If you're like me, you have a hard time saying no. I've written about the power of "no" before, how it helps you set boundaries and take back some of your time. But what about making time for yourself when you don't want to say no? How do you find "me time" when you want to be there for everyone else?
As someone who runs a business in Toronto and in New York, I divide my time equally between both cities. I am constantly stretched for time. I want to be there for everyone, but if I am, then I'm literally running on overdrive. When you work a high stakes job, it's imperative to make time for yourself.
Self-care is not the same as being selfish. It's actually the opposite of selfishness because it's better for everyone if you give them the optimal version of you -- you can help them more, you can be with them more fully and you can be at your best when you're there. Taking care of yourself is important but it can also be hard.
Here are some things a lot of us struggle with when it comes to finding "me time" and a few ideas for what to do about it:
Managing the expectations of those around you.
We live in a world of 24/7 accessibility. Digital and social media, email, smartphones...we are always connected and we've become accustomed to expecting instant replies to everything we send out. But we need to remember that while you might only be sending someone one message, if 100 people do the same thing, that's 100 responses needed. We are all being pulled in a million directions like this. How can we manage the expectations? It has a lot to do with how we communicate and how we choose to be communicated to. What I mean by this is, let your team know they are always welcome to reach out to you for support, but that you turn your phone off on Sunday nights, for example. If you don't want someone to expect an immediate response from you, then wait 24 hours before answering non-urgent emails. Or better yet, follow the advice in this article, which recommends using your reply as a way to manage expectations. By sending a note that acknowledges you've received the message and states when you will get back to the sender. It's a little thing but it helps stop you from feeling overwhelmed by the demands of a full inbox!
"Self-care is not self-indulgence. It's self-respect."
Setting boundaries and how to express them.
Determining your boundaries is an important lesson that everyone should learn. But then what? How do you figure out the next step -- which is expressing those boundaries to others? How do you set boundaries without disappointing the people in your life? Life coach Cheryl Richardson in her post on Oprah.com brings up a good point about this - some women don't express their boundaries because they want to avoid confrontation. I can understand that but I think when it comes to expressing our boundaries to others, if we do it in a kind and authentic way, we will be received respectfully. Yes, we might disappoint someone, but only because we weren't being true to ourselves -- or to them.
"Self-compassion is simply giving the same kindness to ourselves that we would give to others."
Finding time and honouring it.
If we look at our schedules, we could probably find the time to fit in self-care. Things like going to the gym or for a walk. If we book these things the way we book appointments with other people, then they should be easy to adhere to. The problem lies in honouring these commitments. Isn't it SO easy to cancel plans with ourselves if someone else asks for our time? Why is that? Would we cancel on anyone else in our lives the way we sometimes cancel on ourselves? One way to resolve this is to consider things like going to the gym something we do as part of our job, instead of an indulgence. This article from the Harvard Business Review says on days when employees visited the gym, they reported managing their time more effectively, being more productive and having smoother interactions with their colleagues. It's a win-win situation when we treat ourselves with the same care we treat others.
"To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance."
Recognizing the need to be proactive.
We must not wait until something goes wrong to care for ourselves. Self-care is about being proactive. It's about regular check-ups and check-ins to make sure everything is running smoothly. But sometimes we will let things slide so it's important to recognize the warning signals that flare up before the problems arrive. In order to do this we need to practice self-awareness and mindfulness. Listen to our bodies. Even little things can make a big difference. For instance, I never take calls when I'm in the car on the way to work and when I'm in New York, I always try to walk to meetings. These small moments give me time to reflect and recharge even on my busiest days.
Taking care of ourselves today is something our future selves and loved ones will thank us for. I've always maintained the perspective that we should first determine our goals and work backwards to get there. Which means, if we want to go forward in life as the best version of ourselves, we need to prioritize self-care now. For our sake, and for those around us.
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