When life gets busy and your schedule is packed full of events and things to do, what is usually the first thing that you let drop?
If you said self-care or something along those lines, then congratulations, my friend, you are normal.
However, self-care should actually be the last thing you drop when life gets busy. Taking care of yourself so that you are healthy, energetic, and focused is actually the thing that you need most in order to tackle a busy schedule and a stressful to do list.
When you sacrifice your self-care you get exhausted, burnt out, emotional, empty, and frazzled. Am I right?
But when we instead, choose to prioritize our self-care, even when we are busy, we bring our “A game” to our busiest times. Instead of being tired and empty, we are energized and ready to go. Instead of being emotional and distracted, we are confident and focused. Because we have taken the time to fill ourselves up, nourish our bodies, and get the rest and restoration that we need, we are able to do way more with the time we have.
Practical Steps to Keep Up With Self-Care When Life Gets Busy
Last summer, our family went through a particularly busy season. I remember pointing out to my husband at the beginning of summer that we would not have a free weekend for the entire summer. And not only that, but there were actually multiple events scheduled for most of our weekends.
During the week wasn’t much better. For many families, summer means extra free time, long, slow days at the pool, and a relaxing pace. But for many families with two working parents, summers can often be even more busy and stressful than the rest of the year.
On weeknights, it often feels like we barely see each other either. My husband and I both regularly need to work in the evenings or long hours, our kids have practices and events for their extracurricular activities, and there just always seems to be something that needs to be done.
Sometimes in life, we must go through busy seasons. Sure, I could use this time to discuss the importance of keeping extra margin in our calendars and avoiding over-scheduling ourselves. That is all well and good and important. But there are some things that you really want to do (or want your kids to be able to do) so you decide to make the sacrifice and be busy for a little while. Or, sometimes work gets really busy and whether you like it or not, you’ve got to put in the extra hours and effort to get the job done.
There will always be times in your life where you find yourself extremely busy, no matter how careful you are with your schedule. And it is in those times that it becomes essential to prioritize your health and self-care.
The stress of your busy schedule can wreak havoc on your health. And when you’re feeling exhausted, worn out, or sick, there’s no way you can keep up your busy schedule and be your best self. So let’s stop pushing ourselves to the bottom of the list and find ways to keep up with our self-care, even when going through the busiest of life seasons.
Prioritize Essential Self-Care Activities
When life gets busy we have to be super-intentional about making space for the things that keep us healthy and well.
Think about the things that are most important for your overall health and well-being. This could look different for everyone. However, be sure that your list of self-care items involves aspects to support your physical, mental, and spiritual health. All three are important for helping you keep up with your busy life and schedule. (This list of 101 ways to practice self-care can help you come up with ideas.)
For me, my essential self-care activities include my daily devotional and prayer time, my daily runs and other workouts, having and keeping up with a healthy meal plan, and finding a few minutes each day to relax with a good book. I also make sure that I get at least 7-8 hours of sleep each night. These are non-negotiable items that I have created daily habits and routines to support.
I make a plan at the beginning of the week to make sure that each of these things is scheduled and prepared for. I usually use Prep Dish for our weeknight meals to make sure we have healthy foods prepped and ready to go with minimal time required on busy weeknights.
Figure out what your non-negotiable self-care activities are and then put them on your to do list with priority over everything else.
Decide What Can Be Dropped
When you’ve got a million plates spinning in the air, pulling your attention all over the place, you need to let some things go. Once you’ve decided and planned for your essential priorities, you need to examine your to do list to figure out what is not essential.
Maybe you lower your house-cleaning standards for a little while or hire a cleaning service to take over for a short period of time. Yes, it can be a form of self-care to have a clean and clutter-free house, but it does not need to be spotless and perfect all of the time. (If you need tips on keeping up with a clean house as a working mom, this post can help.)
You might decide that now is not the time to schedule lunch dates with all your friends so you can instead spend your lunch hour working out or studying your Bible and praying. Again, your social life is important for self-care, but I’m going to guess that if your schedule is busy you’re probably spending a good deal of time with other people. This means that other self-care activities like rest and solitude could take precedence.
Another thing to consider is to cut out TV watching or social media scrolling for a time while you focus your attention on other matters. Let’s be real, there are far healthier ways to take care of yourself than zoning out on TV or social media.
Only you know what things take up extra time in your life that aren’t all that important. Decide what you can drop and let it go without guilt.
Get Creative with Squeezing Self-Care Into Your Real Life
I know. You are looking at your to do list and calendar and wondering how in the world you are supposed to squeeze these extra self-care items into your day. It feels impossible. But it’s not, it’s all a matter of priorities and intentionality when trying to practice self-care when life gets busy.
My husband has discovered that listening to the Bible on his commute for work is an incredibly great way to stay in the Word when life gets busy. This practice also helps to get his mind focused on God before and after work when he sometimes needs it the most. The YouVersion app works great for this. If you struggle to fit time with God into your schedule, could you maybe squeeze it into your daily commute?
Another way to creatively squeezing in self-care could be in the way you socialize with your friends. Maybe instead of weekly lunch dates, you keep up a regular conversation on apps like Voxer or Marco Polo so you can still stay connected even if you can’t meet face to face. Friendships are important, but there are times in life when they need to look different than we might be used to. Be flexible and get creative.
Other ideas include keeping an ebook on your phone or an actual book in your purse or car. Instead of pulling out your phone to scroll through social media when you are waiting for various things, pull out your book instead.
I know a good number of people who do “bathroom workouts” during their workday. When they get up to use the restroom they challenge themselves to do some kind of quick exercise. This could be things like squats in the stall, lunges down the hallway (who cares if people laugh), or some counter (elevated) pushups when you wash your hands.
You don’t need hours to devote to self-care each day. In fact, small amounts more often can be the most beneficial. Pay attention and notice where you have an extra 5-10 minutes in your day that you can devote to activities that fill you up and fuel you.
Busy Times Won’t Last Forever
Busy seasons of life are inevitable, but they should never be the norm. This past summer was an incredibly busy season for my family, but I could see the light at the end of the tunnel. I knew when the calendar was going to ease up and that helped me keep going on the hard days.
If your busy season feels like it is going to last forever then you need to spend some time getting honest with yourself and your family. You can’t keep up a busy pace forever, something has to give. Figure out what you need to remove from your calendar and then work toward making that happen.
Look forward to the time when your schedule will be more relaxed. And resist the urge to fill it up with more things. When things slow down, relax, enjoy, and reward yourself for making it through a difficult season. Then spend extra time taking care of yourself and fueling back up because there are sure to be busy seasons that come along again soon.