As women, we pride ourselves on the ability to juggle endless responsibilities. Between work, home, family, and other obligations, our plates are overflowing. While caring for others often gives our lives meaning, it’s easy to neglect ourselves but self-care for busy women is an absolute essential!
Self-care is not selfish or indulgent. It’s vital to enable us to top up our mental and physical energy so that we can thrive in all areas of life. However, when time and energy are in short supply, taking care of our emotional needs is usually the first thing we neglect.
There are lots of simple self-support strategies that, when integrated into a routine, will enhance your emotional resilience and ability to handle stress. You can’t pour from an empty cup, so self-care is the key to showing up as your best self in all your roles.
Why Self-Care Matters
Self-care gets dismissed as a luxury, but it lays the foundation for our mental health and wellbeing. Without adequate self-support, we become depleted over time. The consequences range from emotional exhaustion to compassion fatigue to full-on burnout.
On the other hand, taking time to recharge allows us to be fully present and engaged with everyone. We have more positive energy, empathy and patience for our professional and personal relationships.
Self-care provides space to connect with our needs, desires, and sense of purpose. It helps prevent that nagging feeling that life is passing us by and allows us to model emotional health for our families while feeling more fulfilled in our lives. When we take responsibility for our needs, others benefit too.
Self-Compassion Is Key
Many women struggle to prioritise self-care because they’re used to putting others first. We worry that focusing on our needs means neglecting our responsibilities. However, quick self-care practices can be built seamlessly into our days once we make them a habit.
The first step is practising self-compassion – treating ourselves with the same kindness, care and understanding we offer loved ones. Instead of harsh self-criticism, we can acknowledge that we’re doing our best. Let’s face it: you probably wouldn’t talk to your children or friends the way you talk to yourself!
Rather than constantly forcing ourselves to power through exhaustion, it’s important to learn our limits, set gentle boundaries around our time and energy and realise that doing so is an act of self-preservation.
Once we get comfortable with self-compassion as a guiding principle, we can experiment with self-care activities without guilt or judgment.
Here are ten easy strategies for self-care for busy women that promote emotional well-being:
1. Begin a mindfulness routine
Mindfulness refers to purposefully paying attention to the present moment, including our thoughts, feelings and sensory experiences. We can centre ourselves amid chaos through techniques like meditation, deep breathing, and yoga.
I incorporate mindfulness into my day when I’m walking our dog. I tune into all 5 senses one by one by asking myself:
- What can I smell?
- What can I see?
- What can I taste?
- What can I feel?
- What can I hear?
Just thinking about each question for a few minutes allows you to notice the things that usually pass you by like the breeze on your face, the sounds of birds or the wind in the trees or the feel of the dog lead or the scarf around your neck. While you are noticing all of the little things, your brain isn’t worrying about how much you have to do.
Starting your day with 5 minutes of mindfulness sets the foundations for a calmer day. Popular apps like Calm, Headspace and Insight Timer offer short guided meditations. Over time, a regular mindfulness practice provides an anchor to ease anxiety and stress.
2. Build healthy connections
Human beings are wired for social connection. Sharing what’s on your mind with a trusted friend provides an opportunity to process emotions.
Schedule a weekly coffee date, walking meet-up or phone call with a friend that makes you smile. Joining a book club or class is another way to make meaningful connections. Don’t isolate yourself when things get tough.
3. Journal for clarity and creativity
Writing your thoughts and feelings brings them out in the open and allows you to gain self-awareness, problem-solve and boost your mood. Research has also shown that the physical act of writing triggers relaxation.
Carve out 10 minutes for stream-of-consciousness journaling. Jot whatever comes to mind without self-judgment. You can also use journal prompts for inspiration. Apps like Day One and Journey have prompts you can use but I prefer good old pen and paper.
4. Look for joy
As responsibilities pile up, we stop making time for the simple things that bring us joy. However, playfulness relieves stress and can add fun to tedious tasks. Dancing, singing, creating art, embarking on adventures – make space for the things you loved to do as a child.
5. Establish routines and rituals
Rituals satisfy the human need for structure, meaning and self-soothing. Small routines can open and close your day and provide a sense of comfort. Whether it’s lighting a candle while drinking your coffee or taking a pre-bed bubble bath – incorporate little rituals into your schedule.
Checking tasks off a to-do list also stimulates feelings of productivity and control. Routines minimise decision fatigue. Identify the rhythms that smooth your days.
6. Plan digital downtime
Today’s nonstop digital noise frazzles our nervous system. The constant pings and alerts from our devices produce stress even when we’re trying to unplug. If you want more calm its essential to limit stimulation.
Turn off notifications and assign specific times for checking email and social media. Avoid screens for 1-2 hours before bed for better sleep. Unstructured time without technology will make it much easier to have mental calm.
7. Get moving
Regular exercise is one of the most effective self-care practices for physical and mental health. Moving your body produces feel-good endorphins and improves self-confidence. Start small with daily 15-minute walks.
Think about killing 2 birds with 1 stone by joining an exercise class that doubles as a social activity, or invite a friend to walk and talk. Simple YouTube workouts can be done at home in as little as 10 minutes. Don’t underestimate the mood-boosting magic of movement.
8. Eat nourishing foods
Nutrition has a direct impact on energy, mood and stress resilience. Add more whole foods into your diet, stay hydrated and limit sugar Start thinking about meal prep during less hectic times to avoid grabbing unhealthy food when you’re busy.
Treat yourself to healthy comfort foods like salmon, avocado, nuts and dark chocolate. Eat more fruits, veggies and anti-inflammatory foods to support your wellbeing. Don’t underestimate the link between your stomach and heart.
9. Get quality sleep
Aim for 7-8 hours per night, going to bed and waking up consistently to regulate your circadian rhythm. Limit exposure to blue light from devices before bedtime, and avoid stimulating screens/conversations.
A relaxing pre-bed routine helps prepare both the mind and body for rest. Take a warm bath, read an uplifting book, or try a sleep meditation. Protecting your sleep is essential self-care.
10. Schedule in free time
On busy days, every minute gets consumed by tasks unless we intentionally block off free time. Without breathing room, daily life becomes suffocating. Calendar in open blocks labelled “Free Time” and guard this time fiercely.
Spend this time however you please – take a bubble bath, cuddle your pets, or work on a passion project. Build in opportunities to pause and restore. You deserve unstructured time just to be.
Carving out dedicated self-care time may sound impossible but the key is starting small. Choose 1-2 quick practices from the above list and schedule them into your routine. Over time, the benefits will motivate you to prioritise self-care.
Maybe you sip your coffee mindfully every morning, take a 10-minute walk midday, and write in your journal before bed. Ritualising even minor self-nurturing activities makes them stick. Soon, you’ll instinctively care for your emotional needs throughout the day.
On really demanding days when there’s no time or energy to spare, remember that tiny acts of self-kindness count. Things like pausing to take a few deep breaths, enjoying a piece of chocolate, texting an encouraging friend, or reminding yourself that you are doing your best will help carry you through.
By modelling self-care, you show your loved ones to value their needs too and your family wants you to be healthy and fulfilled. Not looking after your needs can often lead to us being stressed out and shouting.
When you make self-care a habit, you are able to be there for others without sacrificing yourself.