Sometimes self-care comes down to quick thinking and flexibility.
As a busy hardworking woman, it’s all too easy to feel like you don’t have enough time to take care of you—and as a result—throw up your hands in frustration, toss your personal priorities to the side, and spend your time addressing all the other demands in your life.
Of course, it takes a toll. Recently, a coaching client was describing a pattern that happens a lot. She’s a successful professional, wife, and parent who works long hours and tries her best to balance it all. As her life has gotten busier (and more stressful), she’s gained weight and gotten out of shape.
She says, “I could write a book for myself about all the good things I should be doing to take better care of myself, but who has time for all that?” Instead, she’s frustrated because she is in a vicious cycle of doing all day and then collapsing in the evening.
“It’s my only me-time,” she says. “I end up staying up too late because I just want time for me.” Not only is she losing out on much needed sleep, her evenings have become comfort eating times as well. “It’s my time to treat myself. I know in the long run, it’s not going to make me happy, but I feel stuck—and in the moment—I can’t stop eating.”
Of course she can’t. It’s almost the only time she gets for her—at least it was before we added some simple changes to create better life balance. Here’s the process we used to break this cycle and add a feeling of more me-time and ease to her life.
1. When it comes to self-care, change the focus from hard work and big changes to ease and flexibility. Instead of focusing on what you can’t do, focus on what is possible. Think small and do-able.
In my client’s situation, we focused on the importance of being flexible and open to opportunities for self-care. Instead of trying to carve out two hours for a trip to the gym (which she couldn’t do), we started with a ten minute walk at lunch. She made a list of quick easy things that relaxed her, made her smile, or added ease to her life and started inserting these throughout her day.
2. Pay yourself first instead of last. My client and I made a list of what goes better in her life when she is getting time to focus on herself. Once she stopped thinking of self-care and me-time as “extra” and could see that it is critical to her performance and productivity, it became easier to include a do-able dose of me-time at the front of her day (when she still has energy to absorb it).
Keeping it easy, we re-engineered her schedule to allow for ten minutes each morning to get centered, do some easy stretching (which she loved) and deep breathing, and start her day from a place of feeling in control of it.
3. Be present. The need to “get things done” had taken over my client’s life. She had become an expert at squeezing everything she could out of every possible moment—everything except enjoying it. One of the easiest ways to add joy to your life is to allow yourself to be present and to savor the moments. The problem is, there is no room to savor, soak in, and really be when your brain is busy juggling twelve different tasks.We started with mindful minutes—my client picked some events and times of day (including lunch), when she was going to purposefully focus on doing only one thing at a time, being fully present with herself, and savoring the experience.
Guess what? These three to ten minute opportunities became times when she checked in with herself, took inventory of how she was feeling, and was able to make small adjustments to reflect this. Eating without multitasking led to better food choices and created a time of day she started to really enjoy. On top of this, by paying attention, she realized that she was less hungry than she thought and found herself eating less.
Self-care doesn’t have to be something you only dream about and it doesn’t require a major life overhaul.
Focusing on keeping it simple and as easy as possible can create new possibilities and better life balance.
Copyright (C) 2012 Melissa McCreery, PhD. Psychologist and Life Coach Dr. Melissa McCreery focuses on the three O’s that ambush successful, high-achieving women–overeating, overwhelm, and overload. Claim your free audio set: “5 Simple Steps to Move Beyond Overwhelm With Food and Life” at http://TooMuchOnHerPlate.com.