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How to Practice Self-Care, Even When You’re Busy

by Elise Museles

How to Practice Self-Care, Even When You’re BusyI haven’t been taking care of myself lately. I’ve pulled a few almost all-nighters, missed lots of workouts, and skipped many meals. I’m overcommitted creating recipes for not one, but two books and have fallen into the “busy” trap of working more and caring for self less.

It happens pretty easily and to the best of us. But when I woke up one morning after sleeping only a few hours, I reached my breaking point and decided that no matter how much work I have to get done, my own self-care cannot go out the window.

And, I hear from so many of you that you’re ridiculously busy and convinced you don’t have time to take care of yourself, too. So I have to lovingly, diplomatically call B.S. on all of us (myself included) who use “busy” as the excuse. How can you accomplish all those important, pressing things on four hours of sleep and mega doses of caffeine? How can you be a good friend/partner/family member, if you’re feeling sluggish and grumpy?

I’m far from perfect, but here are fours ways that I squeeze in self-care, even when it feels like I don’t have time:

1. Plan Easy Meals

When you’re in a temporary time crunch—finals week, shuffling the kids during sports season, big projects—it’s easy to fall into a cycle of takeout food and protein bars.

This is certainly not the time to make fancy, involved recipes, but I suspect you could find half an hour to chop up vegetables for a week’s worth of smoothies and salads. Or make a big batch of Immunity Soup. Or throw together some Chia Seed Pudding and Overnight Oats (which both take five minutes to make) for quick grab & go breakfast options. Keep things simple!

2. Create a ‘Holder’ Habit

A lot of people have worked really, really hard to develop good exercise habits, but those hard-won habits are often the first things to go when we get busy and stressed. This is the exact opposite of how it should be! We need the endorphins and focus to help us navigate our way through deadlines and anxiety.

If you can’t find time for your daily 5-mile run, at least take a 20-minute walk at the same time of day that you would usually run. If you don’t have the 90 minutes you usually reserve for your M/W/F yoga class, do 20 minutes of yoga at home when you would normally go to class. Any movement is better than no movement, and creating a ‘holder’ habit means you won’t fall off the wagon when you’re busy. Once things calm down, you’ll be ready to pick up where you left off!

3. Let your friends and family know you need their support + TELL them how to support you

No one in your life can see the inner workings of your schedule quite like you do. Nobody else reads those emails from your boss or sees your long to-do list. Your friends & family probably won’t know you’re particularly busy or stressed unless you tell them, and they won’t know how to help unless you tell them how.

For example:

“Honey, I have a huge deadline, so I’ll be working 12-hour days for the next three weeks. Could you be in charge of dinner for the next month?”

or

“Best Friend, I’m up to my neck in planning this fundraiser and everything feels really overwhelming right now. Could you check in on me every few days and drag me out of the house once a week, even for a cup of tea?”

4. Use comfort food strategically

Let’s face it: many of us eat when we’re stressed. In a perfect world, we would run, meditate, or journal instead. But if we’re going to turn to food, let’s do it with intention. Rather than wolfing down a cupcake over the sink, let’s draw on food that really, actually makes us feel good. Maybe it’s the roasted chicken that reminds you of Grandma’s cozy house, or a warming cup of hot cocoa that brings back memories of ski trips with your siblings. Choose foods that nourish and repair you—physically and emotionally.

To sum up: self-care is not an all-or-nothing gift—a little goes a long way. Do what you can. If you don’t fill up the love tank, you’ll have that much less to give. Everyone benefits from your commitment to self-care. It’s a brilliant litmus test—if you’re giving a lot of yourself, how much are you, in turn, caring for yourself? The two ideally want to match up.

And remember, self-care is not selfish!

Do you fall into the “I’m too busy to take care of myself” trap? Share your emergency plan for self-care when you’re crazy busy in the comments.

P.S. A reminder: less can be more

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