Life can be stressful. It sometimes feels like there aren’t enough hours in the day, or even enough days in the month. It’s easy to stretch yourself too thin and forget about taking care of the most important person in your world—you. This is a particular problem for caregivers.
Whether you’re a parent with young children, taking care of a spouse or older parent, or are in a caregiving profession like nursing or care management, you probably feel that doing something for yourself is self-indulgent. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Taking care of yourself—on an inner as well as outer level—is a key part of being healthy and whole and able to care for someone else.
But how do you make time for yourself? You don’t have to carve out hours in your schedule. Take a moment wherever you find it. Just a few minutes here and there can have a big impact on your inner life and overall wellbeing. With that in mind, make a New Year’s resolution to take care of you! Here are several ways to be good to your self every day that only take a few minutes.
Learn how to say “no”
Saying “no” can be difficult, even when saying “yes” isn’t the best thing for you. When you’re a giving person, it’s all too easy to take on too much and find yourself overwhelmed, but taking on more commitments than you can reasonably handle doesn’t do anyone any favors. Saying “no” sometimes not only reduces your stress, it allows you to do a better job with the things you do say “yes” to.
Enjoy a cup of joe (or tea)
Sometimes the simplest pleasures have the most profound effect. If you find yourself rushing through the morning with your coffee cup in hand, or popping into the drive-through for a quick pick-me-up on the go—stop. Take ten minutes to sit down and really enjoy it. The world won’t end if you stop for ten minutes, but your stress level may certainly improve. Take a few deep breaths, let some tension go, and take the time to savor that morning drink. It will make the rest of your day look a lot brighter.
Spend some quality time with your pet
Research shows that petting your dog or cat lowers your stress levels significantly. So take a few minutes each day to spend time with your four-legged friend if you have one.
Just five minutes of meditation a day can have a significant effect on your health—both mental and physical. And contrary to popular belief, meditation doesn’t mean emptying your mind of thoughts or shutting them out. Instead it means sitting quietly and really being present in the current moment.
Here’s what to do: find a place where you have quiet for five minutes. Even the bathroom will do. Sit down in a comfortable position, close your eyes, relax, and simply pay attention to your breathing. Don’t try to stop your thoughts—trying to shut them away will just make them more insistent. Instead, notice them but don’t get caught up in them. Let them float across your mind and away like clouds in a sunny sky. If you find yourself following a thought, just let it go and bring your attention back to your breathing. Do this for five minutes.
Light a candle
Candles add a little warmth to the atmosphere, both literally and figuratively. A lit candle can add a little magic to an otherwise mundane setting, and a pleasantly-scented candle can have a real psychological effect. Choose a scent that evokes pleasant memories or peaceful feelings.
Read some fiction
Getting lost in a good story can be one of the great pleasures of life. It can take you away from day-to-day cares, or let you live vicariously through someone else. So grab a book. A few minutes reading here and there can be a welcome bit of relaxation for your mind.
Think you don’t have time to read? Try an audiobook. Most books now have an audio version available, so even if you’re often on the go you can take your story with you. You can listen in the car, on the bus, while you’re waiting in line, or any time you don’t need your mind actively engaged in something else, like when you’re doing household chores. And not only do you get the pleasure of a great story, you get the comfort of being read to like when you were a child.
Play it again, Sam
When you need a little pick-me-up, or you’re feeling down or even a little run-down, try putting on some music. Music affects your mood, so choose something that suits the state of mind you want to be in. If you need to slow down, choose something ambient and restful. If you need to get the housework done and you just can’t seem to get motivated, choose something upbeat.
Keep a journal
Journaling is not only a great stress reliever, it lets you look back later and see where you’ve been and how far you’ve come. You can pour your heart out to a journal without worrying about what anyone thinks—whether you’re happy, sad, or silly, just putting the words on paper often helps. And you don’t have to spend a long time doing it; a few minutes a day is plenty.
Laughter really is the best medicine. Take the opportunity to laugh whenever you can. Laughter doesn’t just make you feel better, it has an actual physical effect on your body. It releases feel-good chemicals and lowers your levels of stress hormones, which is good for your heart, your mind, and your overall health.
Being good to yourself doesn’t have to mean an afternoon at the day spa, or taking a whole day for yourself. While these things are nice, all the little moments also add up. A few minutes here and there can be good not just for you, but for everyone around you too.