Trying to find time in a packed schedule is frustrating and stressful. I’ve been there, staring at my to-do list, staring at my list of commitments and obligations wondering how am I going to fit some time in for myself.
It feels like an impossible task and I don’t want to cancel on someone else—that feels rude and I would feel guilty because I already said yes. So, the easier option is to just forget about the gym.
I’ll go another day... You know... When I’ve got more time...
But it’s not about waiting for more time or trying to find time in a busy schedule, it’s about scheduling it in. It’s about scheduling your self-care activities in advance and blocking time out for yourself, just like you would for work meetings and birthdays and catch ups and weddings and other events.
You might like to block out a specific time each day or you might change it from week to week. I personally like to schedule in at least 3 yoga classes every week. That is my non-negotiable. I schedule it in and everything else has to work around it.
#2 Adopting the go big or go home mentality.
This is something I struggled with in my twenties. I was always a little too ambitious with new habits, wanting to make that dramatic overnight transformation, but it’s just not sustainable.
Forget the saying "go big or go home" because there is legitimate power in starting small.
While it doesn't sound as impressive, it's been proven time and time again—the secret to making your habits stick is simply starting small, and then building on that habit over time.
What this does is it strengthens your self-belief and helps build evidence of the person you want to be.
When the evidence (series of ticks on your habit tracker) adds up, the story you tell yourself begins to change as well. You start to believe in yourself.
You’re no longer the person who wants to workout or wants to meditate but doesn’t. The series of ticks are proof. You are that person. So never underestimate the power of starting small. Those small habits form the foundation of your larger habits and routines.
#3 Only engaging in reactive self-care
What I mean by that is only exclusively practising self-care when you’re forced to—when you’re sick or burnt out and have no choice but to respond to your needs. That is reactive self-care. And of course it is necessary. We need to take extra care for ourselves when we are feeling most vulnerable.
However, when you are only using it on your worst days, you are missing out on the true benefits of proactive self-care. You are missing out on the best preventative measure against sickness, against stress and overwhelm and exhaustion.
Although practising self-care proactively doesn’t magically make you immune to everything, it creates a supportive foundation so that you can move through the difficult periods with a little more strength and resilience.
Think about small habits you can incorporate into your daily routine to get into the habit of practising it every day.
It might be a few minutes of meditation when you wake up or a 5 minute stretch routine or taking some vitamins everyday before breakfast or going for a walk around the block to wake up your body.
#4 Doing what everyone else is doing
You can look to others for inspiration but ultimately you need to be guided by your internal compass. You need to tune in and listen to your body.
If you’re exclusively jumping on what’s trending and just doing what everyone else is doing, its possible that you’re being led by the crowd rather than by your body.
We need to remember that self-care is different for everyone. What works for you isn’t necessarily going to work for me and vice versa.
You need to find the rituals that work for you and that align with your values and your lifestyle and your goals—that’s the key. If it doesn’t align, if it doesn’t benefit you, then, there’s no incentive to keep it up.
Take the time to experiment with different activities and try out different routines. Have fun with it.
There will be some trial and error, but you are learning how to best take care of yourself. You’re getting to know what works and what doesn’t. You are simplifying the act of self-care, and ultimately making it easier on yourself.
#5 Letting your ego win
Self-care won’t always feel good for your ego, especially when there’s an element of surrender involved.
What you want to do and what you need to aren’t always going to be aligned.
Since becoming a mum, I often have to surrender what I want to do in order to honour my limits and do what’s best for my body.
Napping has been one of those acts of self-care that I struggle to willingly engage in because my ego doesn’t like having to surrender, having to reschedule, having to admit that I can’t do it all.
Whenever I take the day to rest or recover, the first critical thought that comes to mind is: I didn’t do anything today. It makes me feel lazy and unproductive and unaccomplished.
The fact is, you need to put the desires of your ego aside to truly give your body what it needs. Despite what your inner critic might be saying, you are not weak for surrendering to the needs of your body.
Remember, strength is not pushing through at the expense of your wellbeing. Strength is honouring your needs, taking care of yourself, saying no. It’s choosing what’s right for you. Rewrite the script. Reframe those critical thoughts.