Self-care is extremely important in recovery. It includes the activities you specifically do to maintain your recovery and the things you do just to stay healthy and happy. In reality, there’s no separation between things you do for yourself and things you do for recovery. This might include going to therapy, exercising, eating, getting enough sleep, or making a little time to relax at the end of the day. When life gets busy, these are often the first things to suffer. We feel like work should take priority or we let others foist obligations on us. Sometimes you really do have unavoidable responsibilities, but no matter how busy you are, there are usually ways to make time to take care of yourself. Keep in mind that self-care isn’t a luxury. If you don’t take care of yourself, you will eventually hit a wall, which might take the form of illness or relapse. The rest of what you do in life requires that you keep yourself in good working order. Here are some ways to make time for self-care when you feel like you’re too busy.
Scheduling your self-care time cements it as part of your day. Set aside that time for yourself and fill in other obligations around it. You’ve probably noticed this effect in your life already. If you have an appointment with the doctor or therapist, or even just a regular exercise class, you are less likely to skip it than you are to skip that warm bath you’ve been looking forward to all day. You don’t have to put self-care in your master calendar, although if you do keep a planner, this might be a good idea. Typically, it’s enough to decide at the beginning of the day that, say 9 p.m. to 10 p.m. is when you’ll write in your journal, or read, or take a bath.
Take small breaks.
We often make the mistake of thinking we need a big block of uninterrupted time to relax. This might be better for some things, but don’t overlook the importance to taking small breaks where you can get them. Stress tends to accumulate throughout the day and taking a few minutes every hour or so just to relax is a good way to reset. One good way of relaxing quickly is to close your eyes and take 10 slow, deep breaths–counting to four on the inhale, pausing for two seconds, then counting to four on the exhale, pausing for two seconds, and so on. This activates the vagus nerve and slows your heart rate and lowers your blood pressure. Taking a short walk is another good option. It gives you a bit of exercise and clears your head. It may not be as good as an hour at the gym, but every bit helps, especially at the right time.
Sort out your priorities.
A lot of busyness comes from not having clear priorities. Most of what we do is either not urgent or not important. Figure out your top priorities for the day and include self-care among them. Typically, people have time for two or three important things a day. For example, you might have a task you absolutely have to finish at work, you might want to help your kid with her homework, and you might want to attend a SMART Recovery meeting online. Those probably won’t be the only things you do that day, but the other things will have to fill in the cracks. That’s a pretty full day. Don’t get too fussed about the unimportant things you don’t get to.
Look out for time-wasters.
Often, we feel like we’re busier than we really are because we clutter up our days with unimportant things. TV and social media are probably the biggest time wasters for most people. They fill in those odd minutes when we don’t have anything else to do, but that time could be spent in better ways, like reading a few pages of a good book or even just taking a few minutes to relax. Time-wasters will become more obvious when you’ve established your priorities for the day. Having clear goals also helps identify time-wasters. If you know what you want to accomplish, you can ask of any given activity “Will this help me reach my goal?” and if it doesn’t, it might be a time-waster.
Learn to say no.
There will always be people who want to take up your time with their needs and wants. It’s great to want to help everyone, but your time is limited, so consider each request carefully and if something isn’t important enough to justify the time you would have to spend on it, politely decline. You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do. Most of the time, people will understand. If not, you may have to practice enforcing your boundaries. Learning to say no is, itself, a great way to manage stress and practice self-care.
It’s easy to feel constrained by your normal routine and feel like self-care just won’t fit. However, if you are willing to change things up a bit, you might be able to come up with some pretty good solutions. For example, say your commute to work takes an hour each way because of traffic. That’s essentially two hours wasted. You might decide to make better use of that time by either taking public transportation so you can read, work, or do something else productive during your commute, or you stay at work late and do something productive while traffic clears. Perhaps there are some easy but time consuming tasks you could delegate, either to someone you trust or to a professional. In today’s gig economy, don’t assume hiring someone to run errands or mow your yard is out of your budget.
If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction or mental illness, we can help. Recovery Ways is a premier drug and alcohol addiction treatment facility located in Salt Lake City, Utah. We have the resources to effectively treat a dual diagnosis. Our mission is to provide the most cost-effective, accessible substance abuse treatment to as many people as possible. Request information online or call us today at 1-888-986-7848.