For ambitious, career-oriented, and high-achieving women, it's all too easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of life's demands and expectations. Yet, amidst the hustle and bustle, it's crucial to recognize the importance of self-care.
Many of us may have been conditioned to believe that taking time out for ourselves is selfish. All I can say to that is, BE SELFISH! You deserve whatever it is that you find grounding and will allow you to recharge. In a world where nothing stops moving and we're constantly expected to 'live our best lives' let's take a moment to just reflect on what it is to live.
So here are just a few suggestions on what and how to prioritize your self-care so you can show up for yourself and the people who need you without feeling drained, resentful or burnt out.
1. Prioritize Sleep
Quality sleep is the cornerstone of any effective self-care routine. As a high achiever, it might be tempting to burn the midnight oil, but consistently skimping on sleep can lead to burnout and decreased productivity. Prioritize a consistent sleep schedule, create a calming bedtime routine, and invest in a comfortable mattress and bedding.
There are real, scientific reasons for this. Think of your brain as needing a full charge every night. If you don't get enough sleep, you're losing cognitive function the next day. Do everything you can prioritize at least 8 hours of sleep a night.
2. Mindful Meditation and Deep Breathing
Incorporate mindfulness meditation and deep breathing exercises into your daily routine. Just a few minutes of quiet reflection can help you manage stress, enhance focus, and boost mental clarity.
You don't need any special place, training or equipment. Just find a relaxing space in your home and set aside 15-20 minutes to be still. I often find quieting my mind to be a huge challenge, and I recently heard the advice to simply ask yourself "I wonder what my next thought will be?". It's remarkable how quickly this resets your brain!
Apps like Headspace or Calm can also guide you through these practices, making it easy to fit this practice into your busy schedule.
3. Physical Health and Exercise
Maintaining physical health is crucial for busy women. Regular exercise not only keeps you fit but also boosts your energy levels and mental well-being. Find a workout routine that suits your preferences, whether it's yoga, running, dancing, or strength training, and schedule regular sessions into your week.
Even if all you get in is a walk mid-day or in the evening a few times a week, it will help you feel better and manage stress more effectively. If you're getting close to peri-menopause or are in menopause, weight training is also really important to support your joints and build bone density.
4. Healthy Eating Habits
Nutrition plays a significant role in self-care. Fuel your body with nutritious meals that provide sustainable energy. Plan your meals, incorporate plenty of fruits and vegetables, stay hydrated, and limit processed foods and excessive caffeine. Please avoid artificial sweeteners at all costs!
5. Set Boundaries
Learn to say "no" when necessary. Setting boundaries at work and in your personal life is a form of self-care. It prevents overcommitting and helps you manage your time effectively, reducing stress and promoting balance.
It's also pretty clear that if your setting boundaries upsets someone in your life, then it's time to re-evaluate that relationship. The ones who love and respect you will understand and cheer you on!
6. Delegate and Outsource
As a high achiever, you may be inclined to take on everything yourself. However, delegating tasks at work and outsourcing personal responsibilities can free up valuable time for self-care and relaxation.
Getting a little extra help around the house, or with work tasks, takes a ton of pressure off of you. Let go of the need for perfection in favour of accepting support when you need it.
7. Unplug from Technology
Constant connectivity can be overwhelming. Dedicate specific times during the day to unplug from your devices. Use this time for self-reflection, reading, soaking in the tub or simply enjoying the present moment.
You can also get apps for this that will shut down your phone, for example, for a set amount of time each day. Space is an app that helps you break your habits and shows you how much screentime you're spending each day. If it's a real challenge to put that phone down, use a tool to help you.
8. Regular Spa Days or Pampering
Treat yourself to regular spa days or pampering sessions. Whether it's a massage, facial, or a long soak in the bath, these indulgent activities can rejuvenate your body and mind. I think this might be my favourite tip! I've really embraced spa days; massages, facials and getting my nails done regularly. Not only is it a time to sit back and relax, I always feel my best when I'm walking out of my appointment. If you don't have the means or the time to do this as often as you'd like, make it an at-home spa experience. Pour a bath with your favourite bath products, light candles, put on some relaxing music and enjoy some time alone. My daughter and I don't get to see each other as much we we'd like, but when we do, we love to bring little kits of facial masks, bath bombs and other products to enjoy wherever we're staying. It's a nice treat to have her stay at the hotel with me if I'm visiting her, and enjoy the amenities. I always feel rejuvenated (but a little sad) after our time together.
9. Pursue Hobbies and Interests
Make time for your passions and interests outside of work. Whether it's painting, playing a musical instrument, hiking, or any other hobby, engaging in activities you love is a form of self-care that nourishes your soul.
I've recently taken up journaling to plan out some travel and future plans. It's been an amazing creative outlet for me and hours have passed by while I'm doing it. I find it a great way to quiet my mind and focus on something just for me for a few hours. Journaling also allows you to take time to set clear goals and reflect on your achievements and progress. Goal setting helps you maintain focus and motivation, while reflection allows you to celebrate your successes. Practicing gratitude through your journal is also a great way to use this time for both relaxation and your mental health.
10. Seek Professional Support
Don't wait to seek the support of a therapist or counselor if you're feeling overwhelmed or dealing with mental health challenges. Speaking with a professional can provide valuable guidance and tools for managing stress and maintaining emotional well-being.
In fact, speaking with someone when you're still feeling well and looking for ways to avoid burn out is a great, proactive strategy. We're not taught the skills we can learn from therapy, we have to learn them over time. Find someone you feel you can work with and focus on picking up the right skills to get you through those difficult and overwhelming times. Those skills will prove invaluable throughout your life. If I can recommend one book to you, it would be Mel Robbins' The 5 Second Rule. I've recommended it before in a prior blog post. I've gone back to this audio book time and time again and used the very practical skills I learned to deal with crippling anxiety and find motivation when I felt like I had absolutely nothing left to give.
11. Connect with Loved Ones
I find when I'm overwhelmed I go into hiding. So one way to combat this is to schedule time with friends or loved ones. I know I won't cancel on them, so it forces me to get out and see people when it's so easy to just curl up on the couch and zone out. I can tell you, getting together with people always makes me feel better. Even if I feel like I'm dragging my butt out there. It's so important to maintain meaningful relationships with friends and family. Spending time with loved ones can provide emotional support and a sense of belonging, essential for our overall well-being.
Types of Self-Care Routines
There are various types of self-care routines you can explore based on your preferences and needs:
Physical Self-Care: Focused on activities that promote physical health, such as exercise, healthy eating, and regular check-ups.
Emotional Self-Care: Addresses your emotional well-being through practices like journaling, therapy, or engaging in activities that bring you joy.
Mental Self-Care: Nurtures your mental health with practices like mindfulness, meditation, and learning new skills or hobbies.
Social Self-Care: Involves maintaining and nurturing relationships with friends and loved ones, fostering a sense of belonging and support.
Professional Self-Care: Ensures that you're thriving in your career by setting boundaries, seeking mentorship, and pursuing opportunities for growth.
As a busy, career-oriented and high-achieving woman, self-care is not a luxury; it's a necessity. Incorporating self-care routines into your life is an investment in your physical, emotional, and mental well-being. By prioritizing sleep, setting boundaries, engaging in mindful practices, and pursuing your passions, you can achieve a harmonious balance that fuels both your personal and professional growth. Remember, taking care of yourself is not selfish; it's a powerful act of self-love and empowerment.