Living In The Cracks: Prioritizing Self-Care

Self-care probably seems like just another buzzword to you. In the daily grind of work and life and family, taking time to “treat yo self” might seem frivolous. But that’s where we need to rethink what self-care actually means. It’s not just about pampering yourself but about making sure that you have the stamina and joy you need to see you through countless mundane or stressful to-dos. It’s about putting on your own oxygen mask first.

Fair enough, you may be thinking, but how exactly do you propose I do that? Have you seen my life??  Well, let me just say, I’m right there with you. Life can be overwhelming. So how on Earth are such incredibly busy people supposed to find time for something like self-care? I like to call it, “living in the cracks.”

If you’ve ever been even one conference, you’ve probably been forced to take part in the ritual Icebreaker. One famous icebreaker asks participants to take a pile of walnuts and fit them all into a large jar that’s half-filled with rice. Try as they might, nobody is able to fit all the walnuts in. Usually at this point, the moderator pulls out an empty mason jar, fills it with the walnuts, and then pours the rice in slowly, allowing the grains to filter down through the spaces between the nuts. Eventually, everything fits. The takeaway is clear: get the big things in place first,  and the rest will follow.

Except life doesn’t really work out that way, does it? We prioritize the big things, and somehow they just get bigger and bigger while the little things–our own personal bags of rice–are left sitting there on the counter. Or even worse: we genuinely have too many big things, so something gets left out, and it feels easiest to ignore our own needs or pretend they don’t exist.  But self-care happens to be a big thing that a lot of other big things rely on. So how do we fit it into the jar? This is where “living in the cracks” comes in.

Nobody said the walnut had to be in one piece.

You may not have an extra hour to go to the gym, or to get a pedicure, or meditate, or take a bath with a glass of wine, but you do have 10 or even just 5 random minutes at many points throughout the day. You may not be able to do 50 sit-ups at a time, but you can do 10 sit-ups 5 times a day! You can paint two toenails at a time, and at the end of the day your feet will be done. The question isn’t, “Do you have the time?” The question is, “Where is the time located?”

But wait a minute, you say, I need my breaks! Isn’t skipping breaks the opposite of self-care?  Only if you think of self-care as another chore. Instead, think of it as a treat, and pick easy-to-accomplish treats that you actually can do while you relax. Of course, sometimes you just need to chill; but if you start developing a habit of self-care during break times, you’ll be surprised at how much better you feel.

So start thinking. What are some little ways that you can show yourself some love without adding one more thing to the pile? Take 5 minutes tonight and set those up for tomorrow. Make yourself a priority, and everything else will fall into place.

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