We all have times in our lives when we just have too much stuff going on. There are always deadlines, exams, due dates and just too many priorities to juggle. And when everything is going wrong, the world is screaming for your attention and you just don’t have time – the last thing you need to hear is to “just take a day off”. So here are 44 gentle ways you can take care of yourself when you’re pressed for time and attention. Enjoy!
Say no to anything that is not important to you
Laundry, phone calls, demanding friends – this is not the time to be nice and “responsible”. Give yourself the permission to focus on what’s important at that very moment. Getting the unessential responsibilities off your schedule will not only create some extra time and space, it will also lighten the burden you’re feeling and help you keep up with it.
Ask for help
There’s nothing wrong with asking for help, and you’ll quickly learn that most people around you actually love to be asked! It makes them feel useful and important. What usually helps the most is to get help to do the normal things; cooking, shopping and regular every-day tasks. However, don’t underestimate how important the people in your life can be when it comes to feedback, motivation and supporting your self-confidence regarding the work you’re doing.
Get enough sleep
An oldie, but a goodie. This old advice is not only essential when it comes to self-care, it is also absolutely essential when it comes to being able to do your best. Particularly important when it comes to exam periods and work stress, sleep will help you achieve. It’s easy to think that a few extra hours of work will do you more good, but it won’t. Sleep will.
Drink tea and water
Coffee will only get you that far, before it sends you down into tiredness again. While still being hot and comforting, tea and water won’t make you dehydrated and shaky. If you’re feeling tired and think you need a caffeine boost, go for cold water instead. Cold water will help wake you up! A good trick I found to help keep your water cool: put about an inch of water into your water bottle and freeze it. As soon as you are ready, instant iced water!
Listen to your favorite music
Calm music will help you calm down and upbeat music will help you up your game. Pick music that won’t distract you - for some people that means no lyrics. My sister favors movie scores, while I like Broadway musicals. Your favorite music will boost your mood and keep you happy, no matter how tired you are.
Eat healthy and green food
I know it’s tempting to order pizza, but it really pays off to take your time to cook and eat nutritious and healthy food. Not only will it help you achieve better, it will also boost your mood! Yet another perk of Pinterest, you have endless recipes at your fingertips. My sister and I keep the granola bars and oranges well stocked.
Take 5 minutes in the morning to just stretch and breathe
If you start your day in a stressful way, you’ll probably feel stressed for the rest of the day as well. Start your morning with 5 minutes of silence and ease. Do some yoga - and you can use either relaxing music or pump up music. Starting the day in a way like this will make you more relaxed as well!
You might be busy and think that every minute is valuable time to put into your work, but some extra minutes of walking might be a better way to spend some time. Not only will the exercise be good for you, you also get some important fresh air and daylight. Fresh air and sunshine are a natural boost.
Take 5-minute mini-breaks every hour
You can’t stay focused all the time. No matter how efficient you work, you’ll always get distracted, let your mind wander or end up spending time reading e-mail (and blogs) instead. A better way to spend this time is to get up from your chair, walk outside and take a 5-minute break. The change of place, the change of physical posture and the movement will make it easier to start again when your break is over. You’ll also give your brain a chance to relax and process information.
Break your self-care habits into smaller tasks and do one each day
No need to look like you’re constantly running after your life, even if you are! I always take the time to at least put on mascara, and, most of the time, eyeliner. I also never sit around in sweats. Being put together helps me feel more together. Shave your legs one day, paint your nails the next day, wash your hair the day after, etc. This approach also works with keeping the apartment tidy – just do one little chore every day and you’ll stay on top of everything more easily.
Make a plan of everything that needs to be done
Instead of juggling all your to-do’s and must-remember’s, write them down on a piece of paper. I use my planner religiously. Then make a plan of how you are going to manage everything before your deadline. Make sure you stick to the plan, every single day. Don’t fall for the temptation to start on tomorrow’s tasks today, trust that the plan will take you there, and enjoy some free time on the days when you finish your tasks early.
Make sure you keep in touch with your friends
Just a few text messages, tweets or the occasional coffee will make sure your friendships don’t suffer. You will feel much better when you focus on something else entirely, and it will prevent you from becoming a workaholic hermit. You don’t have to keep in touch with everybody, most people will understand that you’re busy. Just make sure you stay in touch with the people that make you happy and inspired.
Make room for rest
This one’s important. Make sure that whenever you plan to rest – really rest. That means that you will have to make a conscious effort to push all work-related thoughts and worries away.
Spend your lunchtime as sacred you-time
… and enjoy your healthy food with a little journaling, blog-reading, or people-watching. It’s important to eat, but it’s equally important to be inspired, creative, silly, whimsical and happy.
Take a run or a long walk
This one is pretty self-explanatory. Any sort of exercise will release endorphins, your body will thank you and it clears your head so you can focus on all the important work that lies ahead.
Keep a planner
To make your life less chaotic, it’s a good practice to keep a planner. Make sure you write down every single appointment, to save yourself from unwanted surprises and missed meetings. Just remember to schedule time for yourself. Honor your appointment with yourself just as much as you would keep an appointment with anyone else.
Keep track of your achievements
It may seem like you’re never going to get over a busy period, which is why you should keep a list of achievements close at any time.Whenever you hit a milestone – write it down! It will be very useful when you’re feeling tired by the end of the day and know that you still have several more hours of work before you can call it a day.
