There is a quote out there that goes something like “you should sit in meditation for twenty minutes every day — unless you’re too busy. Then you should sit for an hour.” -Zen proverb
Whether you are a medical student, resident, faculty or staff member, even the thought of squeezing one more thing into your day can seem overwhelming. While we often know what is good for us, we sometimes struggle with where to start, or how to carve out the time. I hear you saying, “I’m too busy”, “I need to study”, “I don’t have time”. Even when you think it is impossible, I am here to remind you that there is ALWAYS time for self-care, no matter how tired, frustrated, or overwhelmed you might feel.
How do you define self-care?
Self-care can include anything that we do to take care of our mental, physical, or emotional well-being. And while this sounds easy enough, it is often something that falls by the wayside as soon as other priorities (like patients, children, and studying) ramp up. Finding time in a society that values “busy” can be challenging. Like anything else, self-care activities run the risk of turning into “shoulds”- or induce feelings of anxiety when you can’t seem to find the time to carve out. Another way to think about self-care, is that these are activities that recharge your batteries, bring you joy, and leave you feeling less stressed than when you started.
Start with setting a goal.
If you are reading this article, it is likely that you have some goals for your personal wellness, or are ready to set some. Give yourself a moment to consider the way you would like to feel, and the ways in which you would like to take care of yourself. When setting goals for self-care, it is important to make sure that these goals are specific, manageable, attractive, reasonable, and time-bound. For example, setting the goal “I would like to start meditating” lacks specifics. How many times per week? On which days? For how long? Instead, setting the goal “I would like to meditate for 10 minutes three times per week” checks all the boxes for you to set a manageable plan.
Once you have you goal set, it is time to schedule. Take out whatever calendar you use, and start scheduling in time that you can carve out for yourself. It is important to keep those times as a date with yourself, and begin to form the habit or self-care.
Making use of what time you have
When you have a hectic schedule, it is easy to put everything else first. Some days your won’t have time for a long soak in the tub, or a 60 minute yoga class, but you might be able to carve out 10 minutes to take a walk outside. Figuring out how to efficiently use even small chunks of time can start to make a big difference in your self-care routines.
Here are some self-care ideas:
- Make a gratitude list
- Listen to music
- Take five minutes to sit down and put your feet up
- Stand in the shower with the hot water pouring over your back
- Take a walk
- Listen to a meditation (“Insight Timer” is a free app for meditations)
- Take an Epsom salt bath
- Schedule a date night with your spouse, partner, or friends to connect without distractions
- Enjoy a hot cup of tea
- Spend five minutes taking deep breaths
- Get a manicure or pedicure or give yourself one
- Turn your phone off for 30 minutes
- Participate in a yoga class
- Light a yummy smelling candle
- Write in a journal for five minutes
- Read a book for 20 minutes
- Go to bed 15 minutes early
- Unfollow someone on social media who is negative or makes you feel badly