It is no secret in the working world that people are expected to achieve high levels of productivity and spend more time being productive. Along with this the average worker may have family or school obligations, must spend time fighting traffic or dealing with commuting to and from work, and deal with every-day duties, small tasks and minor hassles. The most important things that could offset the resulting stress from trying to do it all, such as getting enough sleep, proper nutrition, and exercise, are edged out because there isn’t enough time to include these in a busy life.
At least that is the perception until someone gets ill, or gets diagnosed with hypertension, or pre-diabetes, or suffers from low back pain. This is usually what it takes to finally slow them down. The good news is that more physicians are prescribing exercise instead of medications, or they are suggesting that patients try meditation, yoga and the like. But it really comes down to the individual’s perception of the value of these activities in helping them maintain their “successful” work lives. After all, those deadlines are still demanding attention, there are still meetings and conference calls and goals and never-ending small things that eat away at one’s time.
So how can one find the time for self-care without sacrificing time for work, etc.?
Here are 3 tips that can help:
- First thing, start with identifying the things that are the most important to you.
This may be something you are taking for granted. For instance, of course your children are important, and you are doing your best to take care of them. But what if something happened to you, and you were unable to? Or maybe you are an artist, and painting means everything to you, but what if you could no longer physically do this? The more priorities you have in your life, the better. Write them all down. Ask yourself, “Why are these important to me?” The longer the list and the more reasons, the better. These are things that are worth taking the time to have in your life, right? So you are not really spending more time or taking time away from something else, you are doing the work that is necessary to preserve these things.
- List your fitness/health goals.
Now that you understand that your health is important so you can continue to take care of and do the things that are most important to you, you can probably think of things you could do to improve it. Losing weight, eating better, getting more sleep - - these are all doable objectives. However, trying to act on too many of these all at once can be overwhelming. So pick one and start with that and then …
- Make a plan on how you will do it.
Just knowing you should do it is not enough to make it happen. So you have decided to exercise. There are endless options and ways to do it, and it can really be overwhelming. Take a moment to set some “SMART” goals. You have heard of these before – S is for “specific” meaning you could specify that you will start to exercise with a certain activity, say walking. M is for “measurable.” You can set a specific distance or time goal and frequency (number of days per week) that you will walk and track it with the many devices available now. A is for “attainable.” You are not going to start by running a 5k, but you know you can walk at least a one-half mile and then add more distance as you adapt. R is for “relevant” Remember the reason you are doing this? Because you want to improve your fitness to improve your health because that is what you must do to preserve the things that are most important to you (and also remember why they are important to you). T is for “time” goals. You can set a goal to take 8,000 steps five days per week for one month. When you have achieved this, set a goal to take 10,000 steps for six days the next month. Acknowledge your accomplishment and set a new goal for the next month after you have achieved it rather than setting new goals months ahead of time.
Taking the time to practice self-care may seem like a stretch of your time, energy and other resources. Yes, you may have to give up some of the activities you think you need to be successful. It may require that you discuss this with your family, your boss, your colleagues, students, etc., but if you ask for their assistance, chances are you will find support.
Starting out with physical activity can help in other areas, such as sleep, weight loss, hypertension, digestion, and much more. Simple activity can be integrated into your work day and can energize you to become even more productive. Chances are when you start to feel better, you will somehow find the time to add more structured activity.
So sit down with your calendar and carve out some time to get started. You will find that your busy life that you were so overwhelmed with becomes more centered, and the things that matter most to you will benefit just as much as you do!