Sometimes it feels as though life is a giant to-do list. And while I’m all for having lists, setting targets and creating goals, on more than one occasion I’ve felt as though from the moment I wake up, until the moment I go to sleep, it’s all about checking boxes.
There is a solution to this however: that magical word self-care. Bringing self-care into your life is one way of resetting the stress, focusing on you as a person not a list, and toning down that frustration that can at times be simmering underneath everything you do.
However not all self-care is created equal when you’re a busy woman. How many of us have time, for example, to spend an hour in the morning reading motivational books, practicing yoga and meditation, and journaling?
In order to make self-care a part of our busy lives we need to do two things. One- use what we already do and add a self-care element, and two, use the margins of our time and incorporate self-care into those.
Using that framework, below are ways in which self-care for busy women can work, broken down into the key parts of the day.
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Morning self-care for busy women.
Practice shower meditation.
Most of us have a morning shower, so this is an example of adding a self-care element to something you’re doing already. This idea is on Pinterest, but unfortunately I can’t reference the site as when you click on it, it takes you to either a yoga school or a site selling meditation chairs. But it works like this: As you are in the shower, imagine that as you wash your hair and your body, you’re washing away the stress and negativity you’re currently feeling. Enjoy the feeling of the water on your skin. Really massage your scalp, the way hairdressers do. Look at the water swirling down the plughole and see all your problems going with it.
Use a beautiful body wash.
This is something else you can do in the shower. Use a body wash which is organic and, most importantly, with a scent you love. If you haven’t used natural products before, you need to be aware that they don’t froth or foam up in a way you may be used to, and that’s actually a good thing, because it’s chemicals which create all those bubbles. You can work around this by using a loofah or a body brush. In New Zealand I use Ecostore products. In the USA, these product from Amazon looks to be well recommended:
Regardless of what you buy, the scent is the key, so experiment until you find one that works for you. As you wash yourself, breathe in the smell slowly and enjoy.
Have an unplugged breakfast.
There are two parts to this. Firstly is breakfast. Breakfast is an important meal and one we often pay little care or attention to. However it sets the tone for your day nutritionally, and also mentally. Experimentation is key here as well, but I can’t go past oats. Every morning, I have oats, almond milk and blueberries, which has been prepped by my wonderful husband the night before. Pinterest has got a slew of recipes for oats- I have some here on my breakfast Pinterest board. Your breakfast needs to be something that you look forward to because you love the taste of it and that also nourishes and sustains you.
Once you’ve nailed your perfect breakfast, you need to make a ritual around eating it. By that I suggest you do nothing else when you’re eating, except to concentrate on the taste. If your household permits, then attempt to do this in silence as well. Silence is crucial to letting our brains create rather than simply receive, as I mention in 15 ways to live a life of simple satisfaction.
Engage with personal growth content.
Reading personal growth content not only provides you with great ideas to try but can also spark off your thinking around related topics. There’s a world of great podcasts out there. My number one would have to be Gretchen Rubin’s Happier. If you don’t know where to start with Over at Hello Peaceful Mind they have a great list. This is an example of using the margins of your life to add a self-care element. As you travel to work, take the time to connect with one podcast and get ideas and inspiration. If you work from home, then make finishing listening to one the trigger to move into your start-work ritual.
Create a start-work ritual.
At times the start of the work day can feel a bit all-over the place. You sit at your chair, check your emails, and next thing you know you’re down the rabbit hole. By having a ritualized start to every work day, you feel calmer and more in control. I start my work day by making a cup of coffee, unpacking my bag, starting my computer. I skim over my calendar so I know what meetings or other commitments I have and then I review my task list. I select the one job that would have most impact on my day and begin that. I get to work around 7.15 am and I don’t check my email until 8.00am. This means I don’t get distracted by someone else’s emergency until I have focused on my own work needs. Think about how you can build in a predictable routine to the start of every day that keeps you calm and centered.
Afternoon self care for busy women.
Learn square breathing.
