How to make time for self-care

In light of my self-professed need for some attention to self-care and my observations that many others around me could benefit from the same, I recently declared July 2020 to be “Self-Care Month”. This blog, in combination with the Outdoors is my Therapy podcast, my Facebook pages and my Facebook Group, have been rolling out some tools to help you create self-care opportunities in your life. As the COVID-19 restrictions eased somewhat in my region over the last month, I was also able to re-instate some bush adventure activities for the community which has been super exciting and nurturing both for myself and the participants.

Throughout July I’ve shared information with you about how you can use nature to manage stress and I’ve given you a guided mindfulness practice in Episode 14 of the podcast. I’ve also posed some questions for you to reflect on to help you identify what self-care looks like for you, what gets in the way, and which aspects of self-care you’d most like to focus your time and energy on. And now in this post we’re going to delve further into one of the most common obstacles that stops women from regular self-care routines – having enough TIME. The challenge is real – trying to do all the things in life including working, parenting, socialising, daily living tasks, responsibilities and looking after others can make it tricky to prioritise time and energy towards self.

self-care time management

Time Management

Here’s something I wrote a little while back in a blog about time management and I think it’s totally relevant now:

“TIME! We never seem to have enough of it, we’re always fighting it, and it’s invisible! It seems to slip through our fingers without care. It’s like an elusive double agent, tempting us with tantalising pleasures, and then it’s gone, leaving us with nothing but a pile of to-do’s and deadlines in its wake. And if we’re honest with ourselves, we’ll always find something to fill in a space that’s left when we are more efficient with our time – there’ll never be enough of it!

Time Management is a real thing!
Managing the time we have available to us is a learned skill and one that we can continually refine as our needs, activities and priorities change. There are a lot of self-help books on this topic, but honestly, who has the time to read them!”

Inner stories about self-care

When you hear or see the word ‘self-care’, what comes to your mind? What stories do you have kicking around your mind about taking time for self-care? Commonly women have told me:

  • The kids have to come first
  • Self-care is selfish
  • I feel so guilty if I do something for myself without the rest of the family
  • I don’t have time for self-care
  • Self-care is a luxury, it’s not for everyday life when you have to work hard to put bread on the table
  • I’m just aiming to survive – don’t give me anything more to deal with

These are all variations of saying “I don’t have enough time to do all the things. ‘Me’ and ‘self-care’ come last.”

But how would it be if you DID have enough time? What would your self-care look like then? Again, many women have told me they’d like to:

  • have quiet time to themselves
  • spend more time with friends laughing and relaxing
  • have more holidays
  • read more books
  • write a book
  • invest time in preparing nutritious food
  • have a regular exercise routine
  • go to yoga classes
  • have a weekend away with their partner or friends or go to a retreat

Self-care doesn’t have to be time consuming or expensive – it all depends on how you define self-care. I wrote about What Does Self-Care Look Like? in the last blog post.

How CAN you make time for self-care?

If you’re ready to overcome the hurdle of time and get your self-care routine happening, you might find some of these ideas helpful:

1. Time is a commodity you exchange for something else

Time is a precious commodity that you exchange for something else. It’s like a business transaction between yourself and the universe. If you spend lots of money on luxury items you might not have enough left over for the basic household bills. Do you invest time into the luxury things of life – the things the wellness industry and social media would have us believe are necessary parts of self-care? Or do you invest your time firstly in the foundations of caring for your self like nutritious food, exercise and sleep?

2. You have a choice

You choose how you spend your time, in the same way that you choose how you spend your money. What choices are you making? Are you spending time inside scrolling on your phone mindlessly when you’re tired, or are you getting outside for a walk and fresh air, exercise, and getting a good sleep? Are you choosing takeaway food to have a night off cooking, or are you choosing to stock your fridge with fresh produce so that everyday you fuel your body with easy-to-prepare fresh foods?

