When you’re struggling with chronic stress and anxiety due to a busy schedule, it can feel impossible to find time for self-care to help you manage it all.
You might be learning lots of coping strategies during your therapy hour; however, it can feel so daunting to practice these skills outside of your session when it seems like there is no time.
It is such a frustrating struggle. You know you need to do something differently to keep yourself from completely burning out, but you can’t seem to find the hours in the day.
After all, life truly is so busy. Whether you’re a student with a demanding class and internship schedule; a mom juggling all of the household and family tasks; or a person with a busy full-time job… it’s a lot.
And even if you had the time, you might not even know where to start with stress management.
You aren’t alone in this struggle. We all have times where we feel like we can’t keep up with the pace life demands from us.
You aren’t failing. The fact of the matter is, you do have a lot on your plate, and it’s really hard to juggle it all.
There might be phases in your life where you truly do not have time to get out of the house for your self-care. Going to the gym after work isn’t possible because your family needs dinner and the bedtime routine awaits. Going to bed early might not be an option due to a night class or needing to do your schoolwork.
There are valid reasons as to why you don’t have time.
Some things might be out of your control right now; and, even so, it is important to think about what lifestyle choices you can make in the future that will grant you more opportunities to rest and find time for you. It is essential for your long-term physical and mental health.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed with where to start, first take a moment to zoom out on the bigger picture of your life. The hope is that these super busy times are seasons in your life – not forever. Keep the current struggles in this context as you remember that things are temporary.
Now that you’ve reminded yourself this current struggle won’t be forever, we can start working on creative solutions to help us to take better care of ourselves.
You would be surprised at how many opportunities you can find throughout your day that take one or two minutes at a time.
Add those minutes up over the course of the day, and you might end up with a full cumulative hour of self-care that you didn’t know you had time for.
The key here is using transitions during your day as opportunities to use mindfulness and stress management strategies. Transitions provide a natural opportunity to pause and think; to take inventory of the choices available to us; to pivot if we need to; to check-in with our minds and bodies; and to intentionally take a few seconds to attend to any needs we might have.
There are countless transitions available to us throughout the day; here are ten of them, with some examples.
Ten transitions to use your coping skills:
- Getting out of bed in the morning
What choices are you making in the first 60 seconds of your day? Are you scrolling with one eye open before you get out of bed, or are you moving out of bed slowly; taking a big stretch; and starting with a big glass of water before you hustle through the rest of your day?
- Taking a shower
The shower is a great time to become intentional about the mindset you are bringing to your day. It’s easy for our brains to launch into the negatives; the worst-case scenarios; and the things you “have” to do today. Change-up this pattern by thinking about things you GET to do today, like: be alive, move your body, feel the sun on your face, have your favorite cup of coffee, or hug someone you love. Instead of thinking about what could go wrong today, use this time think about what could go right.
- The drive to work
Listen to something inspiring or energizing on your way to work. You might have a playlist of songs that put you in a good mood or some podcasts lined up that can get you thinking.
- At the top of every hour
Try setting an alert on your phone every hour (or every few hours) with a reminder to check-in with yourself about your needs. Am I hungry? Thirsty? Do I need to stretch? Walk around for a minute? Take deep breath?
- During your lunch break
Back in my agency days, I remember lunch break being a time when everyone got on their phones while they shoved food in their mouths for ten minutes and kind of talked to each other but mostly scrolled. Can you put the phone away and really focus on what you are eating in a mindful way? Can you find a coworker who wants to have some genuine conversation?
- During a meeting
Meetings can be a great time to practice body scans and relaxing your muscles. You can practice relaxing your shoulders away from your ears; releasing tension in your jaw; and relaxing your hands. No one will know you are doing it, and it helps build the skill of having a calm body (which contributes to a calm mind).
- The drive home
What type of transition do you need for your drive home? Some people love to talk on the phone while they drive and debrief their day. Others (me) prefer to blast music and just let the stress from the day ventilate.
- Walking in the door
When you arrive at home, think about how you can leave any bad vibes from the day at your doorstep. Exhale all of that out before you turn the door knob. Ask yourself, “what type of energy do you want to contribute to the household tonight?” One of my favorite quotes: If you want to change the world, go home and love your family.
- 30 minutes before bed
Instead of scrolling and TV, try out some things to help your nervous system turn down. Throw your legs up the wall for a few minutes (this a great yoga pose for the nervous system) and then read for a bit before lights out.
- Getting into bed
Take some gratitude notes on things that went well today (whether actually written down or in your mind – writing is preferred as it helps things solidify). If sleep is troublesome, you can try listening to a sleep story or guided meditation before bed.
Life is busy and stressful.
You’re doing a great job managing it.
Everything is temporary.
(And if it’s not, you can make choices to change it).
You will survive this busy season.
You can be creative in finding time to take care of yourself.
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