If you’re anything like me, there are times when you struggle to take care of yourself because you’re so busy and being pulled in what seems like a million different directions.
When I was in my last semester of grad school I was trying to juggle writing my thesis, completing a practicum, working full-time, and taking care of family responsibilities.
To say I was stressed out would be an understatement. I pulled many almost all-nighters, skipped meals, over-caffeinated myself, and my workout routine went out the window. I was on the verge of burning out when I realized that none of us can pour from an empty cup and something needed to change. That’s when I came up with a list of things that I knew I needed to do no matter what to keep myself a) sane b) healthy and c) on my A-game to get all the things done.
I know that during this pandemic so many of you are working full-time, homeschooling your kid(s), trying to hold it all together, and find some time to take care of yourself. On top of all your responsibilities, living amidst a pandemic just adds a whole other layer of stress. Life isn’t perfect, and there will be times when we are so full of responsibilities that it’s easy to put ourselves on the back burner.
Here is my list of non-negotiables that will ensure you take care of yourself even when life gets crazy:
1) Stay hydrated
It’s easy to fall into the caffeine trap when you’re tired and have a lot on your plate. But too much caffeine can disrupt your sleep and cause you to be super anxious. On the other hand, being well-hydrated can help to improve your mood, cognition, and sleep quality. When you’re not well hydrated it can also cause headaches and brain fog – and who needs that when you’re trying to juggle ‘all the things’? Keep a water bottle with you at all times and make sure you’re drinking enough throughout the day.
2) Do something that brings you joy
Maybe it’s catching up on your favorite Netflix show, taking a warm bath, playing with your dog…whatever it is, find 30 minutes each week to do something that brings you joy. It’s important to take care of yourself physically, but you also need to make sure you’re taking care of your mental health as well. Finding time to engage in something that makes you laugh or smile can really brighten your spirits.
3) Get Enough Sleep
It may seem like a good idea to stay up half the night to get things done, but this can be so counterproductive. Getting enough rest can help to boost your productivity and sharpen your focus. When you stay up late, the next day you will wake up feeling groggy, maybe a little cranky (I know I do), and it will be harder to take on all you need to do. It’s optimal to get 8 hours of sleep each night, but try to get at least 7 hours minimum. If you struggle with falling asleep because you have a lot on your mind, leave a notepad and pen next to your bed and write down all of your thoughts and to-dos. This way you can mentally unload and free your mind to get a good night’s rest.
4) Practice deep breathing
Taking a few minutes to do some deep breathing can help to calm your nerves, reduce your anxiety, and center you. Breathe in slowly through your nose and allow your abdomen to expand, then breathe out slowly through your mouth. Repeat this a few times. I know it may sound silly, but this has been a game-changer for me in finding my calm.
5) Plan Easy Meals
This is not the time to be making intense recipes and spending hours in the kitchen, but you do need to make sure that you’re nourishing yourself with healthy foods. Take it from me -when you skip meals or eat unhealthy foods you are not going to have the energy you need to fulfill all of your responsibilities. So what’s the solution? Keep it as simple as possible. Take an hour to batch cook some lean protein, healthy carbs, and veggies. As an example, grill some chicken breast, cook some brown rice or roasted sweet potatoes, and steam or roast some veggies. Prep some smoothie packs to put in the freezer by combining frozen fruit, greens, flaxseed, and oats in individual portions. When you need a quick meal or snack, just throw the ingredients in the blender with some almond milk or water. By prepping simple staples like this in advance, you will always have something healthy on hand to eat throughout the week.
Whether it’s after work or on the weekends – try to find a time where you can disconnect from technology and social media. Spending too much time behind a screen can cause stress and anxiety and mess with your sleep.
7) Make Time to Exercise
It’s easy to let exercise fall to the wayside when you’re busy, but it’s important to find some time to move your body especially in stressful, hectic times. Exercise helps us to manage stress, think more clearly, and it gives us those feel-good endorphins which can help us to work through our tasks. So many of us have all or nothing thinking when it comes to exercise, but exercising even just a little is better than nothing at all. You don’t need to work out for hours to reap the benefits of exercise. Try to find 20 minutes to do a quick video workout at home (there are so many free ones on YouTube), or go for a 20-minute brisk walk. When you’re done, your brain and your body will feel refreshed.
8) Practice Daily Gratitude
Take some time before you call it a night to write down 2-3 things that you are grateful for each day. Even when life is busy, we all have things to be grateful for, and spending a bit of time thinking about it and writing it down can help to keep you in a positive mindset.
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