“I don’t have enough time to do self care.”
Yep, I’ve said this plenty of times as well. While self care can look like 90 minute yoga classes, long weekends away, or therapeutic massage appointments, it doesn’t always have to.
When I say self care, I’m talking about the intentional act of healing through restorative and preventative means. I’m talking about filling your cup first so that you can fill others’. I’m talking about recharge more than indulgence… quality refreshment rather than instant gratification.
The following ten self care practices can be completed in five minutes or less, so both you and I can stop using lack of time as an excuse to neglect ourselves.
1. Close your eyes
“That’s it?” Yep, that’s it. Set your phone timer to 3 minutes and just close your eyes. For 3 minutes, give yourself permission to not look at anything - emails, to-do lists, a dirty house; they all can wait 3 minutes. If you want to go further, notice the things you hear, feel, smell, and taste; mindfully take note of the sensory information around you.
2. Get up and walk
I don’t know about you, but when I stay put for a long period of time, I start to get really restless. This restlessness leads to distraction and lack of productivity. Try taking a short walk; leave your workspace and just focus on moving your body for a few minutes. The change in scenery, the movement of your muscles, and the mental break might spark some renewed energy.
3. Touch your toes
Kinda hard to argue that you don’t have time to touch your toes, right? As we go through our days, whether we sit at a computer or stand for long periods of time, our spines take a beating. Take a few minutes to reach toward your toes - even if you can’t touch them just yet - the forward bend will give your spine a chance to stretch out. Make sure you relax your neck and arms; let them hang loose for maximum benefit.
4. Turn off screens
A lot of us spend the majority of our days in front of phones, tablets, computers, or TV, whether for work or pleasure. Aside from the fact that the blue light of screens affects our melatonin levels(1), the amount of information we absorb via our devices can often be overstimulating. Whether you consciously feel overstimulated or not, practice spending time away from screens, especially for leisure activities.
Instead of watching TV or browsing Facebook or Instagram, take a few minutes and draw something. And before you say, “but I’m not good at drawing!” let me just say, SO WHAT? You don’t have to be a professional artist trained in realism to reap the benefits of putting pencil to paper. If you like structure, adult coloring-books are all the rage right now. If you want to explore your creativity… experiment! See what happens when you draw one continuous line for a solid minute. Watch what happens when you let watercolors blend together on paper. It’s the act of creating that’s healing here, not the final product.
6. Do 5 minutes of jumping jacks
Jumping jacks are the bomb. They were fun in first grade, and they’re still pretty darn fun. Do them with a friend and laughter will inevitably ensue… Bonus! Plus, your increased heart rate and blood flow to the brain will supercharge your energy and concentration(2)… Double bonus!
7. Call your doctor
Who here avoids setting up doctor’s appointments until there’s an urgent reason? *slowly raises hand* Can we all agree to stop doing that? If you have insurance and a primary care physician, setting up an appointment takes less than five minutes. Remember at the beginning of this post, I said self care is about healing via restorative and preventative means? Checking in with your doctor (or dentist, or gyno, etc.) keeps you on top of your health so that you can continue to serve others. Sure, it’s not as fun as jumping jacks, but seriously, it’s so necessary.
8. Drink water
This practice takes hardly any time at all, and most of the time, you can do it while doing other things. Drinking enough water keeps our whole system running smoothly, and the costs of not drinking enough (bad breath, headaches, constipation, fatigue, kidney stones(3)) are not ideal. Again, preventative self care.
9. Spend time with a pet
Probably my favorite quick self care activity, cuddling or petting an animal (especially a pet of your own) lowers blood pressure and cortisol, and increases oxytocin. Even if you don’t have a furry friend, studies have shown that simply watching a fish tank can help lower blood pressure (4). Don’t have any pets? Volunteer at your local humane society or animal shelter! While your shifts will likely be longer than 5 minutes, you’ll load up on the stress-relieving power of animals, and contribute to a positive cause in the meantime.
10. Connect to a supportive community
For me, connection is so important to my wellbeing. I think that’s true for a lot of people. Maybe that’s why we’re so addicted to social media - we need connection and inclusion. Self care can feel so isolating because, well, we’re taking care of ourselves. But what if we were to take care of ourselves while in community? What if we celebrated our self care success with others who are committed to taking care of themselves? I think we’d take care of ourselves more.
Find a community that meets your needs, like this one for new entrepreneurs, and watch your self care deepen.
When we develop the habit of caring for ourselves in small ways, we can more easily make time for deeper forms of self care. Start where it's easy. Give yourself permission to nourish your body, mind, and soul, because you can affect much greater change from a place of strength and resource. And the world needs you at full capacity... Now more than ever.
Have a friend that doesn’t have enough time for self care? Share the love.