Wear your pretty clothes
… and be busy with style! If you dress nicely, chances are you’ll feel better too. All it takes is 5 minutes in the morning, and with your most powerful, wonderful and pretty clothes on, you’ll feel like a million for the rest of the day.
…Or do some yoga at home. Even ten minutes of stretching is better than nothing, and will recharge your batteries (and your mind).
Take a hot bath
Nothing helps you relax like a hot bath. Use your favourite bubbles, turn off the light, light some candles and you’re good to go. One hour in the bath in the evening may be the best way to relax because of this simple fact: you can’t take your work and your computer with you.
Candles have a relaxing effect. If you can’t light candles in your workplace, make sure you light them when you get home.They are just soothing, even sitting around your laptop with an essay up on the screen.
Have an "emotional emergency plan"
Ideally, you should have this figured out before you enter a really busy period. If everything goes wrong, and you’re maxed out, panicky or just plain exhausted – who do you call? what do you do? where do you go?
Do I need to say more? When stress builds up, take five seconds off and just breathe. Deep.
Do something silly
Don’t forget to have fun! Who said you can’t laugh, even though you’re busy! Make jokes, engage with you friends, read comics and just allow yourself to be silly for a little while. I promise it will boost your mood and a little laughter every day will help you through a really challenging time.
Now is not the time to play superwoman. Be nice to yourself and let your brain tackle one task at a time. Rumor has it that this is more productive in the long run…
Take the last evening off
The last night before your big D(r)eadline is the night to relax. Panicking in the last minute isn’t a very good way of taking care of yourself. And you don’t want to oversleep on your exam day, have dark circles under your eyes on presentation day because you spent the last night cramming. Take the last evening off and relax. You’ve done your best, there’s nothing more you can do.
Keep a tidy workspace
It will make you more focused, relaxed and less overwhelmed.
Create some routines
When work or studies take all your focus, it can be useful to create some new habits or routines to take some of the burden off your back. Make it a habit to cook a larger batch of dinner on day 1, and eat leftovers for the next two days. Use Sundays to prepare what to wear for the next couple of days. Wear your hair in a ponytail five days in a row. This is not the time to expect yourself to find lots of different and exciting outfits, hairdo’s or recipes.
Write things down
When you’re mind is working over-time, let it relax by helping yourself remember everything. Write down any ideas, to-do’s, must-remember’s and other things you have to remember. This way, you don’t have to carry the additional stress of remembering everything you need to remember.
Accept a little clutter and mess
Just let it be. Some dust and a little dirt has never hurt anyone. Focus on what’s important to you, you can always clean up the mess later. Just don’t go around and feel bad about it on top of everything else!
Allow your emotions to come to the surface
If you’re tired and sad, cry it all out. If you’re stressed, don’t try to put on a mask and hide it. Get it all out, all the frustration, the overwhelm, the anger and the fear. You’ll feel much better after.
Honor your limits
Set some limits and stick with them. A lot of tasks when we’re busy don’t have a set limit, like when you’re studying and being creative. It’s easy to feel like you’re never quite done. Set some clear limits for yourself and honor them. Say to yourself; “when the time is up, I’m DONE”.
Get more sunlight
Especially if your busy period is happening in winter, make sure you get your daily dose of sunlight if you’re spending a lot of time in gloomy libraries and workplaces.
Eat fresh fruit and vegetables
Keep some fruits and nuts close by and snack when you’re hungry. Don’t forget that cucumbers and carrots are great snacks!
Resist the urge to be productive all the time
You can’t be equally productive every single waking moment, so you might as well schedule some off time right away. Be nice to yourself and don’t expect to accomplish as much in the late evening as you do in the morning.
Limit your media consumption
… because your brain can only process a limited amount of information. When you need your focus to be on work, don’t overflow your brain with tv, news, newspapers, magazines and books.
Meditate in the morning
Ten minutes of stillness can make all the difference.
Block out distractions
Need to get some work done? Block your facebook, resist Pinterest, switch off your phone, and lock the door. If only for a few hours, you won’t miss out on anything, and you’ll feel a lot better afterwards.
Positive self-speech can seriously impact your mood. Instead of adding to the monkey-brain thoughts of not good enough, too stressed and panic – tell yourself you look good, that you’re doing great and that you can manage everything that comes your way.
Do the dreaded tasks first
There are always tasks you’ll love to do more than others, and it’s tempting to do those first. However, it’s probably better to alternate tasks. Do something hard, then do a task you like. That way, you’ll save yourself from all the dread!
It doesn’t have to cost much - coloring books can cost a little as a dollar or you can print off single pages online for free. But it is something mindless and enjoyable.
Maybe not the best overall habit to get used to, but desperate times call for desperate measures. If you need it to get through – reward yourself with gifts, chocolate and breaks whenever you finish a task. Maybe you need the treat anyways?
Postpone all major decisions
… This is not the time to change majors, cut your hair, or break up with someone (however tempting it is). Save the big stuff for when you’re calmer and can think clearer.
Accept yourself as you areLet yourself off the hook and accept that you are only human. You are doing your absolute best, and you are doing exactly what you need to do. Trust your instincts and keep doing whatever you’re doing. You don’t need to change anything about yourself – trust that you are perfect just the way you are.