Who has time for self-care? I am a busy woman – I work as a tutor at my university, I am a content developer here at Petite2Queen, and I am conducting PhD research. My days are scheduled from 7 am to 9 pm, so it’s go-go-go for me. It’s a lot, but I don’t consider myself unique in this; there are a lot of people as busy as me, and many more who are even busier! Our world today is fast-paced, and our To-Do lists seem never-ending.
For better or worse, there is one thing that you need to add to your To-Do list: self-care. You have a million things to do and a limited amount of time to do them, but if you don’t stop and take care of yourself, you will burn out and be of no use to anyone, least of all yourself.
Schedule ‘You’ Time
If you’re like me, the biggest obstacle between you and self-care is time. Sure, we would all love to get facials, massages, great workouts, and healthy meals, but all of those things take time that we just don’t have. It’s more accurate to say, however, that you do have time, but self-care simply isn’t a priority. What I mean is that we all have 24 hours in a day, so there isn’t enough time for everything – we have to prioritize.
Prioritize you. Something that has worked for me is having a few standing appointments with myself during the week. Tuesdays and Thursdays I do Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, I spend time writing for pleasure each weekend, and I save a few hours during the week to relax and unwind. I also have a bedtime that I stick to so that I always get enough sleep. These appointments are non-negotiable, and I plan the rest of my week around them. Sure, the writing and unwinding might have to move on special occasions, but I make sure to always revisit them another time during the week.
Your particular schedule may allow you to spend more or less time than I on self-care, but the trick is to fit in as much as you can and be uncompromising about it. You Time is off-limits, so your bestie is just going to have a wait an extra of couple hours before you’ll help her move her furniture.
Attend to Self-Care’s Many Forms
So, you’ve put You Time in your planner in black ink, but what do you actually do during these appointments? I can offer some guidelines, but the specifics are up to you. There is, however, one thing that you should definitely make time for: enough sleep. We all have different needs, but the vast majority of us need 7–9 hours of sleep each night. (A very few of us can survive on 5–6, but odds are that that cohort does not include you.) Personally, I need 8.5 hours of sleep, and I know I take about a half hour to fall asleep, so I schedule 9 hours of rest each night. Figure out how much sleep you need, and be honest with yourself about it.
From there, figure out what time you need to be awake each day, count backwards from there, and settle on your bedtime. I need to be in bed at 10 pm to wake up at 7 each morning. Is that earlier than I’d like? Yes, but it’s a price I’m willing to pay to ensure that I’m well-rested each day. I set an alarm to remind me to start getting ready for bed each night, which you should consider if you’re reluctant to go to bed at the appointed time, too.
In addition to sleeping, try to incorporate other self-care routines into your schedule. Exercise is important for keeping up your energy level, which is super helpful for accomplishing your weekly tasks, so make sure you find time for some. Whether running, weightlifting, martial arts, or just walking, moving your body will keep you alert and energized. Right now, I do two 45-minute Jiu Jitsu sessions each week, and I am looking to incorporate 20-minute walks into my days, as well. Maybe you can work out every day, or maybe only a little on weekends. Find what works for you.
Be creative! My brain works hard all day, every day, so I often want to just vegetate during my time off and not think at all. That’s good sometimes, but using your brain for more pleasurable pursuits will keep you inspired. I like to write fiction, so I dedicate a couple hours each weekend to just that. Maybe you like painting or playing music or building birdhouses. Whatever floats your boat, make sure that your brain gets some exercise in something that you love so you don’t forget that creating can be fun and fulfilling.
Do relax, of course. As I said, I often want to just not think for a while, and that’s perfectly reasonable and even helpful. I like to watch Netflix, play Sims, listen to music, and read. You might enjoy pampering yourself with bath bombs, face masks, and massages, or maybe you would prefer to play video games. Whatever it is, it should be pressure-free and relaxing. This is your time to unwind and give your brain a well-deserved break.
If you have time for one more thing, maybe learn something new. I can’t dedicate much time, but I spend an hour each Saturday learning Korean. You might want to learn how to skateboard or code or belly dance. For me, learning is self-care because it ensures that I feel like I’m progressing in my life, even when my other responsibilities seem cyclical. I also think it’s energizing.
Note: Cleanse Your Company
Finally, self-care by removing the negative influences in your life. Although it takes the least amount of time, it can also be the most difficult act of self-care: shedding the people who bring you down. If a friend makes you feel bad, like your dreams are dumb, or that nothing is worth trying for, distance yourself from them. Unfollow them on Facebook if you’re not ready to unfriend them. Negativity begets negativity, so try to keep your company as positive as possible. You deserve to be around people who are supportive, generous, and fun.
In order to be productive in your work and personal lives, you need to take care of yourself. Attending to your physical, mental, and emotional needs will keep you at the top of your game as you tackle your To-Do list in this fast-paced world, so make time for yourself. Get enough rest and exercise, be creative, keep learning, unwind, and make sure the people around you are positive influences. By doing these things, you will always be your best and most productive self.
Rachel Whitbeck is the Director of Content at Petite2Queen. She is working towards her PhD in Sociology at the University of Limerick in Ireland. Rachel uses her experience in writing, editing, and research to develop content that appeals to and is reflective of the diverse millennial woman.