Creating a healthy work-life balance for yourself isn’t easy. At times, it feels like there isn’t enough time in the day to get everything done, let alone give yourself a minute to breathe.
But while it’s a challenge to prioritize your wellness, your body and mind need you to! Too many of us get to the point of total burnout or breakdown before we realize it’s time to make some changes.
As the owner of a 20+ employee dog-walking business, I know how hard it can be to make time for yourself. I’m tempted to give every waking moment to my team members, my customers, and my loved ones. But if I don’t prioritize myself and my wellbeing, I’m no good to any of those people I care about anyway.
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So here are a few ways I’ve learned to practice self-care when it feels like there’s just no time:
1. Learn how to say no
I know it’s hard to feel like you’re letting someone else down, but we must stop being ‘yes’ people! It’s okay to set boundaries with your time. Let go of your fear of disappointing someone else and put yourself first. In my experience, I find I actually earn more respect in the process of saying ‘no.’
2. Add it to your schedule
Being more intentional with your time by building self-care into your schedule can save you from the natural overwhelm that comes with multiple hectic days in a row. I try to plan most of my self care on the same day each week. For me, it’s Tuesday. My team knows that it’s when I schedule appointments with my therapist, trainer, and chiropractor and that I’m not likely to be as available.
3. Take advantage of any gaps in your day
Whenever you find yourself with a few minutes to spare between meetings, use it! Take it as an opportunity to squeeze in some self-care. I like to catch up on my favorite podcasts, get some meditation in, or just go for a walk for some fresh air. Even tiny breaks makes a big difference and leave me feeling rejuvenated in no time!
4. Find your own zen
Self-care doesn’t always look exactly like what Instagram tells you it should. Maybe it’s diving deeper into the book you’re reading, or taking a midday yoga class, or maybe all you want to do with your half hour is zone out and binge on some mindless TV. Whatever it is that you need, do it – and don’t beat yourself up about it.
5. Enjoy the little moments
I often find it’s the little moments that bring me joy, when I can remember to actually take a second and really experience them. I might wake up a little earlier to enjoy that first sip of coffee outside as the sun rises, or take a couple of extra minutes to give my pet a few more morning cuddles. I try to remember to take a deep breath, count my blessings, and really take a moment to notice the good all around me.
You’d be surprised how wonderfully satisfying little moments like that are and how they can boost your energy going into the rest of your day. One of my most peaceful memories is from 15 years ago. I was outside at the dog daycare where I worked and it was snowing so hard that the world was silent. It was such a powerful quiet that you don’t get to hear very often and if I think back to it I can feel the calm from that moment even now.
6. Go with the flow
Even with all these best-laid plans and good practices to prioritize yourself, sometimes it just doesn’t work. If a situation comes up that you need to handle and your self-care plan has to change, don’t despair. Of course, it’s frustrating. Canceling my self-care plans to cover for a dog walker who has a flat tire is such a bummer but it’s a reality for me – and it for all of us sometimes!
When things like that happen, I let myself get angry for a few minutes. It’s ok to be mad and sad for your lost time. But after a beat I move forward and make a new plan. Being mad about it for days is only going to drain more energy from you. Find another time, and commit to that.
7. Promote a Self-Care Culture
If you’re managing a team, make sure you’re promoting the idea of self-care with everyone on it. They don’t have to do the same self-care as you do but if they tell you they need some time, let them take it and don’t make them feel bad for it. If they don’t ask for it, ask them how they’re doing. Ask them if they need some time or space to take care of themselves. Check in with them. Doing this will not only encourage your team to stay with you because they feel good, but they’ll help keep you accountable with your self-care too.
As the adage goes: life is a marathon, not a sprint. Pace yourself and make sure you’re fueling yourself along the way – even when it feels like there’s no time. This is your one and precious life, so we have to make the time we need to take care of ourselves.