Making Time for Self-Care

By: Christina Pay, Extension Assistant Professor

Woman holding coffee looking out window

Self-care is a topic we seem to hear about frequently these days. We are told that to have optimal health, both physically and mentally, we need to include self-care in our daily routines. If we don’t take time for self-care, we can experience increases in anxiety, anger, fatigue, depression, and heart disease (Ali, 2019). Research has shown that self-care can reduce stress and anxiety levels while increasing self-compassion (Shapiro, et. al., 2007). Additionally, self-care can contribute to lower morbidity, mortality and healthcare costs, while providing an increase in well-being (Riegel, et. Al, 2019). Yet, even knowing all the benefits of self-care, on average only 15-minuts a day is spent by people on health-related self-care (Yaribeygi, et. al, 2017).  Trying to balance the various roles and responsibilities we have makes the idea of taking time for ourselves seem nearly impossible. Time seems to be a common struggle when it comes to self-care. Look at the tips and ideas listed below to help you make self-care a part of your daily routine:

  1. Schedule time for self-care. This may sound easier said than done, but everyone can find a slot in their schedule and create time for self-care. Add it to your calendar if you must, or set an alarm clock, but no matter how you choose to schedule it be realistic in making that time for yourself. 
  2. Start out small and simple. As nice as it may sound, you do not need to spend hours on yourself. The reality is you may only have a 10 – 15-minute slot open in your day. Filling that time with something small and simple is more helpful and meaningful to your self-care routine than something that takes several hours. Perhaps you could get up 10 minutes earlier in the morning to do a brief yoga routine or take a walk or a run around the block. Another idea would be to take a mindfulness break in the middle of your workday. Whatever you choose to do for yourself keep it small, simple, and achievable. 
  3. Make time to be healthy. Getting enough sleep, eating healthy food, and being active are all foundations of good self-care (Clay, 2020).
  4. Ask for help. Part of taking care of ourselves is recognizing we can’t do it all.  Do whatever you need to do to take better care of yourself. Pay a babysitter and go get a massage. Ask a coworker to take on a larger role in the project you’re working on. Hire someone to come clean your house so you can spend weekends with your family. Simplify your life by asking for help (Intermountain, 2019).
  5. Make time to laugh.  Laughter not only lightens your load mentally, it also it lightens your load physically.  Laughter provides stimulation to your heart, lungs, muscles and enhances your intake of oxygen. It also releases endorphins (the feel-good chemicals) in your brain (Mayo Clinic, 2021). Laughter soothes tension and gives you a good, relaxed feeling. Long term it can improve your immune system, relieve pain, increase personal satisfaction and improve your mood (Mayo Clinic, 2021). So, whether is listening to a comedy routine, spending time with a friend who makes you laugh, or reading a funny book, make time to laugh!