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Self-Care Tips for When Time is Short

In our fast paced world, with so much going on and so many obligations and commitments, the thought of trying to find time for self-care can sometimes seem like another stressor. How to fit self-care into an already crazy-busy schedule? When it seems there already aren’t enough hours in a day to do justice to the different areas of life requiring attention? Here are some ideas for self-care practices that don’t require chunks of time and can be incorporated into your existing routines.

Be gentle with yourself. As with many self-care practices, learning to be kind to yourself is usually a process. I love Kristin Neff’s work on self-compassion. I encourage people to check out her TED talk and her other YouTube videos. It comes as a revelation to some people (as it did to Neff) that this is even an option. It can be a profound and powerful practice. And it’s absolutely free and doesn’t require time or anybody else’s cooperation.

Smile. I know how annoying it can be to be told to “smile” when you’re really not in the mood. As with any ideas, I offer this in the spirit of a gentle invitation. I include this tip because research has shown that smiling can turn on the feel-good neurotransmitters in your brain – dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins. The facial arrangement of a smile can induce positive feelings. I love happiness-hacks like this that are simple and dependent on nothing but you, and can be done without anyone else even knowing.

Try a self-caring mindset. The simplest of actions can be taken in a self-caring way or a self-disregarding way. Brushing your teeth. Preparing a meal. Walking down a hallway at work. If finding time for new self-care activities to add into your busy schedule is challenging, try starting with inviting yourself to do your regular activities with a self-caring intention.

Assertiveness is essential self-care. Being assertive does not mean being rude or aggressive, or stepping on anyone else’s toes. It simply means straightforwardly and respectfully speaking your truth and advocating for yourself. Assertiveness can actually be helpful to others because it lets them know where you’re at – it keeps them from having to guess. It promotes clarity.

Mindful moments. Let’s pause here……. And take some slow, deep breaths……….exhaling fully at the end of each breath……. and simply notice what’s happening in your body…………… without trying to change anything……….. Just this is an act of self-care. It only takes moments. And it can be a powerful tool for refocusing attention. At times when you feel yourself amping up, this simple mindful moment can slow you down enough to change the course of a day. It can shift you from automatic pilot or reactivity to more thoughtful or purposeful action. It’s also a great little practice to routinely incorporate into your days. Upon waking, at transition points throughout your day, when you hear a ring tone, or before your first bite of a meal, etc.

Listen to your body, and respond to it. It’s easy these days to live in a mode of such busyness and drivenness that we ignore our bodies. In many circles this seems to be expected. But with that type of over-extended busyness it’s easy to ignore your body’s needs for food, water, a break, a stretch, sleep, etc. Mindful moments help us become more aware of our bodies. They form a loving practice of regularly turning attention inward instead of outward. It’s so important to pay attention to your body, learn its language, and respond.

Sense your arms and legs. Tuning in to sense your arms and legs is a superb anywhere-anytime mindfulness practice for the short on time. Research has identified profound benefits of mindfulness meditation, such as boosts to the immune system, an increase in positive emotions, stress reduction, increased empathy, improved memory, and improved relationships, to name some. For people having difficulty finding time to meditate, this is a way to get started practicing mindfulness. As with mindful moments, some people choose certain predictable cues for sensing their arms and legs, such as when they walk to the restroom or when they walk to and from their cars, etc.

Acknowledge existing self-care. For people wanting to do more self-care, it can be helpful to identify some self-care that you’re already doing. Naming the self-care that you already do can give you a boost. There’s something already there to build on. You’ve already started it. Maybe you already make sure you eat breakfast before leaving home in the morning. Or get some form of exercise. Or have a favorite t.v. show that makes you laugh and helps you relax. How we see things matters, and affects our mind and body. You have the power to give yourself credit for having some things already in place.