The challenge with time management is to manage ourselves

3. Get your priorities straight

There will always be competing priorities and responsibilities in your life. Work out a system for prioritising everything, a bit like having a formula to help you decide what comes first, second and so on. A lot of us find ourselves reacting to crises or urgent problems constantly and that’s exhausting! This is when self-care often gets shoved down to the bottom of the priority list. But when you invest in self-care, you’re also investing in a strong foundation for yourself. You’ll be more productive, efficient and effective. Plan ahead and get organised. You could:

  • do one big grocery shop each week instead of every day
  • pre-prepare meals ahead of time so you don’t resort to convenience foods or take-away
  • batch your cooking and refrigerate or freeze leftovers for another night
  • install a meditation app on your phone and schedule your daily meditation into your day
  • schedule your exercise and time in the outdoors
  • combine time outdoors with either exercise or meditation for extra value-packed self-care
  • create flexible but firm routines to ensure your self-care doesn’t get left out – don’t let your boundaries get squishy and allow other things to take priority

self-care and nutrition

4. Change your mindset about time

Treat time as a precious gift that’s been given to you. Remember, time can never be refunded once it’s spent. Use it wisely.

5. What are your time vampires?

What sucks the time out of your day? Where does your time go? Are you okay about this? What can you realistically do about this? What can you change? If your life was a movie, what would your audience suggest you could do to spend your time more wisely so that your self-care doesn’t get left out, and you feel happier and more fulfilled?

time management clock

6. Record your actions for a day, or longer!

Make a note in your diary or notepad of how you’re spending your day. Note down the time and what task or activity you are working on, and what time you finished. Or break your diary into 10-15 minute time blocks and record what you’re doing at every time interval. It only takes a teeny bit of time to do this, but the investment is well worthwhile! This strategy can highlight where your time goes, and keep you accountable to your goals. For example, if you want to work on a self-care goal like going for a walk or tending a vegetable garden, record the time you spend actually doing it and make a note of the benefits you experience when you make it happen.

7. Become more mindful of what you’re doing as you’re doing it

Pause at regular intervals and ask yourself “What am I doing now?” This precious moment is all you have. How are you spending your energy and time right now, in this precious moment?

8. Don’t make excuses

It’s easy to blame other people and situations for lack of time, for not being able to get outside for a walk or meditate or sit outside to watch the sunrise or sunset. Do a thorough audit and be honest with yourself. What can you take responsibility for? What changes can you make?

9. Avoid distractions

Is distraction an issue for you? Phones are known to be one of the greatest distractions to humankind because they’re so portable. We take them everywhere. Whether it’s a phone or something else consuming your time, how can you best manage your distractions so you have enough time for your priorities? Here are a few ideas to make it as easy as possible to keep your attention laser-focused and make best use of your time:

  • set a timer to go off at regular intervals to remind yourself to refocus your attention, go for a walk, or simply to stop and take a few deep breaths
  • switch off your wi-fi and use your phone as … well, a phone! Or mute it or switch it off when you want to focus on a task or have a break.
  • turn off notifications on your phone
  • close the door to your room if you want to concentrate and get a task done
    put a “Do Not Disturb” sign on your office
  • reward yourself when you’ve completed tasks within a set time frame

Let's sum up!

You CAN make time for self-care

It’s vital that we all make self-care a priority and not use lack of time as an excuse. Basic self-care doesn’t need to take a lot of time, but if time is a real issue for you, try following the strategies we’ve discussed in this article – your mind and body will thank you for it.

Here’s a reminder!

  • Time is a commodity – spend it wisely!
  • YOU choose moment to moment how you spend your time
  • Get your priorities sorted
  • Change your mindset about time – it’s a precious gift
  • Be aware of your time vampires
  • Record how you spend your time
  • Be mindful of how you’re spending your time
  • Don’t make excuses
  • Avoid distractions

I’d love to hear any other time management strategies you use to keep your self-care in action. Send me a message, and head on over to the Outdoors is my Therapy Facebook Group where we’re sharing ideas and inspiration about self-care in nature!

