We live in a culture where being busy and balancing plates is applauded. We're seemingly only living up to our potential if we're chaotically moving from task to task, project to project, event to event. The thought of slowing down and giving yourself a break opens up our self-judgment, making us ask ourselves, "How can I let this precious time be wasted?"
The mentally of rest being a waste is why so many of us are actually far less efficient with our time than we could be. We move so quickly from project to project, constantly context shifting, we're far more likely to drop the ball or be less successful with our projects and passions. Non-stop busy days increase the risk we'll cancel those plans we've been looking forward to at the last minute, just to give ourselves a quick break. When we're running a mile-a-minute our body can't catch up, impacting our immune system, increasing our likelihood of illness and getting even less done. In short: we're doing it all wrong.
There are several ways we can work to build in mental and physical breaks for ourselves, which ultimately build our efficiency, sense of accomplishment and energy. Breaks throughout our day aren't laziness, they're tactful opportunities to be better.
Context shifting is the ultimate efficiency-killer; it's also the bad habit most likely to make us feel burned out at the end of the day. When we flit from task to task with no real consistency, we're using more energy and cognitive power than we need to be, leading us to feel drained. Instead, block your time, allowing your brain to work less and focus on like-tasks. Perhaps you start your morning by checking your email, only staying in your inbox, jotting down to-do's from any emails, but saving those tasks for after you've read through your messages. By not coming in and out of our inbox, moving from one random task to the next, we're less likely to miss something important and feel more on-top of our day.
Even more important than avoiding context-shifting to give us a mental break, we actually need to give ourselves a full-stop break! Step away from your computer for several minutes to stretch. Go outside and take a walk around the block. Make yourself a meal and eat it away from your work. When we take our breaks it's important to separate ourselves from our work, otherwise we're not giving ourselves a big enough mental partition. Staying in the same room for our break allows us to still mill on the tasks, cut our break short and avoid the rest our brain and body needs.
Napping is also an amazing strategy for a mental and physical break from the day. Evidence shows us that the key to a restful and rejuvenating nap lies in the timing. Find a cozy spot and set your alarm for 26 minutes. This specific time frame allows our body and brain to reset and take on the day feeling more refreshed.
Allowing ourselves space to take mental health days is also important. It can be difficult to grant ourselves the grace needed to take a day away from work, especially when so much of our work impacts others. Planning vacation days where we actually rest rather than taking on other tasks or projects is important. Using our vacation days to reset are key to our ability to come back into our work with a new perspective.
How do we find time to rest? In the perfect world, we would listen to our brain and body and step away from our work for short period rather than making that next cup of coffee. In reality, our breaks sometimes work better by being scheduled into our day. As with most things, we need to be flexible, but we should never cancel our breaks. Our lunch is a period for us to be away from work, so we should take it. It's helpful to have a 2:30 walk around the block to look forward to each day.
Learning how to build these habits takes time and intention, especially when so many norms in our society are rewarding the opposite behavior. Start small, take your scheduled stretch breaks, and then slowly build up to bigger, necessary acts of self-kindness and rest. Your brain and body will thank you.
Self care is hard. It's hard for everyone, because most people have a tendency to be people pleasers.
As a mom, it can be even more challenging. We have little people relying on us for survival, their emotional nurturing and growth. With good reason, that often times feels like top priority.
What sucks is we often keep giving and giving and giving, until there is nothing left, but we still are required to give more.
How do you break the cycle of prioritizing other peoples needs, even your kids, over your own?
Guilt is often times what stands in the way of our ability to really give ourselves the time and care we need.
When we have other people who rely on us, it's really easy to justify putting their needs above your own. Sooner or later however, you'll find yourself sluggish, overwhelmed, in the same yoga pants you've worn for the last four days and not wanting to get out of bed.
So let go of that guilt. You are not a selfish person for needing to take time to meet your needs. You're a smart person who is not only benefitting yourself, but others as well.
You can't fully give your time and care to others if you're running on empty. So if by no other inspiration, let the fact that you can better take care of others be your motivation to focus on self care.
What small things can you build into your day that will have a huge impact on your mood and sense of well being?
For me, it's getting uninterrupted coffee in the morning. This half hour of time is just what I need to mentally prepare myself, refresh and start the day on the right foot.
You don't need to set aside time for a spa trip every week, but by all means do that if it feels right!
Instead, find those little nuggets of self care. Maybe make a pact to yourself to shower in peace. Whether it's waiting until the kids go down or having your partner wrangle them, give yourself that uninterrupted time.
The little acts of love for yourself build up over time, just like the do when you share them with others.
Make sure everyone in your life is aware you're making self care a priority, especially your family.
Let your partner know you'll need to start building these moments in and why it's important to you. Ask for their help when you need that half hour or Monday night off.
Try and get your kids on board too. It may not make much sense to them, but you're also modeling an important message: taking care of yourself is a big deal and it's okay! You can try and set a different example for them, hopefully breaking the self care/guilt cycle!
You're not going to get it perfect right away. Often times prioritizing self care is a small habit that takes breaking a lifetime of bad habits that stand in the way.
Just remember, you're a better person, happier person and a hell of a lot more fun to be around when you feel refreshed and fulfilled.