Deep down we all know that it’s important to make time to look after ourselves, not least so we can carry on looking after everyone else who needs us. Yet, we often don’t make the time because we’re too busy, or we’ve always got the kids with us, or a demanding job takes up our time. There’s always reasons (excuses) to prevent us from putting ourselves first. If you’re struggling to find the time, or know that you need some help in finding ways to prioritise yourself, then check out my post on how to make time for yourself. I’ll walk you through 7 intentional steps to self-care to help you make time for yourself.
WHY IT’S IMPORTANT TO MAKE TIME FOR YOURSELF
How many times this week did you get to do something just for you? Can you count the number of times on two hands, one hand? Do you manage to carve out a little time each day to do what you want or is it a luxury that you feel your current lifestyle doesn’t allow?
Making time for yourself is so important that it shouldn’t be seen as a luxury.
Have you ever heard the saying that ‘you can’t keep pouring out of a cup that’s run dry’? If you’re running on empty and haven’t given yourself adequate chance to recharge your batteries and take care of yourself (in whatever way that means to you) then you can’t be the best version of you. You won’t be the best mother, partner, daughter, friend, employee or the best you that you can be.
So, even if you don’t think you’re important enough to prioritise yourself every now and then, do it for the people that you care about in your life, if not for yourself.
PUTTING YOURSELF FIRST
When you take a moment to put yourself first, you can spend time relaxing and unwinding, learning new things, being receptive and opening your mind to new possibilities, even practical things such as having your hair cut, choosing clothes that you love and feel good in. The choice is yours, but the point is… you have choice.
Think for a moment how you feel when you’ve had a great holiday…
- You’re relaxed, calmer, happier and often more energetic
- You’re open to thinking about what needs to change when you get back home
- You know what’s worrying you the most so you know to deal with it
- You have breathing space to reflect on your life, the good bits and the not-so-good bits
- You’ve opened your mind to new things
- You’ve learnt about the world and the different people and places that make it tick
- You’ve stepped away from your everyday life and taken a peak at what else is out there.
I know life isn’t all about taking holidays so I’m not for a moment suggesting that you pack your bags and travel the world (unless I’ve unleashed a bit of wanderlust in you!). In fact, living for the holidays is a sign of escapism. You might not be happy in your life at the moment and instead of facing it head on, you pack your suitcase and leave your problems behind. They’ll be ready for you when you return though.
So, no, holidays aren’t the answer but they give you an idea why making time for yourself is so important.
THE VALUE OF SELF-CARE IN OUR BUSY LIVES
Time for yourself is time away from your To Do list, your list of responsibilities and commitments. It’s time away from the things you HAVE to do each day that sap not only your time, but your physical and mental energy.
These things will usually still be there even if we have 5 minutes or a weekend to ourselves. Most of us have housework to do, friends or family that need us, work or kids (or both) to juggle. We still need to pay the bills, fill the fridge and fix the car when it’s broken.
Time for yourself is empty space which you can fill as you choose. It’s time to focus on you, your interests and hobbies, peak your curiosity. It’s time to have a nap if you’re tired, meditate if you need calm, journal if you need clarity, kick-boxing if you need to let off steam…
Time for you is whatever you need it to be right there and then.
Time for yourself is flexible so you can fill it with whatever your mind and body need at the time. It’s not something that’s structured, with specific activities to be fulfilled at specific times whether you feel like it or not.
It’s your chance to look after you in whichever way serves you best at that moment.
HOW TO MAKE TIME FOR YOURSELF
Yet, even those of us who know we need time for ourselves struggle with HOW to find the time. We know it’s not good to be busy all the time but just how do we carve out a little bit more free time in a busy schedule?
I’ve written before in other posts about the benefits of waking up earlier, saying no to things that don’t serve us and being more organised in our routines. These definitely all contribute to carving out more time in a day and making the most of it.
But going deeper than that, I think there are other factors at play in being able to make time for yourself so here are my 7 intentional steps to self-care and making time for yourself.
HOW TO MAKE TIME FOR YOURSELF – 7 INTENTIONAL STEPS TO SELF-CARE
#1 Understanding your self-worth
I talked about this earlier in the post with the cup that runs dry. For many of us, we are the glue that holds our family together. We are relied upon by our kids, partners, work colleagues, friends and often pulled in different directions trying to be all things to all people. But this only works for so long unless we find ways to put ourselves first sometimes.
The most important thing for us to realise is the value of ourselves.
Juggling many hats and trying to do our best in all situations takes energy, resilience and good humour. We do these things all day, every day, tackling challenges head on, raising our kids, holding down jobs, pushing ourselves. Even if we don’t recognise it, we are amazing and full of inner strength.
