For a few years now, the world has been buzzing with the concept of “self-care.” It’s the idea that taking time to tend to your own needs—exercising, meditating, pursuing your creative interests, or whatever floats your boat—will make you a more balanced and kick-ass person. Self-care is not selfish or indulgent. We all know that we can’t pour from an empty cup, and that if you are not whole and well, you can’t possibly care for others or thrive in life.
Here’s the thing: While I think many of us can totally jive with the idea in theory, as busy and frazzled parents, it’s like “How in fucking hell I am supposed to practice ‘self-care’? I can’t even take a shit without an audience.”
Here, here, girlfriend. I totally hear you on that. And while I fail at self-care in many ways myself, I’ve got a little secret weapon I want to share with you that has actually made it possible for me to practice self-care despite being a busy AF full-time mom working mom.
Ready? It’s all about a little something called “micro-shifting.” As Gary Jansen, a senior editor of Penguin Random House, describes it in a recent article for Mind Body Green, mirco-shifting involves setting up short, but committed times in your day to practice whatever self-care you need. It’s not about length—even as little as a minute or two works—but about doing it consistently. It’s about showing up, not perfection.
And I know what you’re saying: “Even then, I literally don’t have the time.” But listen to how Jansen explains it:
“We all have at our disposal 1,440 minutes in a single day,” he writes. “What would happen if you took just 1 percent of those 1,440 minutes, just 14 minutes and 24 seconds, roughly 15 minutes a day, and consciously tried to change your life? You can keep the other 99 percent of your day to do what you have to do—eat, sleep, go to work, take care of the kids, attend school, drive your sister to the doctor, surf your smartphone.”
Kind of brilliant, no?
Let me tell you how “micro-shifting” has worked for me over the years. There are two main self-care items I need to do every day to help manage my anxiety: meditation and exercise. As a life-long anxiety sufferer, these are non-negotiable, because without them, I am apt to fall down into an anxiety spiral. And this isn’t good for anyone—not me, my kids, or my family.
I meditate using an app on my phone, and have been doing so for about seven years. I have used various apps over the years, but the main feature I look for is one that has an option for a five minute meditations (yes, science says that even five minutes a day of meditation can be enormously helpful).
When I still had babies and toddlers underfoot, I’d meditate as soon as they went down for their naps or for the night. I’d meditate while nursing my baby to sleep. I’d just make sure to get those five minutes in. Now that my kids are older and in school, I meditate right before I settle into my work day. I still don’t have more than five minutes or so, but it feels like a damn luxury to do it without a child glued to my body (moms of little ones: you’ll get there, I promise).
Exercise is handled in much the same way. I rarely can commit to more than 20 minutes a day. I don’t exercise for weight loss, but to clear my mind, and for the endorphin rush that keeps me sane. When my kids were little, I’d take daily walks with them strapped to me or in a stroller. Or I’d do a quick yoga practice while they napped. Sometimes—when 20 minutes in a row was an impossibility—I had to break the yoga practice into two short chunks.
Gary Jansen—now the author of two books, and editor for big-deal authors like Deepak Chopra—says that he wrote his entire first book just by committing to 15 minutes or writing each day for one year. And he was a busy working dad at the time. “Most of what I wrote was garbage,” he says. “But in the end it didn’t matter. I was building writing muscles by making the time and being consistent.”
Yes, it’s all about being as consistent as you can, realizing that perfection is overrated, and that you—and your one beautiful, amazing, important life—is worth it. So what are you waiting for? Whether it’s making more time for meditation or prayer, finally learning to play the flute, getting in a quick daily run, or whatever else it is that will nourish your heart and soul, go for it.
If you make the shift, you will be surprised to realize that you do, in fact, have enough minutes in your day to commit to yourself. You so deserve it.