In 2010 I found myself wrapped in a ball sobbing in my car outside of my house on Christmas morning. I was mentally and physically exhausted and I didn’t think I could do anymore. I was a mother of 4, holding down a busy career, and caring for my sick husband.
For months, I had been giving and giving, while my own personal care took a back seat. I hit my rock bottom, my breaking point, and I knew something had to change. I couldn’t live my life exhausted and drained while still being the person I needed to be for my family.
It was in that moment, I realized I needed to put myself first and my other priorities second. I needed to choose myself for at least a few minutes each day.
It started small: I began waking up early to do a bit of yoga each morning. I then added in a cup of tea and some journaling each night.
After a few months, I felt great and the exhausted woman who cried in her car on Christmas was a distant memory. I had more energy, I was healthier, and most importantly, I was happy.
I realized I had created a simple daily habit that changed my life: I chose myself each day.
Eventually, this habit led to more and more. The more I chose myself, the more I wanted to continue choosing myself. I began booking yoga classes into my schedule – really, scheduling them like they were important business meetings. I started to reclaim my pockets of time to create a quick, healthy meal rather than something from a box or a meal that was laden with sugar. I traded in a normal commute by car or tube for my bike, which now takes me all over London so I can get in some extra exercise. I stayed up just a little later each night to take an Epsom salt bath.
And the best part was, the more I did for me, the more I was able to give to everyone else.
I know this feels difficult when you are in the throes of an incredibly busy life. Though the world feels like it may come crashing down if you take 30 minutes to be alone and take care of you, it won’t. In fact, it will make everything else you have to do in your life that much easier.
Choosing yourself every single day – whether it be for 5 minutes or for 50 minutes – is the single most important habit you can adopt. While it feels simple (and it can be!) to make sure that this actually becomes a habit – something that you naturally do each day – takes a little intention.
Step 1: Make the commitment
The most important first step is to really make the commitment that you will choose to prioritize you for some amount of time each day. It can be so easy to say to yourself, “well, of course, I’ll obviously make time for myself.” But then Wednesday comes, you’ve worked all day, the dog is sick, and your kids are begging for help with their homework. If you’re not committed to choosing you, it’s easy to let your own priorities slide while promising to re-focus on yourself tomorrow. Guess what? Tomorrow doesn’t come.
But then Wednesday comes, you’ve worked all day, the dog is sick, and your kids are begging for help with their homework. If you’re not committed to choosing you, it’s easy to let your own priorities slide while promising to re-focus on yourself tomorrow. Guess what? Tomorrow doesn’t come.
There are always things to do – make the commitment to yourself that you’ll choose yourself every single day.
Step 2: Decide on your action
It’s far easier to stay committed to something at the beginning if you intentionally decide on one daily action that you’re going to take. We’re trying to create the habit, so don’t worry about choosing the perfect thing to do day in and day out for the rest of your life. We’re choosing one thing that you’ll do now. Once you
If you’re short on ideas, here are some easy ones to get you started:
- Wake up 10 minutes earlier each day and make yourself an easy, healthy breakfast that you will enjoy phone free.
- Decide to take a 20-minute mid-day walk to get some exercise and fresh air every single day
- Commit to doing a 10-minute yoga flow each morning or night. (This one is a favorite.)
- Create a gratitude practice that you do each evening with a cup of tea
- Treat yourself to an Epsom salt bath every night before bed
There’s no one right action. Pick one and test it out.
Step 3: Reclaim your time pockets
I know that we’re all so busy every day. Bouncing around from activity to activity, it can literally feel like we have no time! But when I feel overwhelmed and like I can’t fit anything else in, I like to find what I call the “time pockets.”
Those are the minutes that I can find each day to do something for myself, that may otherwise go unused. It may be staying up after my family has gone to bed in order to fit in a relaxing bath. Or taking my bike to commute so I can get in some exercise and fresh air while getting where I need to go. Or, my favorite, while waiting for something (in line, for a child to get out of an activity, or one of my classes that I teach to begin), I turn off my phone and turn to one of my trusted breathing exercises. 5 minutes of mindless scrolling on your phone can be a time pocket you can easily reclaim.
Take a look at your schedule and decide what time pockets you can reclaim. Do you hit snooze in the morning? Could you stand to wake up 15 minutes earlier or stay up 15 minutes later and reclaim that time pocket? Can you take a walk every day during lunch?
Step 4: Track your progress
Remember in school when we did something right, the teacher would give us a gold star? I still remember how great that felt. But who is giving us our gold stars now?
When creating the habit to choose YOU each day, I want you to track your progress each day and give yourself a real or figurative gold star. Each day that you do your activity, give yourself a gold star and make note of how you feel and what you did. This will help you stay accountable to your goal and track the progress that you’re making.
Step 5: Get accountable
Speaking of staying accountable in creating this habit, if you want to take your accountability up a notch, enlist a partner. Have a friend or family member join you in your quest to choose you and check in with them regularly. Whether it be a quick daily text or a weekly recap, having someone who is going through this with you and is encouraging you along the way can be enormously helpful in reaching your goals.
Step 6: Ditch the Guilt
While you make progress and make time for yourself, you may fall prey to an adverse side effect: guilt. Thoughts like:
“I should’ve made a better meal rather than reheating leftovers (and whatever else I could find in the fridge).”
“Taking 10 minutes right now would be selfish when I could be reviewing my child’s homework/finishing a report for work/etc.”
These thoughts are self-sabotaging. When these guilty thoughts pop-up, ask yourself, “will taking 15 minutes for myself right now create a truly horrible situation?” The answer will almost always be no. So ditch that guilt and take that time for yourself.
If you’re ready to really create a habit, but need some help getting started, join my FREE 7-day challenge Choose YOU: create the simple habit that will give you more time, energy, and happiness in your life. October 21-27, 2017.
Mother of 4, TV Personality, Author, Yoga Instructor, and Certified Health Coach. Julie’s mission in life is to help other women live their healthiest, happiest life. While time is clearly something we’re all short of, Julie focuses her work on helping women prioritize their health through small moments of self-care. Learn more ->