For many of us, life moves pretty fast these days.
With a packed schedule every day – working long hours, taking care of children (even elderly parents), managing the house, spending time with your partner – it may feel like you’re running on a perpetual treadmill. You’re stressed, exhausted and your bucket is empty.
In times like these, one person who is often neglected is yourself. However, research shows taking time for numero uno (that’s you) when you’re busy is not only necessary—it’s also good for your health.
“Being well and taking care of ourselves are critically important,” said Brendon Comer, a licensed clinical social worker at Banner Health Clinic in Colorado. “What happens, however, is that we put it off for the future … a future that may be weeks or months away.”
You may tell yourself things like:
“But I don’t have time.”
“It’s too expensive.”
“I feel guilty putting myself first.”
Hey, it’s easy to make excuses, but integrating small, daily habits into your busy routine are some of the best ways to help your mind and body thrive.
Comer shares six ways to sneak self-care into your busy life.
1. 4-7-8 breathing technique
Before your feet touch the floor or you reach for your phone first thing in the morning, practice slow, controlled breathing exercises with the 4-7-8 breathing technique.
4 seconds: Breathe in through your nose.
7 seconds: Hold your breath.
8 seconds: Slowly exhale out of your mouth.
“Controlled breathing is a quick and easy way to realign, and yet not a lot of us do it,” Comer said. “This simple exercise forces you to slow down and actually count the breaths and calm your mind.”
2. Document gratitude
“Starting a gratitude practice is one of the most powerful things you can do to create a positive shift within yourself,” Comer said. “Gratitude journaling allows you to create a dedicated safe space devoted to yourself—your own thoughts, feelings and emotions.”
Take three to five minutes each day to write down three good things that happened that day. This practice can be particularly therapeutic if you’ve had a difficult or stressful day.
3. Practice mindfulness
Mindfulness can be defined as a present moment awareness and can be especially important to practice during stressful times as a form of self-care.
“Even if it’s pausing and connecting to your breathing for 30 seconds at a time, you can practice mindfulness in little pockets throughout your day,” Comer said. “When you take the time to be mindful of your surroundings, it can help clear your mind, slow your racing heart and reset your perspective.”
You can practice mindfulness in a variety of ways, including:
- Perform breathing exercises like 4-7-8.
- Meditate or be still and focus on your thoughts and needs
- Take a warm bath
- Practice yoga
- Journal your thoughts and feelings
4. Take a walk
Just a short walk around the block or in nature is enough to clear your head. Take time to get your body moving. It will improve your mood and boost energy.
5. Limit screen time
Technology is helpful in many ways. It connects us with the outside world, but it can also add a level of stress that isn’t healthy.
Make a rule to put away your electronic devices at a certain time each day to allow yourself to clear your mind from distractions and focus on dedicated time to the things you’re passionate about.
“Studies have shown that taking digital breaks can help our mental and emotional well-being,” Comer said.
6. Schedule self-care
If you’re already busy, you may wonder just how to fit in time for self-care. Block off time in your work and/or personal calendar and do your best not to reschedule or cancel. “Make this time sacred time,” Comer said.
“Taking small opportunities to care for ourselves and manage stressors can go a long way in doing our best and staying well,” Comer said. “Our families need us.”