # 2) or go for walk (see #5), in the same way you would schedule a meeting or an appointment.
Just as important as putting yourself in your agenda, don't remove yourself from your agenda. When something else comes up and you can't find time for it, resist the urge to delete yourself to make time. Don't demote yourself. Remember, you've put yourself in your agenda to make yourself a priority.
Most importantly, be kind and patient with yourself as you begin implementing new practices into your life. Keep in mind that you're creating new patterns for yourself and letting go of old ones that no longer serve you. You don't have to master it all right away. Baby steps count as long as they're steps that keep you moving forward! It isn't about 'getting it right' all the time, it's about remaining committed to being on the path.
How do you practice self-care? Please leave a comment below and let me know ~ I'd love to hear from you.
If you love this blog, I'd greatly appreciate you sharing it so that others can benefit from reading it as well. Thank you.
Looking for more tips to help you live well? Check out Your Live Well Journey - The Podcast, every episode offers ways to help you improve your self-care.