If you’re someone who never has enough time for yourself, you may also feel challenged by the idea of taking better care of yourself. Knowing the importance of self-care is not the same as knowing how (or when) to make it happen.
In fact, lots of busy women find the thought of implementing better self-care strategies positively exhausting. Strange isn’t it? Something that’s supposed to make us feel good can also leave us feeling overwhelmed and like we simply have more junk to add to our to-do lists. And who wants that? No wonder so many healthy eating plans and fitness resolutions fail before we even get started!
The good news is that there are a couple of key reasons we can get into self-care overwhelm and there are some self-care tips and strategies that can help you take better care of yourself in easier ways. Sounds a whole lot better, doesn’t it?
The self-care trap
The idea of taking better care of yourself can be overwhelming if you approach it through your high-achieving-aim-for-the-sky-just-do-it approach. You’re familiar with this right? It’s the way lots of successful people approach many tasks. They think big, they dive in, and they expect themselves to work hard.
The problem is, if you are short on time and self-care, you probably already have enough big jobs and hard work.
Self-care takes root when it is paired with self-compassion instead of just discipline. This means that a plan for lasting self-care requires you to be firm and committed, but also kind and respectful to yourself. It means you meet yourself where you are, you respect the circumstances that you’re dealing with, and are honest with yourself about what will work and what you can actually commit to.
Here are some tips for taking better care of yourself—and some self-care strategies you can use without creating more overwhelm:
Choose smaller rather than later.
When it comes to self-care and self-compassion, your approach is (almost) everything. One of the most common reasons I see busy women fail when it comes to prioritizing themselves is that they create bigger expectations and goals than they can possibly take on. If it feels mentally overwhelming to think about doing something for six or twelve or twenty weeks, you aren’t creating a recipe for success. If you find yourself delaying until “next Monday,” “after that report is done,” or “after the holidays,” you aren’t making any progress. Smaller steps done NOW will get you farther than a plan that is always on hold waiting for you to “find the time.”
Coaching tip: if your plan makes you tired just thinking about it, consider cutting your goals and expectations in half and starting smaller.
Acknowledge when you are tired and give yourself REAL rest.
Speaking of tired, it’s a big huge self-care mistake to try to power through exhaustion to “take better care of yourself.” Self-care strategy number one is: when you are tired—rest. Really rest. Don’t poke around the house pretending to get stuff done or zone out and “waste time.” If you are tired, do something that will refuel, refresh, and rejuvenate you. That is self-care.
Here are some examples of what rest is and what rest is not:
Rest is sleep. Rest is stopping and closing your eyes and listening to music. It might be allowing someone to give you a massage. It might mean saying, “no.” Resting is probably not staying up late and eating ice cream while watching mindless TV shows. It’s not zoning out in front of the computer or a video game (unless you are doing something that brings you lasting joy). Resting means leaning into that self-compassion and honoring the reality that you are tired and need to be refueled.
Coaching tip: make a list of what you do when you are tired and identify which are self-care strategies and which are not.
Practice small acts of self-care kindness.
I call these “lovely things,” the simple, do-able kindnesses that you can easily show yourself. These are the day brighteners that take little-to-no effort. Playing music while you get ready in the morning, putting flowers on your desk, taking the time to plan lunches that you really love, serving your sparkling water in a crystal wine glass, giving yourself ten minutes to massage your temples or soak your feet, or pet your cat. This self-care tip is helpful because it is a consistent reminder that taking better care of yourself doesn’t have to be a huge project. You’ll see benefits quickly and you’ll probably start seeing more and more small things that you can do.
Coaching tip: apply this strategy liberally—one lovely thing, every day.
Being busy is not a reason to neglect your own needs. In fact, you owe it to yourself and to your world to show up at your best. Start with self-compassion, start small, and most importantly, start now.