Finding Time for Self-Care, by Wendy Snodgrass, L.P.C.
It takes a great deal of effort to be you, doesn’t it? You work hard to be responsible and meet deadlines. Your focus may be primarily on work, family or friends - and many other tasks that need your immediate attention.
Maybe you squeeze in time volunteering or doing favors for others. Many of you may be disciplined enough to take time to exercise amidst your busy schedules, while others daydream about it but are unable to make it a priority. What about sleep? Do you get too little or too much sleep, either of which can leave you feeling dazed? What about nutrition? Inefficient nutrition can leave us sluggish and foggy.
Then there are the long-term goals we try to squeeze into our busy schedule. These goals may not cause immediate stress, but they probably require some effort here and there if we are ever going to reach the goal. When we ignore those “I’ll get to it someday” objectives for our long-term goals it eventually creates another burden-cloud that hangs over us.
We have so many responsibilities that have deadlines, even recreational activities that are not intended to be stressful. Then there are the activities that may not be date-specific but that have specific steps required to make it happen. So, when do you find additional time to do exactly what you want…without a string attached?
At the heart of most of my therapy sessions with clients, a lack of SELF CARE is almost always a common denominator to my clients’ concerns. No matter what the client’s diagnosis is or no matter what crisis they are trying to navigate, I frequently hear I have no time for myself!
What is self-care? It is taking time out for yourself. If we can take time out for other people and other obligations, it seems like it would be simple to schedule time for ourselves…but yet, it is not simple. Why is that?
First, there is the necessary step of prioritizing. In order to fit YOU into your schedule, you must first see yourself as being equally important. There are many reasons we do not do this.
(A) We try to schedule time in for ourselves, but we run out of “free time” and consequently self-care gets pushed aside until another time, another day.
(B) We do not know what exactly we are trying to schedule for ourselves, so nothing gets scheduled.
In order to prioritize ourselves as equal to other responsibilities, it is important to stop looking for free time. Instead, consider the time slot for yourself to be as important as any other meeting or task. It is “time”, not “free time”.
Once you have committed to prioritizing yourself, take a look at your schedule. A close look. Consider reevaluating your current tasks to see what can be rearranged. Is there anything you can do for less time, less often or skip all together? What about multi-tasking – can you run errand with a friend and check both off your list at the same time? Can you go to sleep a little later or wake up a little earlier? Also, consider having a discussion with a loved one who might unload one of your responsibilities every few weeks so you can create that time for yourself. You must create it. Rarely ever will it be handed to you.
What would I do for self-care?
Next, what is it exactly that you are trying to schedule for your alone time? Is it just time for an activity you can do anywhere, such as meditation or reading a book? Is it sleep, which would require time and privacy? What do you need?
Ask yourself the following questions before you start scheduling your well-deserved time for self-care:
(1) Does it require an appointment with a service provider or merchant?
(2) Does it cost money? Do you need to rent or buy a resource to make it happen?
(3) Is it something you could trade services for such as trading professional services or trading favors?
(4) Does it need to be at a certain time of day? Certain time of year? Is the weather a factor?
(5) Is it accessible and close or will it require planning?
If you do not have a specific self-care activity in mind, then you may ask yourself the following questions:
What do I NEED? Is it rest, excitement, a challenge, exercise, nature, friendship, laughter, an out of town vacation…? What do you want to achieve from your self-care?
If it is more than one of those then you can break it down even further by looking at the questions we previously asked (1 thru 5) so that you can determine how attainable these possible activities are for your schedule, budget and life circumstances.
Risks of avoiding self-care
Avoiding self-care that pertains to rest, exercise and nutrition have physical and psychological consequences. People sometimes forget that avoiding self-care for emotional balance can be equally destructive as avoiding our physical needs. In either scenario, we are depleting ourselves from something we need for emotional and physical wellness. If we avoid our emotional needs, it can seep into our physical well-being and vice versa.
Self-care varies for people – this is due to our unique circumstances such as age and what of our life we are in. This fact makes it difficult to concisely cover the topic of self-care but I urge you to go back to the middle part of this article and take the steps required to prioritize you; to review your emotional and physical needs; and to effectively schedule your self-care time in an attainable manner.
Your first self-care homework is to start by creating a space of solitude, every day for five minutes. No interruptions. No devices. Just you. Sit with yourself and just exist. Breathe. Don’t even worry about calling it meditation because then it may feel like a ‘to do’ task. Just BE. Be with yourself. Be yourself. NO judgement. Love yourself. Appreciate yourself. Appreciate life…just for five minutes. YOU are worth five minutes of your time.