Average read time: 6 minutes.
Last year was really hard—and not just for me. It’s like 2017 tried to take the majority of people I know down with it.
Some seasons just feel harder or more exhausting than others, don’t they? If there’s anything last year taught me, it was how to carve out and protect precious, precious time to rejuvenate my soul.
To give you a quick picture (and this is just for context—this isn’t a busy-brag or a “my grief is heavier than yours” rant, both of which regularly turn my stomach):
In our household, my husband Nick was working a part-time job on top of his full-time job to help pay down debt, and I was searching for and taking extra freelance work for the same reason. (We paid off over $25K in about a year! Hooray! We only have about a year to go until debt-freedom.) In addition, we walked through the training, homework-ing, and completing a home study for foster care, as well as serving as our church’s worship leaders—all while attempting to grow our worship team and record our own music.
We were absolutely exhausted to the bone. Throw in some really devastating family issues on my side of the family (and my re-entering into therapy that came with them), my unexplained health issues and the high costs that ensued, the unexpected loss of Nick’s sweet grandmother who we both loved dearly, a serious auto accident that was scary as heck, and the rollercoaster of our first foster placement, and you’ve got yourself a good idea of what our year was like.
Man. It gets me all exhausted and stuff just writing about it.
But again, I learned how to take better care of myself—which is a more-precious-than-silver lesson to learn. Because if you aren’t taking care of yourself, you’re harming yourself. And, if you’re like me and love to give of yourself to others, you’re no help to anyone if you’re falling apart. Seriously. How are we supposed to love our neighbors as ourselves if we aren’t loving ourselves very well?
Finding true rest is difficult in our fast-paced culture. And apparently people in my generation are obsessed with it. Self-care, or whatever you’d like to call it, is especially difficult for parents juggling multiple responsibilities or singles working their butts off to make ends meet. But I found it was easier—and cheaper—to practice than I thought.
Self-care can look like different things to different people, but here are seven simple, low-cost ways for busy, tired people to make time for it. (You know, because everyone loves a good ole listicle.)
1. Take a hot bath.
There’s something about a superhot bath, isn’t there? In 2017, I found respite from unexplained chronic pain and world-weariness in the occasional Epsom salt bath—and it helped so much that I’ve resolved to take a detox bath a whole lot more often this year.
Take a basic bath up a notch by adding a drop or two of your favorite essential oil or by making a homemade facemask from bentonite clay to wear while you soak. Lock the kids, spouse, or cat out of the bathroom and just enjoy the quiet or read a book. Don’t have a bathtub? Try a candlelit hot shower. So awesome, I promise. 🙂
2. Keep up your spiritual practice.
When I’m busy, my spiritual practice can sometimes be overlooked. However, as soon as I add it back in, I notice a difference in myself—my heart softens, my attitude changes, and I love and lead others better.
As a Christian, my spiritual practice looks like spending time reading God’s Word, singing to Him, praying, meditating on Scripture, writing about Jesus, and sharing about what He’s done. I’m careful to not give myself a hard time if I’m unable to read a certain number of verses a day or get through a read-the-Bible-in-a-year plan. In busy seasons, I focus on quality time with the Lord and giving undivided attention into His Word, rather than treating time with Him like checking off a box on a to-do list. Spending time with Him soothes my weary heart.
3. Eat raw or lightly cooked fruits and veggies.
I don’t care what any of those natural-living people say, eating healthy is way more expensive than eating unhealthy, and if you have to stick to a special meal plan for health reasons, you might as well redirect what you’d like to put into your 401(k) toward your favorite grocery store. (Just kidding, obviously. Don’t do that—ever.)
But a simple way to take care of your body—which, in turn, will make you feel more taken care of overall—is to eat more lightly cooked or raw fruits and veggies. Maybe you start by simply swapping out your afternoon sugar fix with a fresh orange or trading chips for celery, carrots, and hummus. It’s not about calories and weight loss here; it’s about making choices that flush your body with nutrients that will help you mentally and physically feel better.
