Self-care is a widely covered topic these days, mostly thoughts on what self-care should be. From exercising, to eating well, getting enough sleep and maintaining relationships, even getting a massage. I think we can all agree at the end of the day anything that allows you time to step away and rest is a form of self-care. At the core, it’s all about protecting your mental, physical and spiritual health. As the saying goes “you can’t pour from an empty cup,” that’s self care. So if we already know what self-care is and what it should look like, then I want to take this opportunity to discuss something a little more pressing. How to create whitespace in your life for that self-care to actually take place.
It’s really easy to schedule self-care on a calendar. The difficulty lies in implementing the necessary steps ahead of time to make it happen. Why is that? Because in a society that promotes rest, but truly celebrates busy, we fail to create a plan. So this post may look a little different than you expect, but I want to meet you where you are and talk about actionable steps to make self care a reality. Who needs another list of to-do’s to overwhelm them even more? When it comes to self-care we need to reframe the question. Instead of asking, “what should I be doing for self care?” we need to ask, “what can I do to make self-care happen?”
LIVE IN SEASONS
Despite the fact that I appreciate routine, my life is currently far from anything consistent. My husband and I both work with extremely variable schedules. My daughter is home with me all day and we’re currently transitioning from public school to homeschool. In the summer when the days are long, our time is spent outside gardening, fishing, playing, and working on house projects. Some mornings I get up early, some nights I stay up late. But I approach this season with grace and understanding. I know my days won’t always look consistent and I’m honest with myself about what I can accomplish.
Having a seasonal approach to your life, will help you to find a realistic balance of self-care in your days. This can be a literal or figurative approach. Are you in a “season” of life where things feel overwhelming? Maybe you have a newborn, or are going through something hard. Or are you like me, and you’re literally busier in the summer more so than in the winter? Learn to adjust your expectations based on the season you’re in. When you have a realistic plan for self-care, you won’t feel as if you failed before you even started.
GIVE IT YOUR ALL
Work hard, rest hard. This might mean something a little different to everyone, but I’m a firm believer. Hard work does not have to equal the quantity of hours, rather the quality of hours. When I work hard, and give the task at hand my full attention, I am able to get the job done, and prioritize my rest. No one can motivate you to do a job well done, more than you. Start by analyzing your time throughout the day. Which tasks do you procrastinate on and why? What distracts you throughout the day and how you can eliminate it?
Task switching and multi-tasking have been proven to drastically reduce productivity, yet we do it anyway. I don’t believe that we can train our brain to completely eliminate distractions, I think that’s the culture of our world currently. However, I know there are absolutely things we can do to reduce distractions. Those things just require us to take action, admit faults, and eventually dive into our work, even when it’s not always fun. Start by turning off notifications, silencing your phone, removing email and social media apps, setting wifi limits, and disconnecting while you work. Hard work and a job well done is is self-care. It promotes pride and a sense of accomplishment. If you give 100% of your effort to working while you work, you can give 100% of your energy to resting while you rest.
As a work from home mom, I know that separating work and life is not always an easy task. But we have to learn to establish priorities in each individual area. I like to round off my day by completing two “must-do’s” for both work and home. By doing so, I eliminate procrastination, because I know where to focus on my energy and what really needs to be done. By creating strategic focus, I’m more productive and can create whitespace in my life for resting well.
I don’t know about you, but I’m a doer, so it’s easy for me to try and accomplish more in a day than is realistically positive. It’s the days when I focus on quantity rather than quality that I become overwhelmed, burnt out and put self-care on the back burner. As you identify priorities, be realistic again with your expectations. This is why I like to limit myself to two things. These things are not static tasks that you do day in and day out. They’ll vary from one day to the next depending on your to-do list and your goals.
Outside of my top priorities for each day I also have a few non-negotiables, tasks I promise myself I’ll do daily. These are not “to-do’s” these are must do’s/want to-do’s/love to do’s and these items are self-care. By making this promise to myself, I have reframed my way of thinking. I don’t have to schedule these tasks on my calendar, I know that I will do them each and every day. These parts of my day are actually quite simple and by simplifying them I can guarantee they’ll get done. They’re also things that lift me up, and I’m motivated to accomplish them. My non-negotiables are reading my bible, moving my body, and spending quality time with my family.
I spend 10-15 minutes each morning or evening in my Bible, no excuses. It’s a quiet time between God and I that I love. To move my body, I set small, realistic goals. I might do a workout, I might try to hit 10,000 steps, I might go for a walk in the woods or at the park with my daughter. It doesn’t always have to be the same, I just want to move my body every single day. Finally,quality time… again this does not have to look like anything complicated. I can’t take my daughter to the park or bake cookies together every day. But I can cuddle with her for a few minutes each morning and read a book to her almost every night. I can also spend also spend time talking with my husband in the evenings without the distraction of a phone. Simplify your non-negotiables and make them happen every day.
A few years ago, when I first started working from home I quickly realized that I needed to make some major adjustments to my environment. Transitioning from being a working mom with childcare to being a work from home mom and running a new business was major. But what I found was that I wasn’t necessarily overwhelmed by the job or motherhood itself, as much as I was by clutter in my home. As I started researching how I could simplify my life, I came across a thought by Allie Casazza. She said that every material item you own, you buy twice; first with your money, then again with your time. We clean items, maintain them, launder them, fix them and then clean them up again.
That completely changed my perspective on the items I bring into my home. Are you surrounding yourself with things that are worth your time? Do you have a lot of physical clutter that is literally keeping you from investing your energy in self-care? Do a deep dive into your home or slowly work your way through one room at a time. Just rid your life of material items that are not only not serving you, but doing the exact opposite and draining your energy and wasting your day.
Resting, eating well, exercising, reading a book, doing a puzzle, and meditating are all beautiful forms of self-care, but you already know that. You don’t need a list of “to-do’s” to add to your day. Focus instead on quality over quantity. Create whitespace for self-care to actually happen. Start small and implement one step at a time or even little bits here and there. Be honest with yourself about the season of life that you’re in. Identify one top priority you can start to accomplish each day for work and home. Create a non-negotiable for the weekends to start, and then implement that in your daily practice over time. Reduce distractions and do the deep work. Do a job you’re proud of so you can put work down at the end of the day and pick up rest. Finally, get rid of everything that isn’t serving you. Clear your space to reduce clutter and do the darn thing. You’ve got this.