After my second child was born, I gave up a 13-year mind-body practice cold turkey. I just didn’t have time to do one thing that wasn’t directly related to keeping those kids fed, rested, housed and cared for. At least that’s what I told myself.
So I stopped doing all the things that made me feel better, including massages, yoga classes, meditating and practicing yoga at home.
Man, did things get worse!
My overwhelm went into overdrive. I started requiring two or three glasses of wine a night to take the edge off. Which then interrupted my sleep (which was already pretty out of whack with a newborn in the house). Which then impacted my mood. Which had me snapping at my husband. Worst of all, I totally lost touch with any greater vision for myself. It was a real low point.
So when people tell me, “I just don’t have time [or energy],” or, “I can’t possibly add something else to my to-do list,” I get it. I really get it.
But I’ll tell you this: The more you think you don’t have time to do the things that make you feel grounded and happy, the more you desperately need those things. Here then are my very best tips for staying consistent with your self-care.
- Map out the big stuff
It may seem paradoxical, but structure creates freedom. Sit down and map out what self-care activities you want to commit to, and when you will most likely do them. For example, you work out before work on Tuesday and Thursdays, have lunch with a friend on Fridays, grocery shop on Monday nights and cook a couple meals to have on hand on Sunday afternoons. Can you imagine how much brain space it would free up to never have to wonder when you’re going to make it to the grocery store? You may have to tweak this schedule a few times to find the right mix, but there’s nothing wrong with that!
- Tie little practices to daily events
When my kids were super young (3 and 1), I was forced to get creative about how I got my mind-body practice in. I started meditating while I nursed the baby to sleep, and while I did my nightly sweeping. When my daughter went through a phase where she insisted I stay in her room until she fell asleep, I started doing simple yoga poses on her floor. Not only did I get the relaxing benefits, I started looking forward to parts of the day that I had otherwise been dreading or resenting. Powerful stuff.
- Let go of how long self-care “should” last
I believe the one full breath you take when you notice yourself becoming annoyed can be a more powerful practice than 90 minutes of vigorous yoga. Let go of the idea that you need to meditate, or do yoga, or whatever, for a certain amount of time for it to count. It’s just an excuse.
Starting is the hardest part. Once you get going, you’ll likely stick with it for longer. Even if you don’t, you’ll still feel better than if you’d done nothing.
- Flip your view of resistance
I’ve been practicing yoga since 1995, and nearly every time I do it, I try to talk myself out of it first. Still! I’ve now learned to take that resistance as a sign that it’s something I really need to do. Or, as Joseph Campbell explained it, “The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure that you seek.”
Let every excuse you come up with about why a little self-care is not a good idea be proof of how badly you need it and how much you stand to gain by doing it. (How’s that for reverse psychology?)