When life is busy, looking after yourself tends to drop to the bottom of your to-do list. You spend all your waking hours on projects at work and at home, and in order to save time, you grab fast food on-the-go, you sleep less, you stop exercising.
Then you wonder why you start to feel crap, why you feel burnt out. The unfortunate truth is that we are bad at taking care of ourselves, and we find it hard to gain personal perspective. That’s why active self-care is essential, and something that you need to make time in your schedule for.
Admittedly, the term ‘self-care’ sounds a bit naff, self-indulgent and new-agey – the kind of phrase used excessively by Instagrammers shilling their latest fun-free cookbooks. But the thing is… it’s actually something we should all take on board as a necessity.
By taking essential care of ourselves, we become better able to look after those around us, and to do good work.
Realise that self-care is crucial
Self-care isn’t luxurious or selfish – it’s vital. When you’re under pressure – or even when you’re not – it’s important to take the time you need to look after your health and well-being. It’s not indulgent to go for a run, to take a full lunch hour, or to sleep in at the weekend if you need a few extra z’s. Parents in particular can struggle with this, but in order to look after your kids well, you need to first take care of yourself. As an analogy, take the airplane safety demonstration: adults should put on their oxygen mask first and then see to children. It’s the same principle.
Have no time? Make time
You’re busy. I get that. You’ve got a full schedule and you’re run off your feet. At times like that, it’s even more important to take a close look at your timetable, figure out what you can drop, and then inject some time into it just for yourself. Treat exercise as an exciting activity rather than another chore you have to tick off, focus on getting quality sleep, and take an hour now and then just to chill and not think about anything overly pressing. Your brain needs the space to function properly, so provide it.
Protect your schedule
If you struggle to say the word ‘no’, learn to make it a frequent fixture of your vocabulary. You don’t have to take on every assignment. You don’t have to stay late at work. You don’t have to find yourself guilted into volunteering for that gig you don’t really want to do. Value your own time, and make other people value it too!
Don’t forget your mental health
Taking care of one’s mental health is often overlooked, largely because it’s taboo to talk about it. That fact alone is a huge contributor to common mental health problems. So please accept that it’s valid to be concerned about issues like anxiety, and make an effort to alleviate whatever’s bothering you as best you can. By making time in your schedule for self-care, you’re taking the first step to a happier, less stressed life.
Spend your time on what matters
Time for a pen and paper, folks! Treat your time like a precious commodity, and assess what you spend your time doing, and how much each activity is worth to you. Just as you would budget your finances, learn to budget your time in a way that gives you the best value. Look at the patterns of your days, and figure out what chores you can minimise to make time for what’s really important to you.
Once you learn to value your time, and to spend it in a way that makes the most sense for you personally, you’ll start to realise how much of a difference it makes to your life. So for once, be selfish and take time that you need for you! The benefits in both the short- and long-term will be countless.