8 Tips for Women Who Struggle to Take Time for Themselves
As Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of Eat, Pray, Love, said recently at a conference: The one word you’ll never hear associated with women is “Relaxed.”
Have you scheduled a summer vacation yet? Are you someone who struggles to take time for yourself? If so, you may want to take a second look at your calendar. See if you can find some time to get away from work and family obligations and relax. If this sounds like an unrealistic luxury, or if you feel like your boss can’t spare you, listen up: Research shows that taking a vacation is good for you–and for your organization.
How is you taking a vacation good for your firm?
If you’re burnt out or bored-out, it’s not good for anyone. You, your team, your boss, your household or partner. Taking summer vacation, and taking time for yourself, which I call “You Time,” is essential.
And, as it turns out, summer vacation is not only beneficial for you but also for your company’s bottom line.
According to research published by the recognition and engagement company, O.C. Tanner, for employees who regularly take a one-week or more extended vacation in the summer, there are positive correlations between their workplace engagement levels and work ethic. The study found that 70 percent of respondents reported feeling highly motivated to contribute to the success of their organizations, as opposed to only 55 percent of respondents who do not regularly take a week-long summer vacation.
The demands of work and family are stressful–but especially for women.
We all juggle the daily demands of our personal lives and our work lives, but women, in particular, describe feeling pressured and struggle to take time for themselves. One of the things I hear from my female coaching clients is that they are doing it all, all the time, for everyone. They tell me they don’t have time for themselves. They don’t have time to work out, time to relax, or time to recharge.
And I get it.
As women, we are socialized to take care of others. In addition to work, most women manage their children and family’s obligations. An increasing number of women also these days care for their aging parents. “According to the July 2016 Journal, Brain and Behavior, on top of juggling multiple responsibilities and roles, women have different brain chemistry and have to deal with hormone fluctuations,” says Yvonne Williams Casaus. “Also, women tend to cope with stress differently. The hormone fluctuations are the kicker,” she adds.
Women are also groomed to be perfectionists so we don’t know how to let go of the 20-30 percent of tasks that may not be vitally important–or can wait a day or two. Seriously, we need to remember: If the kids go to school with two different color socks or store-bought cupcakes, it’s really not the end of the world.
The importance of sleep.
We tend to underestimate the importance of getting enough rest. According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, sleep is involved in the healing and repair of your heart and blood vessels. Ongoing sleep deficiency is linked to an increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke. In today’s global workplace, we’re online 24/7, but we shouldn’t be. We need to set those boundaries for ourselves because those boundaries aren’t being set for us. And, as women, we often find this hard to do.
As I said, I hear stories about the struggle with stress and burnout from my clients all the time. For example, a workshop participant who worked “part-time” recently described her typical day:
“I get up at 5 am, get online, then wake up the kids, get them ready for school, eat breakfast, make lunches, take them to school and go to work. I work five hours straight through without breaks–since I’m only part-time. Then I leave for school, pick up the kids, take them to a play-date or host one, get back online, make dinner, get the kids ready for bed, get back online or do house chores I couldn’t get to, and go to bed around 11 pm.”
She said all this in front of a male executive, and he looked her incredulously after she finished describing her day, and said, “I would never do that!” Meaning, he would never live his life like that. He didn’t respect the fact that she was essentially working full-time in a part-time position. He also was puzzled by the fact that she managed home, family and work without taking time for herself, to recharge and release stress.
What to do: Eight tips for recharging when you struggle to take time for yourself.
Making time in your life for yourself is critical. It doesn’t always feel possible, but there are things you can do. If taking a vacation this summer is not an option for you, here are some tips to start taking a little bit of time every day to recharge. Start here:
1. Begin to make yourself the priority–even if it’s only for a small amount of time every day.
2. Stop beating yourself up. Silence that critical inner voice that says you have to be perfect.
3. Do something, even something tiny that will make you feel good each day.
4. Make time to rest. Even a few minutes of deep breathing will help.
5. Start meditating. Just five minutes can make a massive difference.
6. Exercise. Walk more, or find a family activity that you can all do together to be active.
7. Begin planning a future vacation. Half the fun is in the planning.
8. Find a colleague to be your “accountability buddy” and keep each other accountable for finding that “You Time.”
A version of this post was first published on Inc.