As a busy professional trying to do ALL. THE. THINGS., you risk chronic health issues by constantly putting everyone else’s needs before your own. Let that sink in. Your willingness to put your needs after everyone else’s is bad for your health.
Failing to take care of yourself not only catches up with your wellbeing, but negatively impacts how you show up for those you care about most.
If you have trouble finding the time, energy, and motivation for self-care, you are not alone! You might feel self-care is selfish. Or, that it’s impossible to put yourself on your multipage to-do list.
If you want to overcome common self-care challenges so that YOU are on your to-do list and take better care of yourself, consider practicing one or more of the following strategies as a first step towards rebalancing your wellbeing and being the best version of you.
Shift Your Mindset
Your mind is powerful and yields feelings, actions, and results you either want or don’t want. You get to choose your thoughts based on the feelings, actions, and results you want. So, flip the script with these thoughts to increase the amount of self-care you practice.
- Some stress is healthy. Contrary to popular belief, not all stress is bad. (McGonigal, K. (2015). The Upside of Stress. New York: Avery, an imprint of Penguin Random House] You need it for peak performance — those times when you feel like you’re operating on all cylinders or hitting a grand slam. Instead of believing you need to get rid of stress, trust that you have a zone of healthy stress from which you perform at your best. True, your stress boils over from the healthy zone to the zones of imbalance or breakdown due to your multipage to-do list and life’s curveballs. Ultimately, you can develop strategies for your self-care toolkit that keep you in your zone of healthy stress and help you recalibrate from the zone of imbalance or recover from the zone of breakdown.
- Focus on what you’ll gain instead of what you’ll lose. When you consider making a behavior change — big or small — it’s normal to focus on what you’ll have to give up. You can flip your mindset, however, so that you focus on what you’ll gain. For example, if you want to walk 5 out of 7 days a week, you could schedule it during your lunch break. But you typically use that time to pay bills and catch up on household paperwork, and you’re hesitant to give that time up. When you shift your mindset, you realize the physical energy you gain from walking will prevent your afternoon slump when your brain struggles to focus. Gaining energy is more important to you than finding another time to take care of bill paying and household paperwork.
- To get more energy for self-care, you need to spend some first. As a high–achieving professional, you want to take care of All. The. Things. But you’re exhausted, overwhelmed, sleep-deprived, overworked, etc. You’re sold on the idea that self-care is important, but where will the energy come from? Oddly enough, doing the very thing for which you’re awaiting energy. Flip your mindset so that you put forth effort before having the energy you believe you need. Thankfully, strategies like exercising and drinking enough water are self-perpetuating energy generators.
- Manage energy, not time. Feeling like you don’t have enough time for self-care is a universal problem. The suggested solution is to find more time. But time isn’t a renewable resource. No matter what, you will always have 24 hours in a day, 7 days in a week, etc. You have control over the quantity and quality of your energy, however. And you can intentionally plan self-care practices that replenish energy.
Identify Your Self-Care Sweet Spot
Wherever you’re starting from, your self-care sweet spot = how you want to feel + your season of life. This isn’t about doing what anyone else thinks is best for you. Or, what you see others posting on social media. This is about YOU intentionally choosing what you want to experiment with based on you being the expert on YOU in YOUR season of life.
Connect with Your WHY for Self-Care
Are you mentally, physically, or emotionally exhausted and overwhelmed? Maybe you or someone you know has had a health scare which concerns you. Or your pace and productivity don’t align with the life you imagined. Whatever your why for taking better care of yourself, ask yourself “why” two more times — go deeper until you get to your feelings. For example, you might want to eat healthier foods. Why? “Everyone says it will increase my immunity.” Why is that important? “Because I’m a smart person and I would feel dumb if I developed a health issue that could have been prevented with consistently eating healthier foods.” Connecting to your deep-down why provides motivation.
Believe Self-Care Is the Opposite of Selfish
As a high-achieving professional, you want to be perceived as capable. As a result, you put your head down and plow through everything you expect of yourself or that you’ve said yes to. Ironically, you become selfish if you DON’T take care of yourself. You compromise your capacity. I know for sure that you deserve self-care as much as any other human on the planet. You are worthy of self-care.
5. Spend AND Renew Energy
Maintaining a steady stream of energy expenditure is unrealistic. Life throws curveballs and seasons change. Both require extra energy. That’s ok. You can do hard things (just not all the time). The trick to rhythmically spending and renewing energy is to plan for the recovery. Plan the self-care practices that will help you recover (by replenishing energy). Pro tip: To the extent that you can, do your hardest tasks when you have the most energy.