How to Incorporate Self Care into Your Busy Life

As summer comes to an end, school and work are kicking back into gear, and life is about to get crazy!

You don’t look excited. I can see it now: summer road trips turning into rush hour traffic, kids getting ready for school in the morning, late nights in the library studying, missing dinner to do overtime at work. Can we just skip to Christmas vacation? To prepare for the chaos, we need a game plan, specifically a self-care game plan.

Self-care practices are regular activities that reduce stress, maintain our short- and long-term health and wellbeing (according to the University of Buffalo). In other words, self care is essential to maintaining wellness in our everyday chaos.

I learned this lesson the hard way my senior year of college. Working an internship three days a week, taking a full course load, trying to be active in two other clubs, and leading a small group, I overwhelmed my schedule with no way out. My days were filled with running from work to school to clubs to homework, barely getting 4 hours of sleep a night. As an introvert, I was socially and physically exhausted. I fell into a bad habit of people pleasing as I used what energy I had to try to please my supervisors and professors. I hated myself for making my schedule that way. Never before had I put so much on my plate that I flat out could not handle it.

Between the negative self talk, fast paced days, people pleasing and lack of sleep, I burned out within a couple weeks. I ran out of all I could offer. I could not be the best intern or student or mentor. I gave 10% effort to everything.  I needed an escape, source of fuel, a rescue boat. I needed self care.

Self care is not selfish. Prioritizing your wellness ensures you are the best you at home, on the job, in school. To my fellow Christians, you need to practice self care to be the best vessel for God’s work. Yes, God calls us to be selfless and care for our neighbor. In order to pour out, we need to be poured into. In other words, you cannot pour out of an empty cup.

Self care shouldn’t be something you do when you’re burned out, tired and ready to give up. Self care needs to be a habit, a part of your daily routine to help you get through the stress of everyday, so you avoid burnout.

Self care needs to be a habit, a part of your daily routine

Finding the BEST Self Care Habit for You

How did I find time for self care my senior year of college? First, I talked with my mentor, who asked what should have been simple question: “What do you like to do for fun?” I had no clue. I hadn’t had fun in that long. So like type A person I am, I made a list:

Activities I Enjoy:

  • Cooking a new recipe while listening to a podcast
  • Reading a good thriller
  • Taking a walk in my neighborhood
  • Watching cooking videos on Youtube
  • Journaling my prayers to the Lord in my devotional time

From here, my mentor helped me find pockets of time in my day to incorporate self care. No matter how busy you are, you’ll be surprised how much free time you have, whether it’s your metro commute or the two minutes waiting for your coffee to brew in the morning or your walk to class, etcetera.

Now, it’s your turn. Make a list of all the things you enjoy doing for fun. Let’s take your list and align it with a few guidelines.

The best self care habit for you is...

  1. Nourishing/Healthy: Your self care habits need to be healthy for your body, mind and spirit. Your practice shouldn’t be something that could hurt you over time. For example, you could eat your feelings away a pint Ben and Jerry’s, but that won’t build you up and sustain good spirits in the long run.
  2. Cost-effective: Your self care habit doesn't have to be a shopping spree, in fact, it doesn't cost money at all. Pick an activity you can afford to do everyday
  3. Mindless: Allow your mind to turn off and not be stimulated. This may require disconnecting from social media.
  4. Simple: Don't attempt a five-course meal or a 20 mile run, unless that's your thing. Keep your habit simple for easy satisfaction.
  5. Repeatable: Pick an activity you can easily do everyday with little effort.

Still can't think of a self care habit? Here are a few ideas to get you started: 

Seven Summer Self Care Ideas

  1. Alone time: When’s the last time you stopped everything and checked in with you? Everyone can be recharged by alone time. “But I’m an extrovert” isn’t an excuse here. Have a mental check-in with yourself. What has happened in your life recently? What is coming up next? What are your current concerns? Acknowledge these thoughts and feelings.
  2. Pamper yourself: A little beauty treatment never hurt, whether it’s painting your nails, a mani-pedi, face mask, or a long bubble bath #treatyoself
  3. Talk with a friend: Do what you enjoy with the ones you love. Catch up with your parents, best friend, sibling, mentor, or a friend you haven't seen in a while. Now’s an excuse to visit your favorite coffee shop or go old school and give him/her a call.
  4. Escape in nature: Before the weather turns cold, take advantage of the summer sun. Find your local park or hiking trail. The Lord’s presence is palpable in his Creation, from the gentle breeze to the bright summer flowers.  
  5. Journal: Empty your mind and put your thoughts on paper. Check out my article on the benefits of journaling.
  6. Sleep: Sometimes physical rest is exactly what we need. Maybe you need to go to bed early tonight or take a quick snooze. You’re never too old for a good nap. #noshame
  7. Walking/Driving: Take a step away from the stressful situation. Go for a walk or drive with no destination in mind. Blast your favorite playlist, and let your mind go blank. 

Want more self care ideas? Check out Hey Girl Podcast, starting with their Self Care mini-episode