Understanding your self-worth is the first step in knowing how to make time for yourself. If you don’t think you deserve it then you’ll never be committed to putting yourself first every now and then.
Here’s something you could try – Make a list of 3 things you like about yourself or are proud of yourself for every day for a week and begin to understand all that you do and appreciate your self-worth.
#2 Making time for yourself a priority
Many of us have so many things on our To Do lists that we don’t get half of them done that we need to. Often we do the easy or small things, or the ones that are urgent or have big consequences if we don’t do them. Everything else tends to get pushed down the list or forgotten about until tomorrow…or the day after…
In order to make time for yourself, you need to think about it differently.
Step #2 is about realising that time for self-care is a priority and non-negotiable.
It doesn’t have to be a weekend away, it could be 10 minutes with a cup of coffee and your favourite book. However you spend it, make time for yourself a priority and you’re much more likely to make it happen.
#3 Setting your intention to make it work
My site is all about intentional living and I’m a passionate believer that if we want things to happen then we need to be deliberate and intentional about making them happen.
Setting your intention to do something gives power and weight to that decision.
You’re being specific, targeted and decisive about what you INTEND to do, why and how.
Step #3 is about setting your intention to make time for yourself. Be clear in your own mind about your intention to look after yourself today (again, it doesn’t have to take lots of time or money) and this will focus your mind into making sure you find time for yourself.
#4 Creating boundaries
Boundaries are like an invisible force field that surrounds you and stops you being buffered around by pressures from the outside world!
In this context, I’m talking about the boundaries you can create to make time for yourself. This could mean learning to say ‘no’ when someone asks you to do something, or when you’ve got too much in your diary and you need to cancel or postpone something until another time.
Don’t be swayed into doing something you don’t want to do or don’t have time to do.
Create boundaries for yourself in how many activities your kids do, how many times you get drawn into baking cakes for the school fayre, when your boss asks you to work late too often, how many times you postpone date night with your partner.
Boundaries are things that keep us on track, on target and focused on our goal and values. If something is important to you, protect it with a boundary. Without boundaries you’ll say yes to everything, muddle your priorities and those values.
Step #4 is to create some boundaries which will help you make time for you.
#5 Establishing routines
Oh how I love routines! Routines can make it easier and simpler to fit everything in that you HAVE to do so you have more time to do what you WANT to do.
I love routines because I’m an organised neat freak, but I especially love routines because of what they can do for you. Find easy ways to plan and prepare the things you need to do such as housework, planning meals, even routines for your kids such as nap times and structured bed times.
Once in place, you’ll know your daily schedule, things will get done little and often, if you miss a day it won’t matter and you’ll be able to make time for yourself. Time for you whilst the baby naps, time for you when the kids are in bed, time for you instead of a backlog of housework, time for you whilst dinner is cooking because you’ve prepared and batch-cooked in advance.
Routines can help you get everything done so that it’s easier to make time for yourself.
#6 Finding your motivation
I have kids and a dog and I know that they’re more likely to do things I want them to when they get a reward! I wish it wasn’t that way but if we’re honest, most of us are more motivated when we know something good will come out of it!
Step #6 is about finding your motivation. If getting fit is an important reason for finding time for you, make sure that’s really sufficient motivation. What about treating yourself to some new workout clothes if you keep it up for a month. Is that a little more motivating?
Some things that we choose to do in our own time are reward in themselves (eating a box of chocolates anyone?!) but other things we do because we know we should, perhaps because it’s good for us. These examples of self-care might need some extra oomph and motivation to get us going and keep us motivated.
Think about the things you want to do if you have some time for yourself and decide whether you need something more to motivate you.
If there’s an added incentive then you’re much more like to make it a priority and find the time to make it happen.
#7 Practicing acceptance
There are some seasons in life that make finding time for yourself particularly difficult. If you’ve got a new born baby or triplets, finding time for you could definitely be a challenge!
Step #7 is about being realistic with your expectations. Many of us would love to take that holiday I talked about at the start of this post, but it just wouldn’t be possible.
One of the biggest reasons why we have trouble making time for ourselves is that we think it’s too difficult. Yet, 10 minutes is better than 0 minutes. Work out what you can achieve in whatever time you have available.
Be creative with how you use your time, don’t waste it being frustrated about what you can’t do, but focus on what you CAN do instead.
Life comes in stages and what isn’t possible now, might be possible in 1 month, 6 months, 2 years. Accept what you have right now and make the most of it.