Listen to the audio version of “How to Make Time for Self-Care” here!

Discovering mountain biking as life’s ultimate parallel universe in her middle age, Daisy Spoke aka Kathryn Walton logoKathryn Walton shares information and reflections in Daisy Spoke that connect, inspire and self-empower women to make healthy choices for themselves. She integrates her love of physical exercise, family, nature, gardening and creative arts with her professional background in mental health social work to facilitate change with individuals, groups, workplaces and communities of women who are committed to living life to the full.

What does self-care look like?

I’m writing this article during the month of July in the year 2020 and I’m asking all sorts of questions to get you thinking about your own self-care. Recently I wrote about how to stress less in nature. Nature offers a rich and beautiful set of self-care tools that you can easily and affordably access. In the Outdoors is my Therapy podcast last week I shared a guided mindfulness practice that you can do outdoors – once again this is a valuable self-care tool.

But today I want to get back to exploring the true meaning of self-care including what you most need to focus on so you don’t get distracted or led up the wrong path when it comes to self-care. Next week you’ll get some tips on managing one of the most common obstacles that women stumble over with self-care, and that’s time – juggling all the things, the competing priorities and responsibilities.

self-care month

Self-care is never skin-deep

Self-care is never skin deep. If you believe the advertisements trying to sell you a glossy image of self-care, it might look like having your nails done, having a holiday in Bali or spending a whole day shopping for new clothes and handbags and shoes. And these activities can be part of self-care. But if we only focus on buying luxury and often expensive activities, services and products to make ourselves feel good, then we’re missing out on the vital aspects, the very foundations of true self-care.

Finding a common thread between Child Care, Aged Care and Self-Care

Let’s look at it another way. If I asked you what’s child care, or aged care or neighbourhood care, what do you think of? What are the tasks, the activities you actually do when you’re caring for children or older people in poor health or your neighbours?

Child Care – tasks and values

When I think of child care for example, I think about looking after children’s physical and emotional needs like:

  • providing a safe environment for them to play
  • giving them plenty of running around time outdoors
  • preparing food
  • buying the groceries and bringing them home
  • getting the house in order
  • making sure the kids have educational activities like great books and games
  • setting boundaries on their bedtimes and use of devices
  • cooking nutritious meals
  • packing their lunches with care and attention (sometimes leaving a special treat or message in there for them)
  • making sure they get to sports practice and get their homework done
  • supporting them to rise up to challenges and celebrate the joys and successes
  • helping them settle down to sleep with a good evening routine
  • listening to the children with compassion when they’re upset, giving them some gentle advice and checking back in with how they’re going later on
  • organising medical advice and treatment when they are unwell

Caring for children, aged and sick people, and our neighbours generally starts with making sure that physical and emotional needs are met. Care also goes beyond those basics because our actions align with values such as love, kindness and compassion.

Self-Care – tasks and values

When it comes to self-care how many of these tasks do you routinely do for yourself, and when you do, are you doing them with love, care, kindness and compassion?

Which of these tasks or values get left out?

Where are you at with your self-care?

Here are some reflective questions you can ask yourself to identify where you’re at with self-care right now. These questions are intended to be a prompt to identify where you might be able to focus some extra energy and attention. They’re not meant to be a judgement or comparison between yourself and anyone else. Self-care looks a bit different to each individual so there is no right way of doing it. But you’ll know when you’re doing self-care better because you’ll have more energy, attention and compassion for the other parts of your life – your relationships, the people you care for. You’ll feel like your cup is full enough to be able to share your time and energy being with others and helping others at work or in your personal life.