4. Tell people what you need.
At one point this last year, I emailed a group of women from my church essentially explaining that I really needed them to, if they felt so inclined, send me some words of encouragement and remind me why they loved me. This was embarrassing, and I felt ashamed that I emailed people almost begging them to tell me they loved me. But it’s exactly what I needed from my community in that moment, and they sweetly, lovingly, generously delivered life-giving words that carried me through some hard weeks.
Don’t be afraid to tell someone what you need. Maybe you need a weekend away from your spouse and children, a day off work to deal with personal stuff, or a friend to text you every morning about why they love being your friend. Allowing other people to love you is an essential part of self-care. For me, it’s super difficult to let others know what I need because I’d rather be giving than receiving any day, but just swallow that pride and let those around you know when you need help or encouragement.
5. Do something you love each week.
I know you’re busy and tired and overworked, but trust me: You need to be doing something you love every week. Even if you only have 30 minutes to spare on a Tuesday night, block out time to do that one thing that makes you feel like yourself. Read some of your favorite book, play an instrument, write a poem, doodle, sew, run, cook, play basketball, dance, garden, listen to your favorite album—whatever.
Allowing yourself the time to do something you love, just for the sake of enjoying it, is deeply refreshing to the soul. And don’t be like me and sit down and pressure yourself to write a novel in three months or something crazy. Just enjoy the activity—whatever it is—even if you don’t have an end goal.
Or just walk—whatever makes you feel good. If you can, make time to move three to four times a week. I know it’s hard to find the energy to do so in busy seasons, and if you’ve got health stuff going on, it can be even harder to be motivated to get up and get a workout in. However, you are doing yourself some serious favors when you make time to take care of your body. And for me, I don’t know if there’s anything better for my mental health than working out regularly.
In order to make more time for workouts (and save money), Nick and I quit our gym memberships. Instead, we opted in for a streaming subscription with workouts that we could easily incorporate into our weird busy season (and that would allow us to be home more—the dog missed us). I ended up really, really falling for Barre3 online—and you can use this link here for $15 off, but they aren’t affiliated with me in any way. (I just really love them and want to give you a coupon code.) We also sold some things around the house and bought a little spin bike to have at home so we could get in some intense cardio as we had time.
7. Hang on to friendships that rejuvenate you.
There’s a lot of self-care talk about letting go of toxic relationships, but in 2017 I learned how valuable it is to invest in relationships that rejuvenate you. By the time October of last year rolled around, I looked up and asked myself, “Who are my friends right now?” (especially after I wrote this post). I had let some relationships I deeply treasured fall to the wayside in the mad rush of our life-exhaustion and prepping for foster care.
I know it’s easier to sit at home and watch Netflix all weekend when you’re tired, but there’s nothing quite like going on a walk or catching up with the friend who just knows you, the friend who always jumps in and offers to pray over your situation, the friend who listens sweetly, or the friend who makes you laugh. And if you’re at the point where all you can do after a long workweek is sit at home with your spouse/pet/roomie/kids and watch movies, invite a good friend over to join in. Wear your sweatpants. Don’t cook or clean before they come over. Just take a deep breath and be in the company of good people who love you.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” —Matthew 11:28–29 (NIV)
Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. —1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (NIV)
Also, just to throw in one more (although definitely not a low-cost self-care practice, but worth every penny and ounce of time): If you need it, find a good, healthy therapist you can trust. One that is honest with you when something’s not right and offers to help you fit therapy into your budget. I found a lovely therapist who even gently hinted to me when I didn’t need to come every month anymore. Find that kind of honest, amazing professional who helps you to understand the work you need to do and equips you with the tools to do it. May the good Lord bless these kinds of people times infinity and beyond. 😉
If you liked this post, you might also like:
- The Most Difficult Year of My Marriage in 1200 Words or Less
- The Pain of Being Happy: Letting Go of the Guilt of Joy in 1200 Words or Less
- We’re Becoming Foster Parents!
Or, you might like hanging out with me on Instagram! See you there!