How many of us push through the busy times by telling ourselves that when this phase is over we’ll give ourselves some restorative downtime? Now, how many of us actually follow through on that promise to ourselves? I hope I’m not alone in confessing that for years I kept myself going by waving the promise of a break in front of my own nose, only to never follow through. Because the reality is this: there will never be a time when everything is done and I can fully relax.
So, after years of burning the candle at both ends and never finding the time to restore, I recently decided that a new approach was needed: instead of focusing on some big act of self-care that would never come, I would focus on small acts of self-care that save my sanity.
Small Acts of Self-Care That Can Save Your Sanity
The inspiration for this shift came to me while scrolling through my Facebook feed on November 1st (aka, the day after Halloween). I discovered across a post from a friend who said, “It took 13 years of being a parent and 3 kids for me to realize I have to just take Nov. 1 off. Because a lot just got done and a lot is about to happen. Join me.”
It made me realize that while a week-long silent retreat or vacation to a warm, sunny beach, would be lovely, the reality is that the grind of daily life requires smaller, more frequent releases. So I shifted my mindset and have started building in small acts of self-care. The impact is profound – they are daily reminders that taking care of myself is important and allow me to feel more balanced and calm. So, I wanted to share some ideas for small acts of self-care that can make a really big difference when you are feeling tired, overwhelmed, or just plain burnt out.
A note on intention
Before I share my list of self-care activities with you, I wanted to add a note about intention. As you will soon see, these acts are small and some of them are even daily activities that some would consider mundane. But I have found that by setting the intention of using these moments as self-care opportunities, I am able to shift my mindset from one of obligation to one of pleasure. It is so simple, but so empowering.
So, one way that I encourage you to find small moments for self-care is to look through your day, see where there might be occasions for that shift in mindset, and then take them.
Schedule alone time
So much of our time is spent either fulfilling obligations or taking care of others. While doing all of those things is important, it is also essential to have time when the only person you are making happy is yourself. Sadly, though, we often prioritize everyone else’s needs over our own.
The solution, I discovered, was to literally put alone time into my schedule and to treat it just like any other important appointment. It could be for an hour, half a day, or a whole day, but schedule time for yourself in the calendar. If child care is an issue, then talk to your spouse/partner, a family member, babysitter, or best friend, and ask for that time. If a reciprocal arrangement is helpful, do it. Just schedule that time and then use it to do something for yourself (not folding laundry, going grocery shopping, or cleaning the house).
Go to bed early
We all know it, we all preach it to everyone else, but many of us don’t actually get enough sleep. And while scrolling through your phone in bed might feel like a luxury, treating your body to more rest will more effectively restore your brain and body.
If getting to bed early each night isn’t an option (this is often a struggle for me), then try for a certain number of nights a week when you get more shut eye.
Read a book for pleasure
When was the last time you read a book for fun? Not a parenting book or a work-related book—a book just for fun. Pick one up from the library, a bookstore, or order it on Amazon, but get one that will distract and entertain you and then read a little before bed each night. (Sometimes I only get a page read and it can take me months to get through a book, but it’s time that is mine).
Write down 3 good things
This is an activity that I love. At the end of the day, take three minutes to write down three good things that happened that day and why. Take the time to feel the gratitude for those things but also to acknowledge what you did to make them happen. This small act can have a huge impact in how you feel about yourself, how you see people around you, and how you interact with the world.
If you, like me, find yourself sitting at a desk or in a car for large parts of the day, make sure to get some movement in. A quick walk around the block, a few yoga stretches, a dance party in your kitchen, anything that will get the blood flowing and your body moving will help your overburdened brain. If remembering to do this is hard, try setting an alarm on your phone for two or three times in the day when you can take a 5 – 10 minute movement break.
If, like me, exercise is one of your mental health lifelines, then I encourage you to carve out that time and try to protect it for just yourself. When my kids were little, they knew that my exercise time was time when I didn’t want to be interrupted, so if they woke up before I was done, they’d come curl up in a chair near where I was working out and look at a book until I was done (and sometimes I let them have extra screen time).
Turn chores into a pleasure
This is the act of self-care that I do daily. I used to just plod through certain chores, seeing them purely as obligations. Now, I work to make them more fun. I watch “my shows” while folding laundry, I listen to fun music while doing dishes, and I listen to podcasts while doing deep cleaning. Not only has this been a good shift in mindset for me, but I have also found that my kids have picked up on this one and have started to do the same when it comes to completing their chores!
If you’d like to make cooking more enjoyable, check out my post on turning cooking into a mindfulness practice.
Add in games
This is a new addition to my daily acts of self-care and one that I have come to value deeply. Each day I carve out about 10-15 minutes to play some games that both work my mind and are fun. I have found that this feels indulgent, but also stimulating in a way I really enjoy. Crosswords, KenKen, Sodoku, Wordle, and Word Wipe are all favorites of mine.
These may seem like small acts, but if you make a concerted effort to add them to your routine, they really can make a difference in your stress level and your ability to enjoy the world around you. Even if you start with one of these and work your way up to more over time, you’re doing something important to care for your self, which will ultimately help you to be happier and more available to those around you.
Do you have any self-care acts that you make an effort to build into your daily life? I’d love to hear what they are! Please share them below.