One of the most frequent complaints I hear is that there’s just not enough time to do all the things and take care of yourself, too. As much as I’d like to think that I’m immune to this, I’m not. My personality has me wired to “go, go, go” all the time. Even at my most mindful I tend to prioritize work (and earning money) over rest and self-care. Learning to balance self care with goals, however, has made me healthier and more productive.
If you had met me a few years ago, you would have seen a woman who kept lists of her lists. I was obsessed with managing my to-dos. Every January, I’d read over my list of resolutions daily. I’d then break it down by month, week, and day, continuously checking to see if I was on track.
There’s nothing wrong with being goal-oriented. However, I was missing a crucial part of the equation that left me burnt-out by early spring no matter how well I planned or how hard I tried. The fact is, I’m not a machine, and neither are you. My detailed lists didn’t leave time for me to get sick, play, sleep in, go out with friends, binge-watch TV, or just not feel like it.
I wish I could tell you that I’m not that woman anymore, but the reality is I am highly-goal oriented and probably always will be. But I am more mindful. This January, just a few days into the month, I was journaling and reflecting on what was coming up for me and my business. I realized (with legitimate panic) that I am booked. I could, but should not, take on anything else this month.
How do you know when you’re reaching that tipping point and pushing too hard? These five self-care tips for busy people will help:
Create self care goals.
Sometimes I have to “trick” myself into self-care. I’m a long-time “to-do list” addict, so when I catch myself relapsing, I add it to the list. Creating list items like “meditate,” “get a massage,” or “drink a cup of tea” help switch my brain into relaxation mode by using its own tricks against it. This little hack has helped me balance self care with my goals.
Don’t tell anyone, but I secretly hate journaling. It sends my anxiety into overdrive. Something about sitting down and recording my feelings and insights seems…like time I could spend doing something else. However, I’m not immune to journaling’s powerful benefits. Some of my greatest insights come when I take this time to slow down — and some of my best ideas.
Learn from when you drop the ball.
I tend to beat myself up when I miss deadlines — and unfortunately, it happens more than I wish it did. However, telling myself how terrible or irresponsible I am for dropping the ball does exactly zero good for anyone. What I’ve found is that when I’m brave enough to look honestly at what happened, it almost always comes down to me putting too much on my plate. Clean it up, but examine the root of the problem so you’re not there again next week.
Create new habits and systems that support your self-care.
Balancing self care and goals is a ground-up, inside-out process. I had to create new habits that align with my well-being. For example, I don’t let myself start work until I take my vitamins and probiotics. But I can’t take my vitamins without a glass of water, so now I’ve made myself take the vitamins and drink water. And I know that drinking water first thing in the morning stimulates your appetite, so I’m much more likely to actually eat breakfast if I do both of those things. Sneaky, sneaky.
Identify your biggest distractions.
I’m a social media junkie — if I see the notification I have to check it. Same goes for my email. To top it all off, I have small kids, so even when I want to be focused there’s only a small chance of that actually happening. I use an app to block my phone during times of extreme focus, and I use my phone’s screen time settings to enforce downtime at a certain time of night. It’s not entirely foolproof, but it helps me stay mindful.