Self-care is something that you may hear a lot about but find difficult to fit into your daily life. Work obligations, kid events, and household tasks often get first dibs on our energy levels and at the end of the day you may find that there’s nothing left to give yourself. This is exactly why a habit of self-care is not only important, but necessary.
Self-care is actions and thoughts that are intentional for your mental and physical well-being. When you are faced with stressful situations or busy weeks, you may look at self-care as an additional thing thrown on your to do list. Instead, these intentional actions should be made a part of your daily routine. Self-care can actually help you to have more time and energy for your other responsibilities because it leaves you well rested and better able to prioritize and focus on the task at hand. Without taking care of yourself, it can be nearly impossible to give your best with your family or at your job.
Here are some ways to start taking care of yourself….
Pay attention to your diet. When you are rushed and stressed it’s often easier to reach for those unhealthy and quick foods, but making sure your body is receiving what it needs is vital to your energy levels. Some foods, such as sugar and alcohol, can actually trigger and worsen anxiety and stress. The momentary satisfaction you receive from junk food can actually make you feel worse in the long run. The best way to ensure you have healthy food available is to plan ahead. Make sure you have items to cook quick, balanced meals throughout the week and stock your refrigerator and pantry with fast and healthy snacks that you can grab on the go. Remember that these meals do not have to be elaborate or require detailed planning.
Identify your top stress reducers. What are the top actions that work for you? Is it a walk, listening to music or reading a book? Having one or two ‘go-to’ habits you can use on a tough day will make a huge difference. Pay attention to the little things that make a difference and utilize them often. This will help you to regulate your stress levels before they get too high and to reduce your overall anxiety. A little “me” time on a regular basis will help your to feel better and it will benefit your family. Down time shouldn’t be an afterthought or a nice to have – it is a necessity.
Plan for your sleep. Research has long showed the affects of lack of sleep on stress. When you are tired you have less patience and a lessened ability to deal with everyday interactions. If you know that you need 8 hours of sleep to feel rested the next day, plan for it. Remove as many distractions as possible. When you have something blocking your ability to sleep at night, find ways to rest or take naps. If you have sleeping issues or concerns such as insomnia, reach out to your doctor and address the underlining issues. Sleep is a basic need that needs to be met in order to properly function.
Learn how to say no. If you find that you are someone who always has too much on your plate, focus on cutting down on your obligations. Saying no to requests from co-workers, other parents or your family may be difficult at first but you need to focus on your priorities. Remember that your energy levels and time are not infinite; you need to prioritize where they are spent. Know the top areas that you want to focus on and cut out the rest. You will likely find that people are more understanding than you imagine. If you look at your calendar and say there is nothing you can cut out – look again. Do your kids really need to be in piano, soccer and church group four days a week? Is it a necessity to attend all of the PTA meetings or go to nighttime work networking events? Your schedule may be in need of an overhaul that might not be easy, but is likely needed. If you are feeling the stress of balancing it all, your spouse and your kids likely are as well. Take the time to thinking about what is truly important and how you want your family to function, and then base your schedule on that vision.
Don’t let yourself fall into the trap of feeling guilty for time for you are spending on yourself or the revamping of your priorities. Your emotional and physical state are important. You cannot run on empty for long without it impacting your spouse, your children, your home and your work. Finding ways to incorporate self-care into your daily routine will help you tremendously and it will allow you to have time and energy for the things that matter most.