Sometimes we start to feel stressed but have nowhere to let that adrenaline out. Square breathing is a super simple technique that you can incorporate anywhere at any time that will help to calm you. Sitting at your desk, even in the bathroom if you’ve snuck there for some time out, any place works. Imagine you are looking at a square and then practice doing the following:
- Breathe in to the count of three (moving from the top left to top right)Hold to the count of three (moving from top right to bottom right)
- Breathe out to the count of three (moving from bottom right to bottom left)
- Hold to the count of three (moving from bottom left to top left).
- Repeat this until you feel calm.
- You can incorporate various meditations simply into this as, by for example, adding colors or things to be grateful for. This is covered in more depth here.
Create a stop-work ritual.
Whether you have a fixed stop time or leave when you’re done, creating a stop work ritual is another way to bring self-care into your busy day. Much like the start-work ritual, I suggest something simple like: reviewing tomorrow, reordering priorities, clearing your desk (I often clean my desk as well, as I’m I bit obsessive that way), and packing your bags.
Make a connection.
Social self-care is another key element that is often removed from our lives before we are too busy. As you leave your office, take a moment to connect with at least one colleague by asking them about their day, or simply saying goodbye. If you work by yourself, consider sending a message via text or social media.
Seek out the beautiful.
This is another little tip for using the margins effectively. On the drive home, make it your mission to see five beautiful things, or five things that create a feeling of warmth or wonder. This simple exercise will help you focus on the present, rather than the day you have just had.
Take time to transition.
All too often when we get home from work we go into full-on homemaker mode- starting dinner, doing laundry, or sorting through paperwork. Decide that you will do one thing for 15-20 minutes when you get home before you launch into you “second job.” This could be something like walking the dog, reading a magazine, or coloring. Check out the coloring book and gel pens below:
Evening self-care for busy women.
Watch the sunset.
Either through a window or out in nature, try to catch a glimpse of the sunset. Remind yourself that whatever kind of day you have had, the sun is setting on it now. Even if the day was rough, appreciate the colors that streak across the sky. Beauty can be found in every day. Tomorrow a new day will begin with all its possibilities.
Write an entry in your win journal.
I love win journals for a fresh take on a gratitude journal. I first mentioned them here, when I talked about how self-care can rescue a stressful day. Just one simple thing that you conquered that made you feel great is all you need. I love doing it on a monthly calendar spread because then you get all that month’s wins at a glance.
Have a cup of tea.
Once the dinner has been eaten and the dishes done, take the time to relax with a cuppa. If you don’t like black tea, you can have green tea, fruit tea… whatever works for you. When I was little I remember my mother and grandmother sitting down after dinner and talking with a cup of tea and it always being a peaceful and relaxing time. Now my husband and I have one, and really enjoy this simple ritual.
Light a scented candle.
We’re hard-wired to enjoy flames, and scented candles make the best of both worlds. Have the candle burning and every now and again, take a break from what you are doing and focus on the light flickering.
The following soy candles from Wayfair are inexpensive and smell lovely:
Enact your nightly ritual.
I discuss fully my nightly ritual in Step 13 of 15 ways to live a life of simple satisfaction. This ritual has me looking forward to going to bed every single night. I make sure my room is tidy, get into bed and on to my Shakti mat, read and reflect on what went well in the day. Whatever steps you take, enact them in the same way every night so your body picks up the cues that you’re on the wind-down to sleep.
Visualize your best life.
Just before you go to sleep, take a moment to imagine what your perfect day would look like. Think about what you’d be doing and who you’d be doing it with. Closing the day this way helps put into perspective all the things you do that will one day see that day become reality.
To sum up…
When we feel like we’re on a never-ending treadmill of to-do lists mixed with taking care of other people’s needs, it’s no wonder that we start to get sharp and short to those whom we love so much. Incorporating self-care into our busy days can really help ground ourselves better, by giving us small boosts and breaks throughout the day.
You can do this. Just build on those things you are already doing and cherish those small pockets of dead time, such as your commute, that you can put to use in another way.
I love hearing from my readers- if any of these self-care tips for busy women have worked for you, shout out in the comments. If you have other good ideas then please share these as well!