How can we possibly incorporate self-care into our lives when we’re overworked, exhausted, and time and money are in short supply? One of the biggest hurdles is changing our mindsets about what qualifies as self-care. Yoga, spin, massage, and vacation time are often out of the question when working your way through school or just starting out in your career. And for those who can afford these activities, time is often in short supply. Self-care should not be a one-size fits all model, because we all have different circumstances and needs. So, with this in mind, what are some realistic ways to incorporate self-care?
1. If it improves your emotional health and doesn’t harm you in other ways, it's self-care.
Think drinking a cup of tea, hugging your dog, or taking a deep breath. If it makes you feel better, it counts! It doesn't matter if takes thirty seconds or thirty minutes. What matters is you're doing it, and you feel the benefit.
2. Expand self-care to include your thought process.
This one is not always easy, but practice helps. I challenge you to take a minute the next time you are feeling overwhelmed or stressed and think to yourself, "it's ok for me to feel overwhelmed. This IS overwhelming. I'm doing the best I can do, and that is enough."
3. Reach out to your support system.
Time is limited and it can often feel overwhelming to socialize with friends and family after a long day. Rethinking what quality time with your loved ones looks like can help. Can you call your best friend on bluetooth during the drive home from work? What about scheduling a quick coffee date? It's not the time or activity that matters, it's connecting in a meaningful way with people who care about you.
4. Pick one thing to look forward to.
This can be listening to your favorite podcast in the car, watching your favorite drama or reality tv show in your comfiest yoga pants, listening to a book on tape, or going for a five minute walk to drink your coffee and clear your mind in the morning. Whatever it is, make it a routine you look forward to and anticipate. You can tell yourself that even though today was a rough one, the newest episode of the Real Housewives is waiting for you on your DVR!
5. Incorporate mindfulness into your routine.
Teaching your mind how to slow down and be present can help you learn to control the self-defeating inner dialogue contributing to stress and fatigue. If you're unsure how to begin, try this.
6. Find a way to move your body.
It's ok if you can't afford a membership to spin, or if your schedule is too chaotic to commit to a reoccurring workout class. Incorporating small periods of exercise time into your daily routine can help reduce stress and re-energize. If you have a dog, those walks count! Maybe you can find five minutes during a coffee break to walk around the building or dance to your favorite song while brushing your teeth. Whatever it is, just get moving!
Is this formula foolproof or all-inclusive? Absolutely not! There are times when the demands placed upon us are more than attempts at self-care alone can manage. In those times, I encourage you to seek additional support in the form of a therapist or another trusted individual. And, let me know what you think about these suggestions. Were they helpful? Do you have others?
Torie Cueto, LMFT is a licensed therapist in San Diego, California. Torie provides in-person therapy in San Diego and online video therapy throughout California.