Self-Care Audit and Reflection QUESTIONS

• Am I choosing carefully and lovingly what I feed myself with, what I put into and onto my body – food as natural as possible, water, cosmetics, and anything else?
• Am I looking after myself by moving my body throughout the day? This is the single biggest factor that will improve your health prospects.
• Am I getting outside everyday to enjoy the fresh air, or sunshine, or rain, the garden, the clouds, the breeze?
• Am I exercising? Exercise is physical movement for a specific purpose for example to improve cardio-vascular fitness, flexibility, endurance, strength.
• Am I nurturing myself with social activities that feed my mind and soul? Am I connecting with people who lift me up and add great value to my life?
• Am I getting enough sleep?
• Am I self-disciplined with using devices and how I spend my time including getting to bed and getting up in the morning?
• Do I listen to my body and my mind and my heart?
• Am I compassionate and caring towards myself in ways that I’m compassionate and caring towards others?
• How am I speaking to myself today? Am I speaking to myself as I would speak to a friend?
• Am I spending time in nature? Do I check in every week to find my place in the natural world? 2 hours a week is good amount of nature time to aim for to enjoy its benefits the most.
• Do I gift myself time and space to reflect, to think, to pause, to just be?

self-care nutritionself-care sleepself-care move more
Are you neglecting or nurturing your self-care?

These questions dig down into the very foundations of self-care that we often neglect. These are the aspects of self-care that build your health and energy, your sense of vitality and self-worth. They don’t sound super-exciting or dazzling but they are essential. If you neglect these foundations, and spend your time, energy and money constantly seeking other activities to fill your self-care cup, you’ll never be content.

What parts of self-care do you most need to focus on?

What aspects of self-care are you currently practising and feel satisfied with?

And which ones would you like to work on?

How are you going to do that?

What might get in the way?

Share your story with me!

I love having conversations like these with the women in my communities and I’d love to hear from you too. Let me know how your self-care practices are going, what the challenges are and what’s working well. You can also request a complementary 30 minute video chat (for a limited time, maximum numbers, Australia only).

If you haven’t already, join the Outdoors is my Therapy Facebook Community where there’s lots of sharing of inspiring ways to practise self-care in the outdoors. You can also sign up to receive my fortnightly Grounded Inspiration email newsletters filled with snippets of information and inspiration to keep your self-care, health and happiness rolling along.

Listen along to the podcast episode “What does self-care look like?”

Discovering mountain biking as life’s ultimate parallel universe in her middle age, Daisy Spoke aka Kathryn Walton logoKathryn Walton shares information and reflections in Daisy Spoke that connect, inspire and self-empower women to make healthy choices for themselves. She integrates her love of physical exercise, family, nature, gardening and creative arts with her professional background in mental health social work to facilitate change with individuals, groups, workplaces and communities of women who are committed to living life to the full.

7 ways to improve your mental health at work

Daisy Spoke Banner

We spend a lot of our waking hours in the workplace so it’s no surprise that work and personal life impact each other. It’s an issue we mustn’t ignore. Many of us have been trained or at least socialised to separate our ‘professional selves’ from our ‘personal selves’. To put on our ‘worker’ hat at work, our ‘parent’ and ‘partner’ hat at home, and our ‘volunteer’ hat at weekend sports events. We juggle the different parts of ourselves, keeping our guards up and being careful not to cross boundaries. READ “HOW MANY HATS DO YOUR WEAR?”

But can we completely separate the different parts of our lives? And should we? What are the implications, both good and bad? And how can we re-integrate ourselves when we feel like we can’t keep it all together, or when there is a major change in our work or personal lives?

The real mental health issues in the workplace

Employees, managers and business owners are all in the same boat. Where do we even begin to sort out the issues? In late 2018 Bel du Bois from Darling Downs Wellness Therapies and myself surveyed our community. The results were really interesting. 54% of people said that multiple roles and responsibilities was one of the main health and wellness concerns in their workplace. Stress, unrealistic workloads and communication difficulties also rated very highly.

The struggle to keep it all together

I know first hand what it’s like to juggle family and work responsibilities, and *try* to be calm about it all. Many of us struggle with it, yet few of us talk about it openly. We feel pressure to appear to be coping, on top of things, and to have it all together. But pretending everything’s okay doesn’t make the stress go away. Work, family, home and personal health all suffer.

