How often do you do something fun? How often do you meditate, get a manicure, hang with loved ones, journal, read, work out or do anything else that brings you joy?
If the answer is not often, I bet it’s because you don’t have the time.
One of the biggest reasons people don’t practice self-care is time. In fact, it might even be the most common excuse we give. That, and the false belief that self-care is a selfish luxury.
But “relaxation is not a treat, it is necessary for your physical and emotional health,” writes Jennifer Louden in her wise and practical book The Woman’s Comfort Book: A Self-Nurturing Guide for Restoring Balance in Your Life. She features clever ideas for creating more time for yourself – and dealing with the tasks you’d rather knock off your to-do list.
Below, you’ll find her valuable suggestions from The Woman’s Comfort Book.
Taking Inventory of Your Life
Take out a piece of paper, and create three columns with these categories: like, dislike and ambivalent about. Then thinking of a typical week, list all the activities under one of the categories.
For activities under the “dislike” column, ask yourself these two questions, Louden says: “Must I do this? And if I must, how can I change this to make it more satisfying or agreeable?”
Be creative, she writes. Even if an idea seems silly, list it anyway. (Good ideas often come from the silliest of suggestions.) Set your timer for 10 minutes, and don’t stop writing.
Let’s say you dislike paying the mortgage. Louden gives the following options: having someone else write the check; moving; writing the check “while enjoying a massage or eating lobster in the nude”; writing a year’s worth of checks, addressing them and having someone you trust mail them each month. (Again, silly ideas totally permitted!)
Making Time for Self-Care
These are some of Louden’s suggestions for making time for self-care.
- Practice concluding conversations with people who keep talking…and talking. Say something like “I’m really glad you called but I can’t talk.” And avoid making excuses.
- Let calls go to voicemail.
- Don’t do housework or any other tedious tasks when you’re most energized and creative. Instead, use that time for self-care.
- Consolidate errands.
- Ask for help. If you have a spouse (or roommate), divide up the housework.
- Be selective with TV viewing. Right after your show is over, turn off the TV.
- Get rid of your TV.
- Rather than driving to work, consider taking a train or taxi or carpooling. Louden tells the story of a woman who spent her 45-minute commute wearing a sleeping mask, listening to music and meditating (when it wasn’t her turn to drive, of course).
- Ask yourself regularly “Is this how I choose to spend my time?”
Finding What Nurtures You
As Louden says, it’s one thing to make time for self-care; it’s another to actually engage in self-nurturing activities. She suggests brainstorming a list of activities you love to do. (You’ll replace your ambivalent activities with these.) Think of activities in each area of your life: physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. List activities that vary in time, everything from a few minutes to a few days. List at least 20 activities.
Doing What Nurtures You
With your list next to you, open your calendar, and start scheduling. Starting with tomorrow, schedule at least two pleasurable activities every day. Louden gives these examples:
- Monday: Talk to my best friend; go for a walk
- Tuesday: Meditate for 15 minutes; watch a movie with girlfriends
- Wednesday: Attend new dance class; go to library and find books on butterflies
- Thursday: Draw; get a massage
- Friday: Go to the museum during my lunch hour; put on music and do spontaneous exercise for 20 minutes; have a nice dinner with my lover.
While it might not always seem like it, you’re the boss of your life, Louden says. Make your self-care a priority, because it’ll “enrich your life immeasurably,” she concludes.
Learn more about Jennifer Louden and her work at her website.