Updated: Mar 26
Saturday. All praise the weekend!
I wish I could say Saturday and Sunday were the days I got to wind down and relax after a long five days of work--negative Batman. The weekend is an entirely different beast, though there is a little more flexibility in my schedule.
As we discussed last week, it's important to find ways to engage in self-care regularly to avoid burnout. Now this will look different for everyone depending on what brings you joy, what your level of burnout is, and how regularly you look after your mental health.
But Holly, I'm busy.
I don't have time to sit in silence.
There is no such thing as 'me time' in my house.
I don't believe in kale and facemasks being the solution.
Y'all. I get it. I empathize with each of those concerns because I have lived them [let's not lie, I still am living them] right there with you.
I have two small people at home who are at the precipice of their independence but still need mom's help with many things.
I am trying to get my freelance/writing career off the ground, knowing nothing about all the techy things.
I work a full-time 9 to 5, completely unrelated to my mental health advocacy purpose.
I don't tell you my roadblocks to imply that I have it worse than you or I'm busier [remember, all of our struggles are valid]. I share mine as an example.
Everyone's story is going to be unique. Everyone has different resources and privileges.
But the one thing that is true for all of us: We need to make time to look after our mental health.
Allow me to help you find different ways, small and subtle, to help you make the time you need.
I Don't Have Time
This is probably the most common roadblock we run into when adding something to our existing routine. I'm not going to tell you to push yourself into overdrive trying to find a place to work self-care in, because after all, that kind of defeats the purpose.
When I was at the grocery store this morning, this was on my mind. How can I help people make time for daily self-care and help avoid burnout? And then it dawned on me. At that moment, I was doing just that.
You see, I'm busy [aren't we all], and grocery shopping every other Saturday morning is when I get the most solid, uninterrupted block of 'me' time. Usually, I will listen to a podcast, webinar, or a YouTube video so I can multitask. Every minute of the day, I try to be as productive as I can be. But should I be? Ever since the pandemic [and even before], society encouraged us to hustle.
Bake all the bread. Do all the crafts. Learn all the things. Lose all the weight. Start up a side hustle.
Basically, we were told to make the most of our time.
But the one thing no one said was, how about we all slow down and take stock of how we're going to get through these once-in-a-lifetime events with our peace of mind intact.
It occurred to me, instead of listening to another productivity hack or hearing about how they [insert personality that seems to be able to do it all] are magically able to balance every day... Maybe, I should focus on balancing my day.
So instead of multitasking, I took time for myself. Music is my love language, so I turned on Pandora instead.
There was no expectation.
There was nothing for me to learn or take note of.
I didn't have to hustle, push past burnout, or give myself a pep talk to be able to just get through to the next moment. It was just music that soothed my soul and brought me peace.
I also, may or may have not, caught myself singing aloud to some of the tracks [don't worry, the store was pretty empty].
Something as small as making your time truly your time can be an act of self-care. You don't have to be productive all the time.
The world will not stop spinning if you are not constantly engaged in growing.
You will not miss anything by focusing on taking care of yourself. If anything, it will allow you to be better rested and present for those opportunities when they do arise.
I switched out productivity hacks for music on Pandora as a small act of self-care. What can you swap out or substitute? What is something that brings you joy?
I Don't Have Any 'Me Time'
Don't worry, I'm not going to tell you to get up at 5 a.m. If I had a dollar for every person who told me rising with the sun would solve all my problems, well, I'd have A LOT more dollars.
As someone who lives with a diagnosed anxiety disorder [GAD], I literally need every minute of my 8 hours of my rest. This is probably one of the most important parts of self-care for me. Making sure that I get enough rest to make it through my day is essential.
In fact, according to Primary Care Collaborative, "Lack of sleep can worsen mental illness and make it more difficult to cope with symptoms."
Your 'me time' can be any time of the day.
Some people find it invigorating to get up early and start their day off enjoying time to themselves. Others who have a busy agenda, from the moment they roll over to pick up their phone and check the clock, might enjoy some time to wind down in the evening before bed.
Or maybe you're like me. I've never been, [nor ever will be] an early riser. In the evening, I'm working on my writing. While writing is cathartic to me, and when my creative muse is cooperating, it gives me energy, it's just not the same as relaxing and writing without expectation.
You don't have to be creative. You don't have to be writing a book, or a blog, or anything for anyone else. But one other small practice I'd like you to adopt every single day is writing. Write for yourself, without any expectations, besides completing a few words.
But Holly, what will I write? I don't have anything to say.
Freewriting may not come easily to everyone, but have no fear!
Here are a few questions to get you started:
How was my sleep last night?
How am I physically feeling right now?
What do I hope to accomplish today?
How am I feeling right now? Why am I feeling this way?
How did my day go?
What am I looking forward to tomorrow [or coming up]?
Why am I looking forward to this?
You might find once you start on one of these prompts, you're able to keep going and free-write whatever is on your mind. Or maybe you end up with one sentence answers to these 8 questions.
There are no rules here. The purpose of this is simple.
You carve out a few minutes, or as long as you need, to check in with yourself.
Bubble Baths, Face Masks, and Kale Are Not Solutions
Do I love a good bubble bath? Absolutley.
Do I get a strange sort of satisfaction from peeling dried face mask off? Guilty.
Do I occasionally add kale to my salads? Actually, no, no I do not. I like lots of green things, kale is not one of them.
You don't have to buy a thing or book a service to effectively engage in self-care. At best, adding a few of these types of things to your self-care routine might provide some relaxation. But these temporary fixes alone will not be enough to help you outrun burnout and strengthen your mental health.
What I'd want you to do instead is find something that brings you joy and make time for it every day.
Do you enjoy the fresh air? Walk the dog around the block or park further away and take in the sunshine as you walk to your destination.
Do you enjoy reading? Instead of mindlessly scrolling through social search on Wattpad for a free read or go to bookbub.com. I get emails every day with a sale or free reads from various genres.
Do you enjoy experimenting in the kitchen? Mix up your menu with a new dish or substitute out what you usually use for an alternative.
These are smalls things you can adjust to your routine--no extra time is needed.
So here's the thing friend. We're all busy. We all wish for that it was 26/9, instead of 24/7, but here's the thing twenty-four hours in the day are more than enough.
If you feel like you're falling behind before you start, I want you to ask yourself, "Is everything taking up your time necessary?"
Part of self-care is checking in on your mental health. If you're telling me that you don't have any time, not one second, not one moment you can devote to yourself, then friend, something has got to give.
If this past year has taught us anything, it's that tomorrow is not promised. We never know what hand life will deal us next.
Our time in quarantine and lockdown is coming to a close [hopefully]. And while we won't be leaving behind social distancing or masks anytime soon, something we should be leaving behind is the every-moment-needs-to-be-productive mentality.
Bake all the bread if you want to.
Do all the crafts if you're in the mood.
Learn all the things if it brings you joy.
Start up a side hustle if it allows you to live into your purpose.
Make the most of your time, and be sure to care for yourself.
You don't have to wake up at 5 a.m. to fit self-care into your routine.
You don't have to buy all the things to distract you from sitting with what you are feeling and why that is.
When we take care of our mental health by having open and honest dialogue with each other about our struggles and mental illnesses, we empower each other and end the stigma.
When we make self-care part of our day-to-day instead of only engaging when we've neglected ourselves too long, we're setting ourselves up for success.
We only have one life, and I want you to live your best version of it.
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