Taking care of other people – whether that is children, a spouse, parents, or as a career – often means that taking care of one’s self gets put on the back burner. The problem is that when one’s own tank is empty, there is nothing left to put into caring for others. Refilling your own tank is an essential part of life – even if you are not taking care of anyone else, but especially when you are.
For many people, the minute they begin to think about taking time for something they enjoy, their mind immediately starts listing off all the things they are still needing to do. This is common, and most people will have to overcome this in order to find time to take care of themselves. Remind yourself that stress does not equal success; it is okay to have some down time to refuel.
A week-long vacation may sound like heaven, but for most people, that is unattainable. However, making time to take care of yourself does not have to take a lot of time at a time. Shorter sessions of self-care can be just as refreshing as longer ones and can generally be fit in more often. Additionally, the feeling of guilt or anxiety about putting off a needed task can be assuaged more easily when the “break” is only a few minutes, which reduces the stress of pausing.
Sometimes it helps to start by having your “me time” coordinated with something that is scheduled by someone else. This could be a television show you enjoy, a weekly meeting with a group for a hobby you like to do, an exercise class, or just about anything, so long as it is pre-scheduled by a third party. This gives you a set time for something that only happens once a week, so you are more likely to make sure you do not miss it.
Even if you choose to schedule your own time instead of following someone else’s schedule, be sure to actually schedule it. Make it immutable. If you compromise once, you are more likely to compromise again later. Stick to it. If you cannot carve out an hour weekly, do 15-minute blocks during the day, even if it is only one block a day. Even that will help you to recharge.
Do not be afraid to say no to people. Also, do not feel like you must always give a reason for saying no. “No” is a complete sentence. Depending on your relationship with the person asking, you may be able to be completely honest and tell them, “I just don’t want to,” but in most cases if they want a reason, “I just can’t right now” can be sufficient. You do not owe anyone a reason why you are unable to do something that is not your responsibility.
If you have a space you can make all yours where you can have your at-home “me time,” that can be helpful. If your home is too small to have a specific location in it, remember that only you can see inside your head. Close your eyes to block out the world and breathe.
Remember that your family is capable of doing things, too. There is nothing wrong with delegating home responsibilities. Many hands make light work, as the proverb says. Train the children to do things like cooking and laundry. If you are a caregiver, allow the person for whom you care to do what things they are able to do. This will not only ease up your load a little, but it will also allow them to retain what independence they can.
Shortcuts are not a bad thing, unless they result in decreased quality. If there is an easier way to accomplish a task, do it. Simple things like sorting before you wash (dishes or laundry), making extra dinner to pack for lunch the next day, scheduling appointments early, and doubling up on things like making lunches can save time later, allowing you to carve out a few minutes for a break.
Some tips that can help you make the most of your refueling time:
- Peace is more easily accomplished without outside stimuli. Turn off the gadgets for a few minutes. Games, TV, and social media can be time suckers that make a break feel much shorter and less refreshing. Focus on something you truly enjoy during that 15 or 30 minutes, without being distracted by screens.
- Make personal time a priority. It bears saying again. It is somehow so much easier to make time to do things for others, because you know they need it, than it is to make time for one’s self, even knowing that is muchly needed, as well.
- If you have only five or ten minutes, you can still recharge.
- Have a cup of coffee or tea alone on the porch, watching the weather. As long as your porch is covered, this works for any weather! It is especially nice to watch a sunrise or sunset this way.
- Call a friend for a chat, just random talk for no reason except to connect. It may be that this is better for when you have more than ten minutes, though!
- Get a bit of exercise. Take a walk, stretch a little, go up and down stairs if there are some convenient – anything works. Just move around. Your circulation will improve with movement.
- Pause to breathe. Just breathe. Let your mind rest from to-do lists and problems that need solutions and just focus on regular breathing for a few minutes.
- Listen to soothing music, whatever genre you prefer. Load up your favorite playlist and just enjoy it.
- Spend a few minutes with your pet. The healing power of pets is well known, and a break to love on your cuddly companion. Your pet will enjoy it as much as you do.
- If you can carve out fifteen to thirty minutes, you have more choices.
- Read a book. If you have one in progress, just read a chapter or two.
- Do a puzzle. Crosswords, word searches, sudoku, or even a jigsaw puzzle can be a relaxing way to spend a few minutes, plus you may be able to get the satisfaction of finishing.
- Take a longer walk, in a garden or park, or on a local walking trail.
- Take a nice bath. If you like bath bombs or bubbles, make sure to have some available for times like these. If you have children, this is best done when there is another adult available to field any questions or needs.
- If you have up to an hour (or more), recharging suggestions include:
- Take a nap. Many adults have said that if they had known as kids what they know now, they would never have turned down a nap! They do seem much harder to fit in once you have other responsibilities.
- Treat yourself to a massage, a manicure, a facial, or get your hair styled.
- Take a class for fun. Classes can be found for painting, improv comedy, dancing, karate, or any number of other topics.
- Spend an hour with a friend. Take a long walk, hike a trail, go for a bike ride or a swim, or just sit and have coffee. Strengthening your connections with your support system is a big plus.
- Have a date with your spouse. Too many couples quit dating after they marry. The time to reconnect with your life partner is essential for the wellbeing of both partners and the relationship as a whole.
- Reduce or eliminate distractions. Being able to focus on what you need to do will help you to complete it more efficiently, which will save time and give you a chance to carve out those minutes you need to take care of you.
Whatever your preferences for relaxing and refueling, the main thing is to make the time to do it. Finding time can be difficult, but making time is much more likely to succeed.