Retirement Happiness — Make Time for Self-Care

Sometimes the daily schedule is filled with so many activities that it’s difficult to make time for self-care.  When this happens, I’m stressed.  How did a day of retirement pass without enough time for some exercise, for a few moments of gratitude, for journal writing, or for a hobby project? I had an excuse when my work often took 12-14 hours of the day but in retirement, I don’t have an excuse.

In the early days of my career, when I worked as a clinical social worker in a children’s mental health center, my supervisor used to tell me to live by the prostitute’s adage. She described the prostitute’s adage by using this quotation “my love is free — but pay me for my time!” She knew that boundaries and time management were challenges, especially with demanding caseloads.

I learned to set boundaries around the needs of clients and their families who threatened to gobble up extra time.  However, my work always needed more than I felt able to give. Eventually, I learned how to allocate appropriate time for clients and how to protect myself from excessive demands.

Such lessons are easily forgotten. There is no manual that translates clinical lessons into everyday living. Setting boundaries in my own life, especially boundaries related to how to manage the precious 24 hours of every day, has been a continuing challenge.

There is always so much to do.  A former colleague used to describe the many tantalizing options in life by using the comparison of a child in a candy store. With so many fascinating sweet options, the child wants some of every available type of candy.  I have a similar problem when it comes to using time. There are too many choices of interesting things to do and not enough time for everything. Too often self-care gets short shrift.

Common sense tells me that I have 24 hours every day — the same amount of time as anyone else.  To make time for self-care in the busyness of every day requires discipline but pays off with increased happiness.

What is Self-Care?

A simple google search brings up many definitions of self-care.  Most involve doing something positive to take care of yourself. Self-care might be physical, mental, emotional or spiritual.

Self-care is more than self-indulgence — a glass of wine or a piece of chocolate can be self-indulgence. Allowing oneself excessive gratification without limits or restraint is self-indulgence.  Self-care involves nurturing yourself and looking after yourself without guilt.

Active planning and conscious execution are key elements of self-care. Sitting down to unwind in front of the television, while relaxing, may not qualify as self-care while making a conscious choice to spend an evening watching a special movie may be a form of self-care.

Self-care -- Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash
Self-care — Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

Self-care Options

Self-care includes basic choices for well-being such as getting enough sleep, eating nutritious food, and getting regular physical exercise. It involves emotional components such as validating feelings without projecting those feelings on to others. Spiritual practices including prayer or attending religious services are forms of self-care.

Most people benefit from a variety of self-care routines.  In various circumstances, a variety of techniques are needed to re-charge and relax. Sometimes quiet music soothes; on other days, a walk outdoors to enjoy nature quiets the mind. Self-care may involve attending a spiritual retreat, practicing yoga, or taking or a solitary trip. It may involve dancing your body to loud music to shake off a bad mood.

Doing something that brings a sense of accomplishment qualifies as a form of self-care. Making weekly/monthly plans, completing to-do lists, finishing projects — these actions build self-confidence. Completing tasks also brings feelings of fulfillment. What better way to lift your spirits!

Each reader will have a unique approach to self-care as it is a highly personal endeavor.  For some, it’s a warm bubble bath; for others, it’s winning a vigorous game of squash. It may be as simple as two minutes of breath focus or a short period of meditation or a relaxation exercise.

Self-care is not a selfish act. It’s a means of nurturing oneself and listening to needs expressed by the inner voice. Without taking time every day for self-care, how can I expect others to care for me? How do I expect to care for others? Without taking care of my physical and mental health, I can’t be there for friends and family.

Taking responsibility for self-care and making it a priority is a form of loving yourself. The excuse of insufficient time for self-care is a form of resistance.

For a happier retirement, I’m determined to give myself time for daily self-care.  It might be journal writing or taking a walk, or playing the piano, or reading for pleasure. I know that I’m worth the effort it takes!

I’m interested to hear how readers manage self-care. What’s working for you?  Have self-care routines changed since retirement? Do you allocate time for self-care every day?







4 Replies to “Retirement Happiness — Make Time for Self-Care”

  1. Self-care is so important! And in these troubled times, self-care can get pushed to the bottom of the list, if it even makes the list at all! I am grateful for the reminder your post provided. I have felt stressed during the last few weeks, and need to do some self-care right now. Thank you!

    1. Please take time for yourself. Too often when I ignore the things my brain tells me, my body reacts and makes me physically ill. We have many challenges and responsibilities and need the strength of mind, body and spirit to face what’s ahead.
      Be well,

  2. A very timely article for me – thank you!

    Some self care (lunchtime walk) is well established in our routines, but other self care can often fall foul of time mis management. My time mis management was triggered mostly by a set of family “thumps” that lasted nearly two months….and as things calmed, I looked to get my head above water, by constraining family time to between 3pm and 4pm each day. I soon discovered the rumination (not good) and out of hours phone calls and emails and keeping detailed notes would not fit – and so notes have been drastically cut back, and mindfulness is slowly helping to develop coping strategies when the urge to ruminate attacks.

    1. So many things conspire to rob us of precious ‘me’time. I’m always torn about responding to needs of family members. Unfortunately, I sometimes forget that unless I care for myself, I can’t care for others. Good luck with carving boundaries around your family ‘thumps’!

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