Self-Care for Busy People

Self-care has become a buzz-word in recent years but what does it really mean?

On an NHS blog, Dr Bruce Warner defines self-care as "keeping fit and healthy, understanding when you can look after yourself, when a pharmacist can help, and when to get advice from your GP or another health professional. If you have a long-term condition, self-care is about understanding that condition and how to live with it.” . Whilst this is absolutely right, for many people, self-care is about so much more than this – it’s engaging in positive activities and lifestyle changes which nourish our physical, emotional and mental well-being. 

That starts with a simple concept, one which we sometimes forget about and often ignore.  That concept is that, whatever else is going on in our lives and whatever responsibilities we may have, we are important and are entitled to feel good about ourselves.  

Looking after yourself can be beneficial in many ways and here's why: 

  • It boosts your self-esteem.  When you start to pay attention to yourself and do things purely for own enjoyment and nurturing, you are sending a very clear message to your sub-conscious: "I am important", "I am valuable", "I am worth this". 

  • It enhances your self-awareness because it requires you to think about yourself: what do you need in your life? What would help you to enjoy life more? What could you do to recharge your batteries? What activities would inspire you?

  • It helps you to be more productive and less anxious.

  • It helps you to be able to give to others - It is a cliché but  you can’t pour from an empty cup.  When you practice self-care, you develop your own inner resources so that you feel more able to offer compassion to others.

“It’s a great idea but I’m too busy for self-care!”  - How do you make time for yourself?

Lots of us are busy and probably that is when we need self-care the most.  Self-care doesn’t have to be onerous or time-consuming. Remember you are nurturing your mind and body, not adding more commitments and responsibilities to an already long list.

First start with the things that you really need:

  • A good night’s sleep – every night.  Make sure you set up a good routine and try to stick to it.

  • Good, healthy food – batch cooking makes things even easier if you’re particularly busy.

  • Getting some exercise – not necessarily an expensive gym membership if it's not your thing, but a walk in the park at lunchtime, taking the stairs rather than the lift….  Think about what YOU would enjoy and go for it.

Now think about your life and how some small changes would make a big difference…

  • Switch off your work phone when you leave the office if you can.  Work pay for your time and attention when you’re there – your evenings belong to you.

  • Go social media-free for some time every day – do you really need to know what your colleague is having for lunch?! Social media is addictive and it really can be liberating to switch your phone off for a while.

  • Give yourself time to consider requests before you answer...and if you want to, say no! Your time belongs to you and you’re not obliged to fit in around other people.

  • Remind yourself that you don’t have to be Superman or Superwoman! You don’t have to rescue others, you don’t have to be perfect.  Know your limits and stick to them.

  • Ask for help if you need it – it’s ok.

  • Find constructive ways of off-loading the ruminations in your head.  We all have these! Painting, writing, talking, running, screaming.. Just find out what works for you and make time to do it.

  • Start adding fun things into your daily or weekly ‘to do’ lists.  Relaxation, fun activities, lunch with friends deserve the same priority as the other stuff that needs to be done.  We all know that, if its written on a list, it’s more likely to get done – so schedule in the positives… and actually do them.

Self-care is often presented as having spa days and bubble baths.  There’s nothing wrong with that but getting the basics in place first can make a huge difference.  Small but significant changes can really change your life.

Good luck!