5 Small Acts of Self Love to Keep In Mind When You're "Too Busy"

At this point in the year, burnout is very common. With the start of the winter season, many people find themselves not going out as much, home and work being the most frequented places. With the end of the year nearing, workloads also usually ramp up leaving people tired but unable to take the rest they need. This is when people forget to put themselves first and when mental health may take a dive. It’s too easy to put off taking care of yourself when it seems like you have a to-do list that’s going to take you days to get through, so here are five tips about how to work in acts of self-care even when you think you don’t have time:


1. Set realistic expectations for yourself.

When a mountain of work is placed in front of a person, a natural instinct is to get as much done as quickly as possible. That isn’t always best though. When planning how everything should get done, you have to pay attention to how you are feeling, what other plans you have, how much effort you can put forth in a day, and make a list from there. Too many times people, people fill up all their time with work, not accounting for the mental drain it can bring. One of the best ways you can take care of yourself when busy is by making a to-do list you know is realistic. It will hopefully ease some anxiety and make you feel more confident about getting to work and then when you do get everything done there is a sense of accomplishment, not guilt. If one day you finish your list but find yourself with extra time and energy, you can put it towards whatever you want. You might put in more work, or maybe you devote it to some self-care. 


2. Listen to your favorite song or album.

Music is shown to help improve mood, so it’s one of my favorite things to use to help give me a boost if I need it one day. A perfect way I like to do this is by putting in headphones whenever I am walking somewhere, or putting on the radio in the car when I’m driving. Sometimes there are days where you just can’t take as much time as you need to relax or unwind and you’re going to be putting in some serious hours. Travel is built in time which is so important to use when you’re busy. On these days putting on your favorite album when you’re already going to be walking somewhere is allowing yourself a moment of happiness where your mind is off of the work you need to get done. Putting on music that isn’t distracting when working can have this same effect. Anything that makes a space feel more comfortable and uplifting is going to improve your mental health, which makes music a perfect tool to use.


3. Find five minutes to step away from work.

When working for hours on end, you are going to come to a point where you aren’t comprehending what words you just read or what you just did. It may feel like you’re sleepwalking in some ways and no matter how long you continue to “push through” you aren’t going to be getting better. It’s at this point where you need to take a break. Something as simple as going to the bathroom and allowing yourself to just sit for a moment, away from any responsibilities, and focus on yourself. How are you feeling? What do you need? What do you want? By giving yourself that time, you are listening to your body and will be able to take the next step to improving how you feel. Giving yourself frequent short breaks will allow you to stay alert and respond to how you are feeling and will actually help you stay productive for longer. A five-minute break can improve a headspace to the point where then a person can work faster and more efficiently and more work will then get done.


4. Add one extra step to your night or morning routine.

Getting ready for the day or for bed is another perfect, built-in time to slip in some extra self-love. One of the most important aspects of self-care that makes it actually work is the intention behind it. Anyone can wash their face or do their hair but when you are actively thinking about how you deserve a clean face and nice hair and focus on how this is taking care of yourself, it will hold a much deeper meaning. A lot of times though, we are so used to our routines, finding that special meaning can be difficult. 

That is why taking a short time to give yourself one extra step that you’ve wanted to try is a perfect way to take care of and affirm yourself. One of my favorite ways to do this is when putting on my moisturizer for the night, I do a short face massage. While I’m doing it, I try to remind myself that I am working as hard as I need to and that what I am doing is the right thing. When getting ready, that is a time that you are putting all of your energy into yourself, that needs to extend mentally. When we give ourselves that compassion and kindness we feel better and more centered. 


5. Give yourself one of your favorite foods or snacks while working.

Mealtimes are another opportunity when you can help take care of yourself. I think it is important to try and give yourself an actual break from work while eating, to help refresh your mind, but sometimes that isn’t possible. When that happens I try to pick out a small treat for myself to then eat while I work. Because I have such a sweet tooth this usually takes some form of dessert. This uses a couple of the concepts talked about in earlier ideas, including intentional self-care. I have to eat and I try to eat as healthy as possible, but by giving myself something that I know I am going to enjoy and will make me happy, I feel like I am taking care of myself. I am recognizing that I am busy but not allowing work to then take over completely, giving myself a reward for the work that I am doing whether it’s done or not. Too many times people feel as though a reward has to come once a task is finished even though starting it is many times the hardest part. Something as small as a second to just eat something sweet and enjoy it is going to be the refresher you need to keep your head above water.


One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever gotten from my mom is when she told me, “You can lay down for as long as you want but if the entire time you are laying there you are thinking about what you are going to do when you get up, you aren’t going to feel better at all.” This extends to every part of self-care. We can work until we physically can’t anymore, but that exhaustion is going to cost us in the end. As is life, we are going to get busy. We have things that we need to do to carry on: keeping ourselves clean, eating, going to, and from places. These are not just tasks to tick off on a list, but an opportunity to care for yourself. By not forgetting yourself in all the work, it will help you continue on in a sustainable way.