Take a look at your calendar. It’s probably crammed with endless to-dos, from work meetings and deadlines, to date night with your spouse, to your kid’s weekly football practice. Now scan that list for something that’s purely for you and your enjoyment. Chances are, your schedule is filled to the brim with tasks that you feel like you have to do and none of the activities that you want to do.
You’re probably thinking that, with everything on your plate, something’s got to give—and that “something” is time for yourself. After all, who has time to go to the spa or create a relaxing bath routine when there are deadlines to meet? And why would you try to carve out a half hour for yourself when every minute is consumed by everyone and everything else?
The answer to the first question: You. And the answer to the second question: Because it’s good for your health, all aspects of it.
It sounds counter-intuitive but if you’re feeling like you’re running on empty and unable to meet the many demands of daily life, then that is exactly the right time to take a break and show yourself some love. Spending time on self-care can leave you feeling refreshed and recharged, and consequently better able to tackle your to-do list. If you feel that’s selfish, then think about the oxygen masks on airplanes: We are always instructed to first put our own masks on before helping others with theirs. It’s the same with daily life: You can’t take care of others if you don’t take care of yourself first. (Besides, you need to reframe your thinking: Self-care is certainly not selfish; it’s necessary.)
There are plenty of things you can do to take care of yourself, whether you’ve managed to carve out five minutes or an entire weekend:
1 Meditate. Start your day by clearing your mind and taking some deep, calming breaths. Meditation can take just a few minutes but it’s been shown to have many health benefits. If you’re new to the practice and are having difficulty quieting your mind, you can try guided meditation apps or search for short, guided sessions online. There are even guided meditation sessions for specific needs, like increasing focus or improving sleep quality. Always in a rush in the morning? Take your daily commute as an opportunity for “om” time!
2 Turn errands into fun. Revisit your to-do list and find ways to make it more fun. Instead of doing your grocery shopping at the nearest supermarket, head to a weekend market where you can leisurely shop and grab a delicious meal, or shop at a mall-based supermarket then sneak in a trip to a store to buy yourself something nice. Instead of running on a treadmill, take your run outdoors or attend a spin class with a friend. (While you’re at it, grab a snack with said friend, too—having a support system can help you manage stress.)
3 Learn something new. Activate a different part of your brain or reawaken a long-dormant interest and sign up for a painting class or a dance workshop.
4 Unplug. You may not be aware of just how much time you’re spending time on social media. Instead of trying to stay updated on acquaintances’ travels, put down your phone and live your best life! Go smartphone-free for a weekend, a day, or even an afternoon and enjoy non-gadget-related activities like reading or going for a leisurely walk.
5 Indulge in a relaxing bath. If you’re lucky enough to have a bath tub at home, you can have a weekly ritual of creating a relaxing bath. Turn bathing into an opportunity to pamper yourself instead of just a mundane part of your daily routine. Add bath salts to warm water to help you relax. (One to try: Himalayan Bath Salts, available at Healthy Options.) Indulge in luxurious soaps and scrubs in exquisite scents; lavender is said to be particularly calming. (Try Own Bar Soap in Lavender, Soothing Scrub Salt in Lavender, and Ala Maison Bar Soap in Lavender Flowers, all available at Healthy Options.) Put on some soothing music, sit back, and let the hot water melt your worries away. No bath tub at home? Go on a staycation! Book a hotel room for a weekend just for yourself, run a bath, then crawl into a sumptuous bed and get the ultimate luxury: a good night’s sleep.