You know you need self-care in your life when you fall asleep through a conversation with a girlfriend right in the middle of a party, with a margarita still in hand. That’s what happened to me a few years back, after baby#2, as I juggled a full-time job, my blog on the side, and a pile of laundry that never seemed to decrease in size. Like so many working moms, professionals, entrepreneurs, aka “busy chicks” out there, I was exhausted.
For so many super-busy women out there, self-care sounds too much like an indulgence. After all, we’re so conditioned to taking care of others, especially as mothers, wives, and daughters, among our many hats, that we naturally end up letting ourselves go. Except the irony of it all is that the less you care for yourself, the less you’re able to care for others in the long run. So the sacrifices you thought you were making for others, end up actually hurting more than helping them.
It took me a few years to finally understand that self-care is not selfish. That the busier you are, the more you need to take time out to put yourself back on your priority list. Here are seven self-care principles I’ve learnt to add to my packed schedule, right besides babies, jobs, laundry and all:
Newsflash: You’ve only got one body, so take care of it!
I know, you’ve heard it before, but I’ll say it again. Until Walmart starts selling refillable human bodies, you’re going to have to take care of the one you’ve got. Which involves exercising (as in moving your body), and eating right.
I know, you already have no time to pee alone, never mind finding your sports bra (what’s that?) and make it to the 5:45 Zumba class. And everybody knows you’re not yourself without that Snickers bar. But what you, and sometimes only Superwoman You, know deep inside, is that you’re functioning in overdrive, your energy is at an all-times low, and you’re just not feeling up to par.
So it may be time to stop and adopt a healthy exercise and eating regimen that suits your lifestyle. Stuck at a desk all day? Invest in a Fitbit and motivate yourself to walk around more (instead of emailing and instant messaging your way out of every human interaction). No time to hit the gym? Enlist some help from family members and friends, or join one of the gyms that actually offer childcare through kids’ club (here’s a list of gyms with childcare near you). And please drop that Snickers bar, and look for healthy places to eat, or easy, light cooking options (hello Pinterest).
Refill Your (Rest) Cup
Let’s keep it real. Catching a catnap during the (boring) departmental conference call does not qualify as a full night’s sleep. Granted, women do need more sleep than men (blame it on multi-tasking). But the fact is, we need to refill our cups constantly, our rest cups to be more precise.
Make it a point to get at least seven to eight hours of sleep every night. Sounds crazy, with everything you have to do? Then change your schedule. Wake up earlier, schedule your three alarm clocks and your phone to ring at five minutes’ interval of each other in the next room (it works!), or invest in an extra comfortable bed. Whatever you have to do to get your rest.
Mind Your Mindset
We often forget how important a role our mindsets play in our everyday lives, especially when it comes to self-care. Stress literally messes with your body and mind, and prevents you from being as productive and centered as you could. Hint: The next time you’re so frazzled you start mixing up your kids’ names, check your stress levels.
Develop positive mindset habits like meditation and quiet time on a daily basis. It may require adjusting your schedule a bit, but will make a world of difference in the end. No time to do that? How about skipping your social media browsing session and replace it instead with a few minutes of meditation. Or downloading one of these apps to bring mindfulness to your most hectic days.
Get Your Support System On!
It takes a village to raise a child, but it also takes one to care for yourself. Sorry to say, but you can’t handle all your responsibilities alone, have no one to fall back on, and expect to make it with your edges still on. Seek out and build a support system that can not only assist you physically, but also provide the mental, emotional and spiritual support to keep you going.
Surround yourself with people who want to see you grow, and bring out the best in you. Look for ways to rely on trusted friends and family members, whether it’s for quick babysitting favors or emotional guidance. Or just skip that monthly shoe-shopping treat and hire a housecleaner instead, so you can enjoy both a candle-scented, pristine house, and some well-deserved free time to boot.
The point is, be willing to relinquish control and let go, so others can help you too.
No “Toxic People” Zone
In the same way you must surround yourself with people who are for you, you must let go of those who drag you down. Those are the “toxic” friends, acquaintances, or even family members, who literally add more weight to your life, rather than relieve it of unnecessary pressure.
Make an inventory of the people who are closest to you, and do have some influence on your life. Honestly assess your relationship with them, and make a conscious decision to distance yourself from anyone who hurts, limits, or weighs you down. Period.
Get off the Expectation “Hamster Wheel”
Much of our struggle as busy women rests in all the expectations we place on situations, people and events around us. We want everyone to be happy, every situation to be close to perfect, and events to go just as planned. Except life happens, and is quite messy too. Which in turn prompts us to do more to bring things and people up to our expectation levels, and there goes that exhausting expectation “hamster wheel” again.
Take a deep breath, close your eyes, and let go of all unrealistic expectations that are making you run in circles and driving you insane. Accept things and people as they are, and focus on working on YOU!
You know how you tend to drift off into “What if” land as soon as you get started on a project, or undertake the most basic of tasks? Or how you dwell on stuff that happened ten years ago? And how that throws you off, and makes you literally function in overdrive?
Instead, make an effort to be more aware of where you are and what’s happening to you in the present moment. It can be challenging if you’re not used to it; however, the more you practice meditation, stillness, and awareness, the more you can take your mind off the past or the future, and just be in the now.
What principles of self-care do you apply to your daily life?
Bio: Solange Lopes is an author, blogger and CPA. She writes about career and lifestyle topics for women at work in her blog The Corporate Sister (www.thecorporatesister.com). She’s the author of Girl, Take Your Career Back: 7 Steps to Reclaiming Your Power at Work.