8 Self-Care Practices for Busy People
You owe it to yourself — and those around you — to fit in a little "me-time" maintenance, even on jam-packed days. Here's how.
Let's banish the idea that prioritizing yourself is somehow indulgent and self-centered when the fact is, the opposite is true: “When you take better care of yourself, you're better able to show up in the world,” explains Katrine van Wyk, Lead Health Coach at THE WELL. “You need to feel your best to do your best.”
Plus, she points out, caring for yourself now might stave off a more dire situation in the future. “People often wait until the blinking red light is on, rather than catching stress and other draining conditions earlier,” says van Wyk. “Prevention is a lot more pleasant and successful than treating a problem that's underway.”
By slipping self-care moments into your routine you’ll reduce stress, paving the way for better overall health and well-being. Start with these ideas:
Check in with yourself
A few times a week, stop to get a read on your current state. If you feel tired, sluggish, or like you’re getting by but not thriving, it could be a sign that the so-called "red blinking light" is close is being triggered.
Another tell-tale sign you need a break? “If you feel resentful when people ask you to do a small task, or you get snappy toward the people you love,” says van Wyk.
Make your bed
Believe it or not, something as seemingly insignificant as making your bed can set the tone for the day. Plus, a National Sleep Foundation survey found that those who reported making their beds in the morning were 19 percent more likely to have a good night’s sleep. “Little, everyday things we do habitually to make our lives more sane and manageable add up,” van Wyk says.
Squeeze in a mini movement session
Exercise is a super beneficial self-care route to take. Research shows that working out helps you self-regulate, or control your emotions better, in difficult situations. It also acts as a de-stressor, and gives you more mental clarity and energy for the day. The best part? No exercise is too small. If you can’t fit in a yoga class, make a point to stretch at the end of the day. No time for a run? Try a short stroll around the block: “A simple walk in fresh air can be a great stress-buster,” van Wyk says.
Turn in Earlier
Feeling like you’re constantly playing catch-up or that there aren't enough hours in the day is very taxing. One solution: Try adjusting your sleep schedule. “Going to bed early allows you to get a full night's sleep and wake up early enough to get a jumpstart on the day,” says van Wyk, who follows this advice herself. “I have two kids, so being up before them makes a big difference in feeling on top of things.”
Take it one night (and morning) at a time and see how it impacts your emotional and physical well-being. If the shift is positive, make it permanent.
Caring for yourself sometimes means caring less about other people’s expectations.
Simplify your social life
Here's a tip not everyone in your life will be into, but they'll live: Start saying no to all the social things you don’t really want to do — events you feel obligated to attend but that don’t bring you much satisfaction, suggests van Wyk. “You can ‘KonMari’ your life a little bit by asking yourself, ‘Will this bring me joy?’” Caring for yourself sometimes means caring less about other people’s expectations.
That said, “supporting a sick loved one may not bring you joy, but it can be fulfilling and an important way to uphold your values,” says van Wyk. If it’s a casual night out with coworkers or your hundredth baby shower this season, however, consider a respectful but final "no thanks."
See healthy eating as a reward, not punishment
It’s easy to get caught in a food shame spiral: You stick to healthy foods all day, dive into some candy at night, embrace the quick sugar high, then beat yourself up for the mistake. Van Wyk suggests flipping from a mindset of diet negativity to one that looks at all the good you’re doing for your body when you eat nutritiously — a research-backed approach.
“Think about nourishing yourself the way you’d want to nourish your loved ones,” she explains. “How would you want your best friend or child to feed themselves?” You’d likely want them to fill up on foods that make them feel strong and happy — and as important, not hate on themselves for having a treat. By lightening up the self-talk, you might actually find yourself making healthier choices more often. Another great idea: Learn how to eat more mindfully here.
Give yourself a face massage
Instead of rushing through washing your face at night, relish that skincare routine. Suggests van Wyk: Try thinking of those few minutes of finger-to-face contact as an opportunity for a mini massage and chance to unwind from the day. You might also make a mental gratitude list as you swipe on a serum, or pause to inhale the scent of a lavender cleanser.
Take advantage of vacation days!
Research shows that a whopping number of people don't take all of the vacation days that are allotted. Don't be one of them. Nothing soothes the soul like a week away sans email (if you can unplug) or even a few staycation days. Your workplace will still be standing when you get back, and you’ll face it from a calmer, better-rested perspective.