“Taking care of you needs to come before anything else”
In this busy, overworked life, it’s so easy to forget that we need to take care of ourselves as much as we do others. It’s so easy to feel like we’re being selfish when we put ourselves first, but that isn’t even close to true. You are the best version of yourself when you’re happy. You are more productive, you are more focused, you’re less stressed, and you’re less likely to rush through finishing something just to get it done. Self-care is essential to a healthy, balanced life filled with a sense of purpose and accomplishment.
But where do you even start to incorporate self-care into your daily routine? Below is a list of 11 things you can do to work self-care into your daily routine. You can start with one and add as many as you want; even all of them. Pretty soon, you’ll find that you feel more connected to your happiness and more grounded in the little moments that help us relieve stress and conquer our days.
1. Start with a good night’s sleep
Sleep is essential for every part of ourselves. From our bodies to our minds, and even our spirits, a tired person is an inefficient person. You’re more easily stressed when you haven’t had enough sleep, your mind isn’t as sharp, and all that can lead to poor performance. Whether you’re a stay at home parent or running your own business, you need energy to conquer the tasks before you each day so that you can end each day feeling accomplished and ready for the next day. A lack of sleep tends to compound with each day, so a tired Monday can set you up for an even more tired Tuesday until Friday finds you so exhausted you only have enough energy to watch the clock. Instead of using your weekend to get out and live your life and enjoy your hobbies, you end up trying to catch up on sleep and wondering what you did all weekend come Monday morning.
Make getting enough sleep a priority and you’ll soon find that you’re up and ready to face the day with a positive mindset.
2. Wake up on time
This is a trap a lot of us fall into. The snooze button. The little moment that convinces us that just five more minutes will feel oh so good. Before we know it, we’ve overslept and we’re rushing out the door with different color socks and not entirely sure we’ve brushed our hair.
If you need “just five more minutes” that’s a sure sign that you are not getting enough sleep. Ideally, you should be able to wake up without an alarm once you’ve settled into a consistent sleeping routine. If you find yourself slapping the alarm clock and burrowing back into the covers, then it’s time to focus on number 1 so that number 2 is attainable.
Waking up late is stressful, it causes us to rush and forget things, and it sets us up for a harrowing commute as we watch the clock and beg the universe not to let us be late again.
Greeting the day in such a frantic and disjointed way can set you off balance for the entire day, making it hard to find your center again. Waking up on time avoids all that, and is “five more minutes” really worth darting in and out of traffic and sliding into the parking lot at the penultimate moment? Probably not.
So, start by setting a realistic time to wake up. Measure how much time you need to get ready and add thirty minutes, then adjust your sleeping schedule accordingly. You’ll probably need to do this gradually, but when you’re walking into your day calm, collected and ten minutes early, you’ll be glad you made the change.
3. Take advantage of your commute
Leaving on time sets you up for another moment that you can make all about you. If you commute alone, it’s the perfect time to get pumped up for your day with music, your favorite book on tape, or just blissful silence while you enjoy your own thoughts. With plenty of time to spare, you can take the more scenic route to your destination, and you can take your time gathering your thoughts and preparing for the day.
4. Slow down
There is a happy medium between frantic and fast, and too slow. While you may feel rushed by a deadline, or the urging of someone who doesn’t seem to be able to do anything until you’ve done everything, it’s important to take a moment to breathe. You can even practice mini meditation sessions, spending just a minute each hour or so focusing on your breathing. Just breathe in and out, remember that you have the entire day to complete your task, and even if you don’t, it’s not the end of the world. Taking a minute for yourself to help re-center will lower your blood pressure, slow your heartrate and clear your mind so that you can focus. Going full-steam all day isn’t possible, nor is it good for your health. Keep that in mind and focus on your health and well-being as the foundation for a successful day.
5. Scatter happiness throughout your day
Make sure to keep a little something that makes you happy close by so you can focus on it when you need to regroup. Do you love a certain chocolate or a favorite scent, maybe a favorite picture? Are there quotes that just inspire you and get you fired up and ready to succeed? Whatever it is that brings you joy make sure that you have it close by whenever possible. Taking a moment to read a quote that you love or let a piece of your favorite chocolate melt in your mouth while you type an email is a great way to show yourself some love for all you do.
6. Speak up when you need help
A big part of self-care is knowing when you can’t do it all. A lot of us have been conditioned from a young age to never give up and never admit to defeat. Perseverance is fantastic, but there is a time and a place to ask for help. Knowing when that is and asking for help before you’re in too deep is a huge part of taking care of yourself and the people around you. Treat yourself like you would treat anyone else and allow yourself to be human. Showing yourself this kindness and knowing when to let others take care of you is a healthy habit we should all practice.