Whose responsibility?

There is increasing pressure on workplaces to address mental health and wellness issues. This is great because instead of sweeping it under the carpet, we’re beginning to talk about, to acknowledge it and to manage it better.

Obviously the responsibility doesn’t sit entirely with our workplaces. We also need to address industry regulations, state and national policy, and cultural norms.

As individuals we also need to take a degree of responsibility for those things within our control – that means taking a good hard look at ourselves, our reactions in stressful situations, our attitudes, our behaviours, and the supports we choose (or don’t choose) to access.

What this means is that to improve mental health we really have to take a multi-tiered Plan of Actionapproach. We must support workplaces and managers and business owners to create a mentally healthy culture. We need to advocate for industry reform, policy and legislation that reflects a mentally healthy culture. And we need to support individuals and groups in our community to develop inner skills and behaviours (that is, the things we can control!) that enhance mental health. Read on for some tips on how you can begin to put mentally healthy actions in place today.

7 ways to improve your mental health at work

1. Remember that you are a human, not a robot. Life isn’t all smooth sailing, blue skies and cheery hearts. You have thoughts and emotions. They are real. You react to the world around you. The world around you reacts to you too.

2. Find your tribe. A supportive, open, caring community around you is what we all need. If you don’t have that, take steps to create it.

3. Build your resilience – physical and mental. The best ways to begin doing this are through exercise, having active hobbies, feeding yourself nutritious food, getting good quality sleep, and developing a powerful mindset.

4. Expand your stress management skills. You can never have too many tools in your “Coping Kit”! Read books and articles on stress management. Go to workshops. Find a counsellor. Listen to podcasts. Do an online course.

5. Find constructive ways to address your workplace issues. This may mean direct communication with your employer, industry, union or association. There may also be changes you can initiate yourself that will make all the difference eg renegotiating your work hours, equipment available for you to do your job, or the length of your lunch break.

6. Make choices that nurture your mental health and physical health. Often it’s the little things that make the biggest difference, such as choosing to go for a walk at lunch time. But sometimes we need to muster up the courage to make the bigger decisions, such as changing jobs or moving locations.

7. Ask for help. If the first person doesn’t support you in the way you need, ask someone else. Keep going until you find the right person. There are so many online resources these days that you’re no longer limited to what’s available in your local area.

Ready for more?

Wellness in the Workplace

If you relate to anything in this post, I’d love you to join me for The Wellbeing Project, a collaboration between myself and Bel du Bois from Darling Downs Wellness Therapies. We’ll be delving into these topics (and more!) in detail in our dynamic, interactive workshop “Wellness in the Workplace” to be held in Warwick on Wednesday 13th March 2019. You’ll get the latest evidence-based information and proven skills and strategies to function at your best in the workplace and in your personal life. You’ll learn techniques to build your resilience, have more energy, manage your work and home stresses, and feel healthier and happier.

Creating and facilitating workshops brings me a lot of joy. I love knowing that I’m making a difference to a room full of people instead of only one person at a time. Bel and I have thoroughly enjoyed our planning meetings at the beautiful cafes around town and we’ve got so much amazingness in store for you. This workshop is definitely not a typical ‘dry’ boring training day!

So …..

Are YOU ready to re-energise, grow your coping skills, discover strategies and techniques to use at work and home, learn ways of communicating effectively with different personalities, and discover resources and supports to guide you into the future? You can have all of this when you choose to take positive action towards better health and wellness at work by investing one day of your life in “Wellness in the Workplace”.

Read more information or make a booking for “Wellness at Work”

More workshops coming soon! Subscribe so you don’t miss out!

Daisy Spoke

Discovering mountain biking as life’s ultimate parallel universe in her middle age, Kathryn Walton shares information and reflections in ‘Daisy Spoke’ that inform, inspire and empower women to a healthy and active lifestyle.

