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Busy and Broke: The Self-Care Quandary

Images of self care practices including a yoga pose of legs up the wall, someone sitting and reading a book, and a healthy meal.

About a week ago, I polled folks on my social media about what prevented them from practicing self-care. The few answers I got named named lack of money or being too busy as the top reasons.

I get it. I’m busy and broke, too.

But, I wanted to go a little deeper. So I asked this question again as a discussion on my personal Facebook page. The result was one of the longest discussion threads I’ve ever seen on any of my social media posts in over a decade. This question about self-care and the reasons for doing it or not doing it clearly strikes a cord in y’all.

People expanded on the “busy and broke” reasons. And, let me state for the record — the impediments are real. Leaving loved ones, especially small children or elderly parents, is very difficult for any period of time and will often require spending more money on paid care givers. None of us have infinite amounts of money, especially if we work in helping professions that are typically very underpaid. Because of this chronic underpayment we may have mountains of debt from student loans or credit cards. Similarly, none of us has infinite time and our families, our jobs, our friends and a myriad other obligations pull at that limited resource. 

Here’s my challenge: Yes, we have limitations of time and money, but we act like we don’t have any choice in how we respond to these limitations. We make our schedule. We manage our money. We have choices about what we do with both.

Perhaps the first thing we have to practice is saying No. If someone asks you to do something and you think to yourself, “Ugh! I can’t do one more thing.” Then. Don’t. Do. It. Or if it’s something you must do, consider what you can drop in order to make doing that thing more doable, perhaps even joyful. Or perhaps you get a new opportunity or invitation that sounds exciting, but you know you just don’t have time for it. Say no until you’ve made adjustments to your schedule that allows for the new thing. Or wait until the next opportunity or invitation comes around. I promise there will be more. (This is probably the hardest one for me. I just LOVE doing new, exciting things.)

As you learn to say no, prepare for push back. People will be disappointed with you, some will even argue with you when you say no to these requests or obligations. Stick to your commitment to yourself and your time. They will figure out a new way to get that thing done. It might even be healthy for them.

As you learn to say no, you might find that you have more time (perhaps even money) to add one or two new practices that help you take care of yourself. Here’s some suggestions from a list compiled by a fellow yoga teacher and therapist, Bailey Lynn, who helps people find simple, free or inexpensive ways to practice mindfulness and self-care:

  • Calling a loved one;
  • Going for a walk with no screens or headphones;
  • Journaling;
  • Using the Insight Timer app for guided meditations (I recommend iRest practices by Richard Miller.);
  • Free yoga videos on YouTube;
  • Five to ten minutes of watching your breath or doing any other breath practice (once at work and once before bed);
  • Listen to sounds that soothe you;
  • Mindful eating/drinking: Slowing down a meal or cup of tea/coffee to really taste and experience it
  • (My addition) Planning meals so that you eat healthy all week;
  • Lighting a candle and watching the flame for 5-10 minutes (a form of meditation)
  • Taking 10 to 15 minutes an evening to do a hobby like reading a chapter of a book, working on a puzzle, coloring, etc.

So after you’ve begun by saying no (and that’s truly the hardest part), try adding one of these practices. I personally do better, and it lowers my anxiety level, if I do practices or plan for them in the morning. In addition to the meditation, I make sure my meals are planned around my inconsistent schedule. I plan when I’m going to stop work for the day to exercise. (It’s usually on my calendar.) I know planning exercise is easier for me because I work at home, but even when I’ve worked in an office, I’ve tried to find time to walk in the middle of the day. Grab a colleague for a walk at lunch!

I’m also going to offer you a free way to connect with others also on this journey. (Based on your response to my Facebook post, there are A LOT of you!) If you take 10 seconds to sign up for my monthly emails, you will instantly get an email giving you access to my Mindful Leaders Lounge FB Group. Take another 15 seconds to click the link and join the group.

In this group, I am going to offer free “Mindful Mondays” meditations at 2 p.m. ET via Facebook Live on the first Monday of each month. Please join me there, perhaps you’ll eventually feel supported enough to spend a little more of your valuable time, perhaps money, too, on self-care!

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