Get moving. It seems so simple, yet so many of us are guilty of forgetting this simple tactic to reduce stress and take care of ourselves. You can do just about anything, though if you don’t get outside much, exercising outside is a good way to kill two birds with one stone.
You can start with 5-10 minutes, but you should carve out at least 30 minutes each day to move your body and release your mind from the everyday stressors we all carry around. Studies show that people who exercise handle stress better and feel more capable of solving complex problems than their sedentary counterparts.
You can move in whatever way makes you happy, but here are a few things you can do when you’re pressed for time that are effective in getting your heart going and setting your mind at ease:
-take a walk
-learn a new cultural dance. Bollywood is a fun style with many short videos online that you can follow along with
-go to a park and play on the equipment
-turn on the music and have a dance party
-download one of the many quick exercise routine apps available for your smart phone
-use a balance ball to sit on as often as possible so your core is engaged and your muscles work to keep the ball balanced
Just 30 minutes a day is just one small way you can show yourself that you matter. If you sleep 8 hours a day, you’re awake for 960 minutes. Don’t you deserve to spend 30 of those minutes taking care of your body?
Of course, you do.
8. Take the scenic route home
This is another good way to treat yourself a little kinder each day, and a good place to find space to breathe. All too often, we’re in such a hurry to get home that we push the limits of the posted speed, and zip in and out of traffic just to gain a few extra minutes and get home faster. When you get home, you end up aggravated just from the stress of your return commute, which throws off your balance and can set you up for a tiring, grumpy evening.
Think of your home as the destination and your commute as the journey as you would when considering your goals. It’s not just about getting to the goal, but enjoying the journey. That doesn’t mean you have to travel out of your way and add thirty minutes to your commute. But, you can take advantage of that commute, and the fact that returning home rarely comes with a hard set time. It isn’t like your family is going to fire you if you return home five minutes later than normal.
Taking the scenic route can also be as simple as making your commute pleasant and removing yourself from the fast lane. If you have a favorite juice or coffee shop near your work, treat yourself to your favorite drink and hit the road with your favorite mellow music on the radio. Just watch out for caffeinated drinks if you’re struggling to get to bed at a decent hour and stick with the non-caffeinated versions of your favorites. Stick to the slow lane-or the one beside it if you don’t want to deal with merging traffic-and relax.
Saving five to ten minutes on your commute home isn’t worth the stress.
9. Make decompressing a priority
You may find yourself able to decompress during your commute and that’s wonderful. Combining a leisurely return home with shedding any stress or negativity you’ve absorbed during the day is a quick and easy way to practice self-care, and definitely saves on time.
If you’re not able to decompress on your way home, don’t fret; a lot of us aren’t. But, decompressing-or letting go of the stress of the day and leaving work at work where it belongs-is a very important part of self-care when you work outside the home. Decompressing can also be valuable if you work from home, including being a stay at home parent. You don’t have to have a traditional job to see the value in decompressing you just need to be someone who has more than one facet to their daily life that could benefit from a definite beginning and end.
If you have children, pets or a significant other at home (or all of the above) you’ll have to enlist your partner in this self-care practice. You don’t need long, just 5-10 minutes. But you do need to spend this time without interruption, which is where your partner comes in. Don’t forget to return the favor.
This is the perfect time to practice meditation, which is a very thorough way to completely decompress and reset so you can tackle your afternoon. If you’re not used to meditating, there are plenty of apps for your phone that can guide you through meditation and mindful relaxation. Many of these have a timer so you can ensure that you only take the time you’ve carved out for this practice.
It’s not necessary, but you might also find it helpful to begin your time decompressing by changing into more comfortable clothing before you begin. Just like the look and feel of certain clothes can boost our moods, shedding the clothes that you wore during a stressful or just busy day is like symbolically shedding the last of your work day and fully embracing a calmer, softer version of yourself.
It might seem like carving out 10 minutes is impossible, so start small. As you see the change in yourself and how you’re able to focus on the next part of your day, you’ll soon start to see how valuable those few minutes are. Leaving a long, busy day behind and starting the afternoon fresh makes for a happier, more balanced home.
10. Put yourself first
This may seem simple, but it’s an important step when adding self-care to our routines. When you look at this list, maybe you’re thinking that you couldn’t possibly fit so much into your day and still get work done.
But this is where perspective is a beautiful thing. Once you see the value in self-care and putting yourself first, you’ll start to notice that taking these little moments actually saves you time. You’re more efficient, more energized and more focused when you take care of yourself. From the moment that you wake up until you go to bed at night, you have so many opportunities to slow down and make sure that you are taken care of. We do our best work when we’re feeling our best, and we feel our best when we’re well cared for.
So, try one or try them all. Just make sure you show yourself appreciation for everything you do. You do so much for everyone else, make sure that you take care of you. You deserve it!