Reaching the point of burnout is, unfortunately, an all too common experience for many. Given the fast-paced, productivity-based work culture that exists in America today, burnout has essentially become the marker by which we measure success. The message we receive is this: “If you feel like you have exhausted your limits, then you are doing something right!” There is this tendency to equate how much we produce to whether or not our lives are worthwhile, but this could not be more untrue. Similarly, rest is often portrayed as something you earn once you have put in the work, but this is also false. Rest is not something we need to work toward, it is something our bodies and minds require in order for us to make it through life. With this in mind, I have compiled a list of helpful tips to utilize when planning for self-care. While I wish I could tell you I picked this up without error, the only reason I am able to make such a list is because I have tried and failed many times… And this is what I have learned!
1. Identify the difference between things that make you feel rested versus what makes you feel fulfilled. Some activities might fall into both categories, but it is helpful to distinguish between the two. Restful activities often alleviate stress and induce a sense of tranquility. Fulfilling activities are things one enjoys and are often fun. For example, meditating or going on a walk might help one feel rested, whereas painting or gardening might be fulfilling.
2. Identify the people and things that hinder your ability to unwind. For instance, if you are a parent and being around your child is stressful in that you focus solely on their needs, you may need to find someone to care for your child during your self-care time. Similarly, having your work phone on you while you attempt to rest might prevent you from being able to relax as your phone might go off or you might feel compelled to check it regularly.
3. Review your weekly schedule and identify spaces of time in which you are able to engage in self-care. Whether your schedule is wide open or packed with commitments, making time for self-care is something one has to be intentional about planning because it will not always “just happen” or “work itself out.”
4. Once you have decided on a restful or fulfilling activity, have ensured you will not be distracted by certain people or things, and have chosen a date and time for self-care, make sure all of your regular responsibilities are tended to prior. As an example, one might handle all of their house chores, clear out their inbox, and predetermine dinner plans in order to set themselves up for nothing but rest on the day of their self-care. This is important because “past you” is taking care of “future you” in a way that will make you feel even more taken care of.
5. Finally, make sure you plan for self-care at least once a week. While there are ways to find rest and fulfillment in small ways throughout the week, it is imperative that you care for yourself and separate blocks of time. If you are able to give so much to others (i.e. work, school, family, etc.), you need to be able to give yourself much as well.
Written by Cindy-Joy Rosado – Graduate Student in Mental Health Counseling