I really enjoyed my holiday last week and didn't realise how ready I was for a break. It was lovely to wander barefoot along the beach, listening to the waves and recharging my soul. The Welsh sea air has blown away the cobwebs, and I'm ready to rock the Autumn season.
When was the last time you enjoyed some quality, guilt-free time for yourself? If you have to rack your brains to think that far back, then maybe it's time to make a change.
There's one thing I wish I were better at doing - and that's simply enjoying some time to myself while engaging in something that's not on my to-do list. Even in the gym, I usually have my headphones on while listening to some training, podcast or business guru!
Like many of my clients, I find it hard to relax for longer than five minutes without feeling guilty or like I 'should' be doing something productive. There's always a little voice in my head reminding me of things that need to be done for my business or just everyday chores around the house.
Finding some time for self-care is something women generally tend to be bad at for many reasons. However, I think the main reason is the never-ending to-do list of things that need to get done. As mothers and caregivers, we tend to put ourselves at the bottom of the pile, making sure everybody else is ok, and give little thought to our own needs and care.
And research backs this up too. For example, women tend to take on more of the housework and childcare than men, and recent research suggests that females enjoy significantly less leisure time.
Making time for yourself is so important, and it shouldn't be seen as a luxury.
Women have centuries of social conditioning to deal with, and although we seem to be getting much better at taking time for ourselves, the default option is to please. People pleasing and perfectionism tendencies can often lead us to 'do' rather than to 'be' because the result is we feel validated. And let's face it, we all want to feel heard and understood.
However, this is external validation, and what we really need is internal validation - to feel like we are enough. The best place to find this is to tap into ourselves and discover that we are enough, just as we are.
This is why time set aside just for ourselves can be really important - it's the hours spent nurturing the inner energy that can help us feel stronger, happier, and content. The key is also to ensure you make this quality time, not endless hours of scrolling through social media or mindlessly watching telly, but time spent doing the things you love, and that make your soul happy. Perhaps, you love reading, playing music or enjoying a peaceful bath?
If we don't put quality time for ourselves, how can we provide quality time elsewhere, with those we love and care for, and or anything that is important to us. We need to truly understand that none of us can pour from an empty cup, and so to be the best version of ourselves, we need to care for ourselves. It's essential.
We know that when our batteries are full, or at least mostly charged, we can do everything so much better, including caring for our loved ones. It doesn't matter whether the time you carve out is 15 mins a day to read or meditate, or it's twice a week to go to the gym or take a long walk - it's whatever works for you to switch off, relax and recharge.
So, what does quality time look like for you, and how can you make sure it fits into your day?
5 Intentional steps to self-care
Step 1: Understand your self-worth.
The most important thing for us to realise is the value of ourselves.
Juggling many hats and doing our best in all situations takes energy, resilience and good humour. We do these things every day, tackling challenges head-on, raising our kids, holding down jobs, and pushing ourselves.
Understanding your self-worth is the first step in knowing how to make time for yourself. If you don't think you deserve it, then you'll never be committed to putting yourself first.
If you are struggling to find your inner value, then make a list of three things you like about yourself or are proud of yourself for every day for a week and begin to understand all that you do and appreciate your self-worth.
The first step to creating your me-time is knowing and recognising what you crave for. What are your needs, and what brings a smile to your face? It can be a simple walk, jog or run. It could be gardening, singing or maybe writing something. Most of the time, we are so engrossed with the grind of life that we tend to forget the source of our joy and happiness.
Step 2: Make yourself a priority.
Hands up if you have so many things on your to-do lists that you don't get half of them done. Yep, me too. Often we do the easy or small things, or the ones that are urgent or have consequences if we don't do them. Everything else tends to get pushed down the list or forgotten about until tomorrow … or the day after …
To make time for yourself, you need to think about it differently. It's about realising that time for self-care is a priority and non-negotiable.
It doesn't have to be a weekend away. It could be 10 minutes with a cup of coffee and your favourite book. However you spend it, make time for yourself a priority, and you're much more likely to make it happen.
You have to create this time by literally cutting down on your other to-do lists. Getting up 20 mins earlier than your daily wake-up time is another example of creating your own time.
Step 3: Create boundaries
Boundaries are like an invisible force field that surrounds you and stops you from being buffered around by pressures from the outside world.
In this context, I'm talking about the boundaries you can create to make time for yourself. This could mean learning to say 'no' when someone asks you to do something or when you've got too much in your diary, and you need to cancel or postpone something until another time.
Don't be swayed into doing something you don't want to do or don't have time to do.
Create boundaries for yourself in how many activities your kids do, how many times you get drawn into baking cakes for the school fayre, when your boss asks you to work late too often, how many times you postpone date night with your partner.
Boundaries are things that keep us on track, on target and focused on our goals and values. If something is important to you, protect it with a boundary. Without boundaries, you'll say yes to everything, not the things you value, and that can leave you drained and exhausted.
It's helpful to recognise that you are unique, different, and not there to please someone else. People will always want to influence, impress or pressurise you into something. Live your life with your true self.
Step 4: Find your WHY
Let's be honest here; most of us are more motivated when we know something good will come out of it!
Step 4 is about finding your motivation. If getting fit is important to you, then ask yourself why. Is it so you can live a long and happy life, or so you can run after the kids? The stronger the WHY, the stronger your motivation will be. Stick it on a post-it note on the fridge, and reward yourself for sticking to your goals. What about treating yourself to some new workout clothes if you keep it up for a month. Is that a little more motivating?
Some things that we choose to do in our own time are rewards in themselves (eating a tub of ice cream anyone?!) but other things we do because we know we should, perhaps because it's good for us. These examples of self-care might need some extra oomph and motivation to get us going and keep us motivated.
Keep in mind that your body is your only lifetime companion. It is the only partner that stays throughout your life. Not investing enough into your mind, body and soul often compounds the health and emotional issues with the self.
Think about what you want to do if you have some time for yourself and decide whether you need something more to motivate you. If there's an added incentive, then you're much more likely to make it a priority and find the time to make it happen.
Step 5: Practice acceptance
There are some seasons in life that make finding time for yourself particularly difficult. If you've got a newborn baby or triplets, finding time for you could definitely be a challenge!
Step 5 is about being realistic with your expectations. Many of us would love to take that holiday I talked about at the start of this post, but it just wouldn't be possible.
One of the biggest reasons we have trouble making time for ourselves is that we think it's too complicated. Yet, 10 minutes is better than nothing. Work out what you can achieve in whatever time you have available.
Be creative with how you use your time, don't waste it being frustrated about what you can't do, but focus on what you CAN do instead.
Keep making time for yourself until you're YOU again - Lalah Delia.