Self-Care for Busy People
Over the summer, many of us have the chance to take a break from work and indulge in a little rest and relaxation. For some of us, it may be one of the few times throughout the year that we are able to practice some self-care; activities that we do deliberately in order to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health. But self-care shouldn’t be something reserved for pool-side vacations, one week a year. What if there was a way to make self-care part of your everyday routine, to help you maintain a balance between productivity, performance and your wellbeing.
Unfortunately, self-care is often perceived as something else to add to your to-do list. How are you meant to find time for things you want to do when you’re too busy to get done the things you have to do? You’ll find some practical solutions to this below, but there also needs to be a fundamental shift in the way we think about self-care. Rather than seeing it as a drain on your already limited time, try to see it as a tool that will improve your efficiency, focus, energy and productivity. Self -care refuels us, allowing us to thrive rather than simply survive. Just like any machine, the better we take care of our mind and body, the better we will perform.
If you’re de-prioritising self-care due to feelings of guilt around important relationships, it might also help to keep in mind that it isn’t a selfish activity. In fact, the impact of self-care on your mood, mindset and effectiveness can empower you to give more to the people that matter.
5 Ways to Practice Self Care
1. When confronted with a challenging situation, such as a difficult email or phone call at work, give yourself a moment to take a few breaths and notice your emotional response. Acknowledge how you are feeling e.g. ‘I feel frustrated’, ‘I feel angry’, ‘I feel disappointed’. Then ask yourself, ‘what do I need to do right now that will support me?’ That might be walking away from your screen for a few minutes, getting some fresh air or making a cup of tea. Allow yourself time to do whatever will help you regain a sense of calm and perspective. This will enable you to choose a wise response, rather than simply have a ‘knee-jerk’ reaction.
2. Draw boundaries throughout your day to protect your time. This might look like leaving the office on time for one or two evenings a week, or ensuring you take a full hour for lunch each day. If you live and die by your diary, use that to your advantage and schedule in time for self-care – whether that’s a workout, a power nap or a walk outside. Block out time for the activities that you know help restore your wellbeing and treat them like meetings that you can’t put off.
3. Consider how you would spend a day off if one was unexpectedly handed to you (removing all responsibilities to children, partners or parents). What would you love to do? Rest on the sofa? Go for a walk? Attend an exercise class? Read a book? Is there something from that dream day that you can inject into your everyday routine? Perhaps you could read on your commute, listen to a podcast or audiobook, or go for a lunchtime walk?
4. Spend some time outdoors each day. We are hearing more and more about the benefits of being in nature, and that doesn’t only mean hiking in the wilderness. Even 5 minutes spent in your garden before or after work could make a difference.
5. Try this mindful breathing exercise whenever you have a spare minute, even when you’re just sitting in traffic.
Focus your attention on your breath as you slowly inhale and exhale.
Notice the air going in and out of your nostrils and the rise and fall of your chest or stomach. You can even place your hand on your stomach and notice how it gently rises and falls with each breath.
It’s natural for your mind to start to wander. When it does, just gently bring your attention back to your breath.
You can do this for longer than a minute, however even 60 seconds will help you slow down and refocus.
September is often the time that we throw ourselves into new projects and ventures. You may have even been looking forward to getting back to work after taking a break. However this renewed sense of motivation and energy can quickly fade if you don’t allow room for a little self-care.