Taking Care of Yourself When Busy

Self-care is usually the first thing to go when we are busy and pressure mounts; we let go of exercise in favor of taking care of others, we sacrifice meditation to get things done, we give up our alone time to satisfy social demands. Whatever the source of pressure, the net result is the same: we put our needs behind those of whoever needs us. Service is noble and giving gives back, but continually pouring out energy without re-fueling will leave us running on empty, and perhaps, in our resulting stress, causing us to do harm to what we would serve.

This month let’s talk about ways to maintain your home, family, job and social life while taking care of yourself and replenishing your ability to help others. To talk about taking care of yourself, we should probably first establish what this means. Obviously, self-care is different for each person, but there are some commonalities that we can probably agree on:

Each of these topics could be a whole book (and there are!) so I am mostly going to demonstrate how they apply to organizing with a few tricks for each.

No matter how busy you are, making time to nourish your spirit, in whatever manner you choose, will pay rich dividends in terms of productivity, effectiveness, greater control of your psyche and behavior, sense of well-being, and ability to get along with others. Although it may be difficult to carve out 20 minutes for self-regeneration each day, preferably as early as possible, if you do so for two weeks, it will become the most important 20 minutes of your day and a habit that will make everything else go better. If the only way that you can get time to yourself is to give up an evening pleasure so you can get up half an hour earlier to have a period of quiet time before taking up the day’s busyness, it will be well worth it. The more busy you are, the more important it is to stay calm and centered. When I was working, the more massive the projects that I was doing, the more crucial taking time for myself would be to keep everything on track.
Some little tricks for squeezing in more calming time: red lights in traffic are opportunities to do a quick mental body scan to look for and release areas of tightness, putting TV commercials on Mute and using the time to chant a mantra or affirmation, smiling for no reason, singing while doing housework to lift spirits; every day presents dozens of such opportunities and they are worth finding.

Care of the body is also essential to be organized, efficient and productive. The better the shape you are in, the more energy you will have and the more you will be able to get done, therefore, time spent exercising should not be viewed as time away from getting organized but as time that is invested in being able to get organized. When you add that most exercise allows plenty of opportunity to do other things while you are working out (I read, write, plan things while at the gym, do great resistance exercises for my legs while typing, and do arm exercises while reading on the computer; TV watching time is especially good for exercise), then this time is doubly well spent. Further, most life activities have opportunities for exercise that go unrecognized (isometrics while driving or riding the bus, deskercises while at the computer, leg lifts while doing dishes, ad infinitum). The older one is, and the more sedentary one’s life has been, the more important keeping moving is. Exercise creates energy which allows you to become more organized. Start slow and easy and build every day. The goal isn’t muscle – it’s energy and health. Exercise with a friend also lets you meet social needs while taking care of your body.

Care of your environment means spending a few minutes per day on each room, neatening and cleaning so you can keep up with the natural tendency to disorder that would otherwise take over. (Thanks to the Fly Lady for this technique). Five minutes straightening per room before going to sleep means that you will wake up to a better environment, boosting your sense of well-being and ability to function. Commercials are great times for doing this. This time is separate from your regularly scheduled clearing-out and organizing time; you need to do both to make progress.

Care of your future means never thinking that you are too busy to pay attention to your finances and that you have a plan for how you will meet essential expenses when you are retired. I think to some degree that this is the bottom-line point of getting organized - so that you can keep track of things, know what your situation is, and have the ability to make choices and decisions regarding the important aspects of how you live and your future. If you are not organized, not in control of your plans and finances, or not making arrangements for your future, you are essentially agreeing to just let things happen, however they will. Not a good predictor for a happy outcome. As with other aspects of self-care, this process doesn’t have to take a lot of time, can be done in odd moments, and is best done in small increments (ex., such as 20 minutes every Sunday) that prevent the tasks involved from ever reaching the overwhelming stage.

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