Busy Head Syndrome, Weeding and Creating a Clearing

“The Secret Garden” by Frances Hodgson Burnett is one of those books that I definitely have in my basket of ‘all time favourites’. Having read it many times as a child and an adult, I well and truly relate to many of the scenes. One that sticks in my mind is when Mary secretly lets herself into the garden that has been locked up for many years, and without knowing anything about gardening, she instinctively clears little patches of earth surrounding the green shoots she finds in the ground.

She did not know anything about gardening, but the grass seemed so thick in some of the places where the green points were pushing their way through that she thought they did not seem to have room enough to grow. She searched about until she found a rather sharp piece of wood and knelt down and dug and weeded out the weeds and grass until she made nice little clear places around them. “Now they look as if they could breathe,” she said …..’

*AC85 B9345 911s, Houghton Library, Harvard University

It was only later that Mary discovered her instincts guided her wisely.

I remember the therapeutic effect of clearing weeds in the garden as a child. And as an adult I still get a kick out of weeding. The end result always improves the wellbeing of my much loved herb and vegetable garden, but of even greater consequence is the clearing it provides in my own head! Being self-diagnosed with ‘Busy Head Syndrome’, my mind is a veritable storehouse of ideas, thoughts, creations, experiences, fantasies, memories and dreams. It can get pretty noisy in there! But with each weed from the garden that I pile onto the compost heap, my head goes through a parallel process of clearing out and letting go.

Some people describe the process of de-cluttering the house or cleaning out a cupboard in a similar way. I’m often amazed at the different life lessons we can learn from our ordinary everyday activities – if we pause for long enough to think about it.

Now, with my busy week coming up, I’m off to do some weeding in the garden – to clear some space not only for my shallots and asparagus, but the inside of my head too!

Discovering mountain biking as life’s ultimate parallel universe in her middle age, Kathryn Walton shares information and reflections in Daisy Spoke that connect, inspire and self-empower women to make healthy choices for themselves.

A Cup of Tea in the Sun

YellowDaisies

Humans tend to fall unconsciously into habits that support the established routine. So it happens that when life is busy, and the weather outside encourages us to stay indoors, we tend to keep our ourselves in hibernation focusing on our ever-expanding list of things we have to do. With many consecutive days of cloudy, windy, bleak wintery weather keeping many people indoors, it was the talk of the town when the sun came out to shine highlighting the intensity of the bright blue sky.

GumTreeBlueSky

One of my colleagues remarked that it’s such a pity she always has such a long list of things to do so that whenever the sun comes out to shine, she never has the time to simply sit in the sun and have a cup of tea. I suspect the cup of tea means more to my colleague than ‘just a hot drink’. The context of sitting in the sun on a cold winter’s day brings a deeper and richer meaning to the cup of tea.

CupOfTeaKnittedDoll

I wonder what a cup of tea in the sun might mean to you? Maybe it means relaxation and recharge time; a few minutes to give yourself permission to savour the present moment; a ritual of self-care; honouring the sensory delights of a cup of tea or the fresh sunny weather; an escape from the hectic routine of family care; or maybe something else?

Whatever meaning my colleague makes from enjoying a cup of tea in the sun, it is clear it holds a significant degree of importance, yet it stays at the bottom of the list of things to do even when the weather makes it possible.

If drinking a cup of tea in the sun becomes your priority, how might your day be different? How might you be different? By embracing the ritual which recharges and revives our body and mind, we show equal compassion to ourselves as we do to those around us ….. and the perpetual list of jobs that begs our attention! We value ourselves and we value the energy we need to achieve our goals for the day.

SunBenchSeat

Investing a few minutes of time and mental energy into self-care rituals is not a selfish thing to undertake. The benefits reach far beyond ‘self’ having plenty of pay-offs for those around us as well.

In keeping with the philosophy of the proverb “Make hay while the sun shines” I invite you, firstly, to consider how you can make the most of opportunities to engage in self-care rituals that re-energise, revive and nurture your mind and body; and secondly, to embrace and value those opportunities and the rituals themselves.

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