Don’t postpone personal time, making it an afterthought or reward after you finish the day’s business. Instead, include yourself in your must-dos when you plan the day — ideally, early in the day so the time doesn’t get overlooked. Plus you’ll be better able to face the day if you’re fully energized.
Pencil in even 15 minutes daily, for starters — literally write it on your planner or daily to-do list. Commit to carving this same time out every day. Life coaches say it can take up to three weeks for a new habit to take hold. Devoting specific times to yourself helps you make “me” time a priority.
Make the break feel like an indulgence. That means no laundry or paying the bills. Think of something you enjoyed when you had more time, before your life got crazy. Maybe it’s savoring a cup of tea (in a fine china cup!) and a brand-new paperback. Or setting up a craft table to pursue an art or craft you’ve abandoned.
In addition to a daily break, block out a larger span of time at least weekly to do something self-indulgent away from home. Get a massage or a manicure, wander the mall, and attend a book group.
Not all requests are draining, of course. If you’re tempted, get in the habit of replying, “I’m not sure; let me get back to you.” Don’t answer immediately; give yourself a cushion of time to reflect privately on whether the request will enhance your life or detract from it.
But also practice building up your “no” muscle. The more you express regrets or bow out, the easier it becomes the next time.
If you find it hard to refuse others (and this is true for many people with caregiver hearts), rehearse a few lines to fall back on: “I’d love to help, but I just have too much going on right now.” Or, “I wish I could, but it will have to be another time.” Humor helps: “If I take on even one more thing, my husband will divorce me and my hair will catch on fire.”
Be especially protective if indulging a favor or taking on a new task would nip into your personal time. You’ll never find enough time for yourself if you don’t cordon it off.
Remember, you have to take care of yourself before you can be a caregiver for someone else!