Women today are taught that they can have it all. They can be a housewife, a glamorous party animal, a mother, and a career woman. They are led to believe that if they feel that they need to choose between those things, they are somehow letting the rest of womankind down.
While it may be possible to “have it all,” not all women want to. Some may feel that to focus on their career they need to delay having a family or may not want a family at all. Some may feel that they would rather party now and work later, or that they really are happy in the home and that the stresses of work are not for them.
Any of those choices—freely made—are equally valid. Women face numerous challenges both with their physical and mental health, and if there was the potential for one major breakthrough when it comes to women and taking care of their health, it would be understanding mental health in a feminist world.1,2
The Importance of “Me Time”
Self-care plans can be individualized things, but at their core, they have one primary focus: slowing down and making time for yourself. After taking care of their children or spending a long day at work, many women believe that they don’t have time to take care of themselves. If they are getting up early to make breakfast and manage the school run and cramming work into the rest of the day, there seems to be little time for relaxation or for themselves.
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The impact of stress on both physical and mental health is well-documented, and yet there is still a workaholic culture.3 Because of this, it’s important to create a self-care plan that will build relaxation into your daily schedule, forcing you to take care of your mental and physical health—even if you feel like you don’t have time for it.
Building a Self-Care Plan
A good self-care plan involves looking after your physical, emotional, and spiritual needs:
- Getting enough sleep
- Eating healthy foods
- Socializing with people that you care about
- Finding time to stimulate the mind
- Taking care of the body in other ways (doctor’s appointments, etc)
- Downtime (rest, entertainment)
In psychology, there is something known as Maslow’s hierarchy of needs which lays out the needs a person would want to have met in order to be happy.4 Those needs start from the essential basics (food, water, and shelter) and continue up the pyramid to security and safety, a need to feel belonging, and a need for self-actualization. Self-care involves a little bit of all of those needs.
Though some elements of Maslow’s theory have been debunked, the overall premise still stands. In order to be a happy individual, overall, it’s important to remember basic needs you might be forgetting in the hustle and bustle of daily life.
Be Honest with Yourself
If you are feeling bored or isolated because you are stuck at home with the kids most nights, communicate with your partner. Can you arrange for a babysitter so you can go play a team sport once a week? Self-care is not selfish, and that night out with friends will improve your mood and likely improve your relationships at home too.5 Are you strapped for time and regretting agreeing to manage an event in the community? There is nothing wrong with saying “no” to that. Remember that your well-being comes first.
Block Out Time in Your Day for Yourself
One strategy that a lot of executives use is blocking out time in the day. Like most people, they schedule time in the evenings to look after themselves, but they also schedule some time during the workday that is not for specific tasks.
If they have an eight hour work day, they will fill seven hours with specific jobs and have an additional hour that is “work” but that they can use for personal projects if there is time.
Often, that extra hour will end up being used as a contingency when the jobs from the other hours overflow. That’s fine, though, because it means that they are not forced to stay late or sacrifice their “me time” because they had already budgeted for the overflow. Once you get into the habit of doing this, you will be amazed at how much less stressed you feel.
Self-care means treating yourself in positive ways. Those who work in high-stress jobs such as palliative care have a lot of experience with self-care and of using productive means for relieving stress, instead of turning to alcohol or eating junk.6
Practices such as yoga, meditation, or aromatherapy are a good option for self-care. Indeed, there have been some studies into the use of aromatherapy as a self-care method in the nursing profession because it is a non-invasive option with few side effects that can be helpful for supporting both physical and mental health.7
You can use a relaxing essential oil like lavender topically after diluting them with a carrier oil, add a few drops to a bath, or inhale them through a terpene pen like Zen.
Implementing an entire self-care plan can be difficult, but small changes over time can help you improve your overall physical and mental health. Making one change at a time will eventually add up. Some simple starting points include:
- Say “no” to new commitments if you don’t have the time
- Make time to get some exercise, even if just walking during the week
- Give yourself at least an hour a day to relax
- Take the time to talk to friends if you are struggling
- Put your health first. It’s important to look after yourself before you can look after others.
Stress is a fact of life, and sometimes you will feel rushed off your feet, but those periods should be brief. If you’re feeling burnt out, make a change. There are few things that are really as crucial as we tell ourselves they are, but there is nothing more crucial than your mental and physical well-being. These are most important to maintain—everything else is secondary.
Photo credits: DGLimages/shutterstock.com, Lolostock/shutterstock.com, DudarevMikhail/shutterstock.com,