There are days when we can’t take a walk. There are days when we can’t take a break to read or watch our favorite show. We can’t go for a massage or a yoga class. Maybe we don’t really sit down—or get up. Maybe we have a deadline. Maybe we have a newborn—or three kids. Maybe we’re traveling. Maybe we’re moving. Maybe we have a demanding job. Maybe we’re trying to catch up on our ever-expanding to-do list.
Whatever the specific situation, the result is the same: We’re seriously pressed for time, and self-care takes a backseat.
And naturally that’s when we really need it. Naturally, that’s when we feel exhausted, depleted, weary. Naturally, that’s when we feel completely disconnected from ourselves.
During those days, and really any day, we can create small nourishing moments. Shonda Moralis’s book Breathe, Mama, Breathe: 5-Minute Mindfulness for Busy Moms includes some great insights into how (whether you’re a mama or not). Below are three small yet significant strategies from her relatable, funny, valuable book.
Practice triangle awareness. The triangle is made up of these three points: our body sensations, our thoughts, and our emotions. Moralis, a psychotherapist and Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction teacher, suggests pausing at any moment in your day to notice the body sensations you’re experiencing, the thoughts you’re thinking, and the emotions you’re feeling. Because so often we’re on autopilot. We’re flooded with thoughts and emotions, which are driving our behavior, and we don’t even know it.
For instance, maybe you notice that you’re clenching your hands, you’re worrying about your upcoming work week, and you’re feeling frustrated. According to Moralis, “Simply observing and naming [our sensations, thoughts and emotions] is often enough to offer us a moment to gather ourselves, take a few deep breaths and choose a different direction.”
And if it’s not enough, be gentle and patient with yourself. Accept your experience. Just listening to ourselves and acknowledging what we’re going through is an important way to care for ourselves.
Be mindful while driving. Every few minutes or miles, check in with your body. Or use red lights or a traffic jam as reminders to be mindful. Are your shoulders tense? Are you rushing? Are you scrolling through your phone at every light? Are you clenching the steering wheel?
If so, take a deep breath. Relax your shoulders, slow down, put the phone down, and release your hands. Remember that you have the power to shrink your stress.
Give yourself a massage. Start with your scalp. Gently massage in small circles around your head. Using your first two fingers, gently massage your temples, also in small circles forward and backward. Apply gentle pressure to the bones surrounding your eyes and brows. Move down to your cheeks, where your upper and lower jaw meet. Next massage your neck. Experiment with different amounts of pressure. Then move to your shoulders and notice any knots. Any time your mind wanders, bring it back to your body.
There will always be days when we can’t take long breaks, which only lead us to feel disconnected from ourselves. In the going and doing, we lose touch with our bodies, our hearts. These three strategies can help us find our way. If you like, start collecting other strategies that you can turn to when time is limited.
Choose to care for yourself even when it seems like the last thing you can do.