The number one frustration that I hear as a block to self-care is that there is not enough time in the day. As a culture in the midst of overwhelm and "time poverty", the daily to-do list becomes so long that the meditation, exercise, food preparation or whatever else you wanted to do for yourself often remains unchecked at the bottom of the page. How can you possibly fit it in? For starters, being more focused and productive at your work tasks (whether in the home or outside) can free up space and create the experience of more time in your day.
But, how can you be more productive when you are already working at your maximum capacity? The counter-intuitive answer is to take breaks! Multiple studies have shown that taking quick and efficient recovery breaks can restore your focus, improve your mental health and bring you back to your full capacity.
If you have some control over your time, one proposed schedule is a 90-minute work block (or a variation that works for you). This is based on natural cyclical patterns within the body called “ultradian rhythms”. After about 80-120 minutes, our energy levels start to wane and we need rest to recover (1). If we ignore this cycle, we turn on our sympathetic nervous system and release stress hormones or ingest caffeine and excess sugar to sustain our energy.
Now, these short breaks need to be non-taxing and enjoyable (not other items on the to-do list!). Here are some examples for restoration:
Honoring our body rhythms and taking short breaks can naturally improve our energy level, speed and concentration. Thus, we are effectively creating more time in our day for the "non-essential" tasks that often leave us feeling our best and bring the most joy. Give it a try and see...
(1) Work by Nathaniel Kleitman
(2) 2012 Japanese study by Hiroshi Nittono, PhD, and colleagues in PLOS One