Dear Liza: Balancing Busyness with Self Care

Dear Liza,

How do you handle being busy but still making time for yourself and your own habits/self-care? Is it something you struggle with? X

Hi anonymous friend!

First of all: yes. Yes it is something I struggle with ALOT. At the university I am at, busyness sometimes feels like a currency, where we trade stories on how few hours sleep we've had and compare one set of ridiculous commitments with another. But I do know that when I get busy is when good habits start to slip away, and pretty soon I neglect self care entirely.

I've been trying really hard to get better at keeping up with my routines even when I have a lot going on, and I'll share some of those with you. To some extent it depends on what you're busy with, I'm speaking from the place of an overwhelmed student and your situation might be different, but hopefully these strategies are transferable. And remember: different things work for different people, so it might take trying out a few different strategies before you settle on what works.

Firstly, you won't be productive when you're tired and stressed. That's just a fact, and when we're busy, extra time is a very precious thing. For this reason, sleep is always my number one priority. During my entire university experience, I have always made midnight a non-negotiable deadline for bedtime for when I need to get things done in the morning. That way I always get my full night's sleep, assuming that I'm aiming for an 8am wake up/9am commitment kind of schedule. You'll probably need to figure out what timings work for you, but sticking to this has really helped. Even if I haven't done my readings for tomorrow, I still know that it's better for me to be well rested for class, and when I skip sleep the first thing that happens is that I get sick, which does nothing to aid the situation. The same goes for eating: it can be tempting to skip meals, but you need food to keep running at your best. If you make sure you're looking after the basics, everything in life will be easier. 

Secondly, I try to keep in place regular activities that make me happy no matter how crazy things get. This semester it has been playing touch rugby once a week, over the summer it was getting in twenty minutes of reading for fun a day. It's amazing how much easier is it to do them once they become a regular fixture in your diary, and I guarantee you'll feel better for it. Another helpful strategy can be combining activities. When I get really busy is when I find it hardest to spend time with my friends, so I try to double up by studying with them, having exercise dates, or grabbing lunch. Time efficiency is key when you've got a lot on, and it can make neccessary things so much more fun!

Finally, figure out what can give. As a perfectionist it's hard to admit this, but sometimes it can be time efficient to spend one less hour on something when that hour would be far more effective elsewhere, including using it as a chance to rest and relax. The most important thing is to keep yourself happy and healthy, then you'll be working at your best and able to achieve much more than when you're running yourself ragged. It can be hard figuring out what can give, and sometimes I have to drop commitments entirely, but prioritising what is important and what is less so is definitely what helps me get through. 

Good luck with your busy life, but remember: looking after yourself is the number one priority. 

Liza xo