Many careers today demand 50 to 60-hour work weeks, which results in quick, unhealthy meals, and skipped workouts. Professional environments today encourage us to work harder and faster, often harming our health and wellbeing.
Self-care is required for our physical and mental health, but it’s often the first thing we drop when we find ourselves short on time. Without enough self-care, it’s hard to be the best possible version of yourself. As a result, your relationships and work suffer. Self-care involves really listening to your body, intentionally tuning in to the thoughts going on in your mind, and taking moments to check in.
If you feel like you don’t have any extra hours in the day, it’s hard to know how to start fitting self-care into your week. Here are 5 tips that will help you start and maintain a self-care routine:
1. Give yourself 10 minutes each morning
Studies show that just 10 minutes of a mindfulness practice a day will give you positive results. Mindfulness practices like meditation will decrease your stress, boost self-awareness, improve performance, increase focus, help control emotion, and improve sleep, to name a few. With a mindfulness practice, being consistent is important.
Try setting time aside time for mindfulness first thing in the morning. This is the time of day that most people have the most control over. Set your alarm for 15 to 20 minutes earlier. Avoid checking your emails, Instagram, or Facebook. As soon as you wake up, open an app like Insight Timer or Headspace and meditate for a few minutes. With these apps, you can listen to guided meditations, which are perfect for beginners to ease you into the practice.
2. Schedule your workouts like you do work meetings
Getting regular exercise has so many benefits! It’s been proven to decrease anxiety, depression, and stress, help with weight loss, increase your energy levels, improve brain health and memory, improve sleep quality, and more.
But as a busy professional, I realize that making time for exercise can feel impossible some days. Take a look at your calendar: is there a time when you don’t regularly have other conflicts? For example, if you have a team meeting every Tuesday and Thursday morning, and client dinners on Fridays, commit an hour on Monday and Wednesday night and Saturday afternoon to get active.
Put your workouts in your calendar as recurring events. That way, you’ll treat appointments to work out like you do work meetings. If it helps, you can even give yourself an incentive. A friend of mine, for example, puts $5 toward the shoes she’s been eyeing every time she goes to the gym!
3. Invest in therapy
Sometimes we need someone else’s influence to help with self-care. The best way to start your self-care practices is to come from a place of strength and stability. Doing so can help prevent a crisis.
A good therapist will help you get familiar with the origins of your thoughts and behaviors. They can help you recognize your patterns and forecast how your past and present influence you now and in the future. With that said, therapy isn’t meant to erase all feelings of sadness. It can help you build the skills to weather any storm.
If therapy isn’t your cup of tea, consider hiring a personal trainer, a dietician, or life coach. As I shared in Tip 1, consistency is key. Set aside a specific time and place each week to check in with yourself and evaluate how you’re doing and why.
4. Meal prep
There are so many benefits to a healthy diet, like brightening your mood, protecting your bones, strengthening your immune system, boosting your brain power, reducing insomnia, soothing sore muscles, and reducing your cravings for unhealthy food.
Like working out, finding the time for preparing and eating healthy meals might feel like an overwhelming challenge. I recommend preparing a week’s worth of healthy food each Sunday that you can quickly reheat for lunches and dinners. So the food won’t spoil, you can store most of it in your freezer. Yes, this does take a few hours up front, but it also eliminates the time barrier for the rest of your week. Eating healthy becomes as easy as grabbing a pastry at the Starbucks around the corner.
Meal prep saves you the time you would spend waiting in long lines and trying to decide what to make for dinner. You’re free to use that extra time to take a walk outside, work on that looming deadline, or connect with a co-worker.
5. Set boundaries
When you start intentionally taking time for yourself, you might encounter resistance from those around you. If you face this kind of push-back, be assertive about your needs and boundaries.
Remember, you can take 20 minutes for yourself, and the world will still be there when you come back. Plus, you’ll return in a much better, healthier place to deal with the world around you.
Self-care isn’t an indulgent luxury. It’s not selfish. Self-care is essential for your physical and mental health. Here are a few simple tips to begin adopting a self-care practice that’ll improve your life:
Self-care doesn’t have to cost a lot of money, and it doesn’t require a lot of time. If you’re struggling to fit self-care into your routine, start small, prioritize, and get a feel for what you need. By following my five tips, you can focus on your wellbeing and set yourself up for success!
How do you create a regular self-care practice when you’re short on time? Leave a comment and let me know!
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on January 20, 2020, and has since been updated.