If you aren't taking good care of yourself, it's difficult to do anything else effectively. You are your most valuable asset - your health comes first, no matter what. You might be saying to yourself, but I have to put my kids and my spouse first . Think about where you got that message from - it most likely didn't originate from you. The idea that you need to put others' needs in front of your own health is a myth. In fact, if you don't take care of yourself, it's difficult taking care of anyone else.
So how do you find that self-care time?
1. Pare down your activities.
If you are so busy that you can't carve out some time for yourself, it may mean you need to scale back on your activities. Delegate some things out. When considering whether to drop an activity, ask yourself, Am I really getting something out of this? If something causes you more stress than benefit, consider removing it.
Screen Time: Advice for Parents
2. Keep track of your "emotional bank account".
Irene Kerzhnerman PhD says it's time to take a look at what increases the balance in your emotional account, and what decreases the balance. I interviewed Dr. Kerzhnerman about the concept of keeping a positive emotional account on Talking Brains Podcast: Mental Energy as Expenses and Income: Is Your Account Balanced?
3. Consider how would you treat yourself if you were someone else.
Are you giving yourself the same amount of attention as someone else would give you? If you find yourself always putting your needs to the side, it's time to reevaluate. Do you feel that you aren't deserving of time for yourself? Do you feel you aren't fulfilling your role as a good parent, spouse, or friend? Do you feel guilty when you take care of yourself? You deserve time for yourself. Period. Not only do you owe it to yourself, it's a necessity. Practicing mindfulness, a form of self-care, can lead to an increase in self-compassion (Raab, 2014).
Positive, or authoritative, parents value mutual respect and being a good listener.
4. Take care of yourself in smaller but more frequent bits of time.
If you travel for work and only have a few minutes here and there, take time to do some mindfulness practice, such as deep breathing. Even practicing a little self-care at a time counts! Then see if you can increase that amount of self-care every day - even if it means setting a timer for one extra minute a day for self-care.
5. Let your loved ones know you are "recharging".
You need a sanctuary for self-care, even if it is just a corner in your living space. This is a place you can go with limited interruptions. Consider putting up a screen to block this corner off. Better yet, make this a "quiet space" for anyone in your family to go to when they need a break. Hang a sign that says "I need some alone time". Explain that this means that you can only be interrupted for emergencies (then explain what constitutes an emergency).
Musings: How Much Time Do I Have Left?
6. Say no.
Many people tend to make decisions based on whether it will make someone else feel happy or fulfilled. Instead, next time you are making a decision, ask yourself - will this make me feel fulfilled? If not, reconsider your choice. Do not take on activities that do not give meaning or happiness to your life.
7. Drop your "fear of missing out".
Instead of being concerned that you will miss out on an activity, consider that practicing good self-care means that you will have a "joy of missing out". You will not have that feeling of chasing that elusive brass ring - you will feel comfortable and content where you are. And if that sounds boring to you - it is anything but. The path towards knowing yourself is an exciting one.
Say "I love you" whenever you feel it, even if it's 743 times a day. You simply can not spoil a child with too many mushy words of affection and too many smooches. Not possible.
8. Keep a gratitude journal.
Write down what is going well for you right now. When we focus on what is going well, we start noticing those times more and more in our lives - and things tend to fall into place better.
Good luck with your self-care journey. Practice it even a little at a time and you will start feeling more refreshed and less stressed.