How to Prioritise Self Care when you’re Busy
I hit breaking point recently, and I was ashamed to admit that once again, I had refused to listen to my body and mind before it was too late.
It’s so hard to prioritise self care when you’re busy. The more stressed you get, the more guilty you feel for taking that essential time out. It’s a vicious cycle.
I’m trying to work through that sense of disappointment in myself. It’s not a productive emotion to hold on to. I think that attitudes are changing towards mental health, which really helps, but I also question why I find it so easy to automatically associate stopping work for a little while with failure.
If you recognise this feeling of fear of being labelled ‘lazy’ for taking care of yourself instead of working, or scrimping on self-care because you aren’t sure you deserve it, then please read on.
Let’s create a few rules to help you prioritise self-care, even when you’re feeling non-stop busy.
How to Prioritise Self Care When You’re Busy
Put Self-Care In Your Diary
Your time is as important as anybody else’s, and your diary should reflect that.
Scheduling in a meeting on Tuesday morning, with a conference call and childcare to sort out after that? Then write in your diary that Tuesday evening is completely off-limits for work. In order to prioritise self care when you’re busy, you need to take it seriously and write it down.
I used to fall into this trap so often. I’d work 9-5, host events or take business calls in the evenings and work non-stop on weekends. Sometimes it’s necessary in the very short-term, but don’t fool yourself into thinking that it is sustainable.
Your mind and body need time to slow down and recuperate before you get sick, not because you get sick!
When you make your appointments, add in slots for stillness. Just write ‘me-time’ and don’t even feel like you have to decide what to do with it. It’s okay to simply be and ask yourself, when that time comes, what do I really want to do right now?
It might be cleaning the kitchen for the first time in a few days. It might be washing your face and following a proper skincare routine. It might be absolutely nothing at all, and that’s fine, too.
Prioritise Self Care Like You Would Your Business Tasks
As a writer, I live for deadlines.
I might take the sensible route and have it done in plenty of time, or I might have a last-minute brain-wave and find myself rewriting up to the wire. Either way, I feel a jolt of productive energy when I lay out my deadlines and it helps me to structure and fuel my days.
However, I do sometimes fall into the trap of thinking I have to do everything at once.
We live in a super fast world. Sometimes I re-read my grandparents old letters to each-other, and it is seriously eye-opening. Forget texting with ‘get bread on the way home/ have you done this yet’. They write things like:
I won’t get the post before I leave Saturday so I will be there from 1pm and if at 1.20pm you haven’t arrived, I’ll assume you can’t come’.
This kinda makes me laugh.
Fast living is actually quite a new thing, and if there’s one thing I’m slowly learning, it’s that:
Just because we can do lots of things at once right now, doesn’t mean we should.
For me, this means that I try to reply to everyone within 24hrs of receiving a message, but if they want a meeting or a consultation, I gently remind myself that I actually don’t have to have that within 24 hrs too.
It’s mostly prioritising, but it’s also about regaining control over your schedule. Some things can’t be moved and that’s okay, but just remember that you work to live, you don’t live to work.
It’s not saying ‘no’, it’s just saying ‘not yet’.
Experiment with What Works
Self care isn’t all baths, spas and shopping sprees.
We can’t all afford insta-worthy self care all the time, even if social media seems to tell you otherwise.
Sometimes it just means going to bed before 11pm, going to that yoga class that you don’t feel like doing, or knitting something just to undo it again.
Sometimes it’s hard because it means sorting out those important documents, making a phonecall to the doctor or the bank, or cleaning the shower.
That’s okay, too.
If you find watching reruns of that guilty-pleasure TV show is super relaxing, then you do that. If you know you feel better when you walk home from work, then add it into your routine every so often.
It can be as simple as refilling your water bottle or as elaborate as creating a three course meal for one.
Experiment, look after yourself, and don’t compare your routine to anyone else’s.
This isn’t a quest to find ‘the ultimate self-care’ routine. It’s a quest to find your ideal self-care routine, and it might not look like anybody else’s.
Team Up For Self-Care
Sometimes I’ll dream all day about the relaxing evening I’m going to have, with a bath and a movie.
Then the time comes and I just … don’t do it. I keep working, or I find chores to do, or I lie there feeling overwhelmed and annoyed with myself for ‘not even’ being able to do relaxing things, let alone actual work things.
But, if I schedule to do something with my sister or partner, or flatmates, then suddenly there is an external reason outside of my head which says.
Come on, let’s do those facemasks and eat icecream.
Just the same as it’s easier to go to the gym with a friend, it’s also sometimes easier to relax with them.
Whatever it takes, boo!