No Time for Self-Care? Think Smaller…

IMPORTANT: This blog is not a substitute for therapy, but provides evidenced-based education for the purposes of self-help, or to compliment the therapeutic process. ​ ​This blog is non-monetized.

Most people are already familiar with the concept of self-care. Self-care generally refers to those activities we engage in that refuel our bodies, minds, and spirit or “refill our cup.” Studies show that when we carve out time for rest and relaxation, we are even more engaged and productive in our work, which supports the idea that rest is just as productive as work. 

We know how important regular self-care is and we are constantly reminded when burnout rears its ugly head, how taking care of ourselves first, supports us in taking care of other things and other people in our life. However, many people still find it difficult to put that time aside every day and put themselves first.

Including me!
Something I always try to be aware of is when I am convincing myself that I don’t have time for myself, this is usually when I know I need it the most. Having this thought is my warning sign and an indication for me to stop and take that needed break.

I realize it is not always easy for everyone to take out a chunk of their day or week for self-care. Not everyone has the resources, money, time or even effort sometimes to make this possible. We can’t always take off a day of work, plan a vacation or even get that one hour in our own homes due to children and other responsibilities. 

Although self-care should be prioritized, it’s always easier said than done. 
One solution to implementing a more consistent self-care routine is practicing “micro self-care.” This is a condensed version of our normal self-care routines. Engaging in small habits and implementing less time-consuming rituals throughout the day can be just as effective as the bigger things like taking vacations and days off. 

It’s always the small stuff and the small changes that can make the biggest difference in our life, relationships, and well-being.

​Small self-care rituals can accumulate over time and are often a lot more sustainable than the bigger things. It is okay if you can’t do an hour of self-care. Five minutes or even one minute is better than nothing, and those couple of minutes implemented a few times a day can really add up. 

What are ‘micro-breaks’?

Results from a study on the effectiveness of microbreaks at work found that taking any break in between work tasks increased energy and attention, and reduced fatigue. It also found one-minute tasks were just as effective as longer breaks (5-10 minutes).

​The study’s results further indicated that the appraisal of the activity as enjoyable was more important than the activity itself. So, engaging in a detachment activity like watching a funny video or engaging in something else you find enjoyable can help lower fatigue, increase vigour, and increase attention as reported by participants in this study. Other studies show that microbreaks where people engaged in social and relaxation activities were beneficial.

​It also found that short inspiring videos could increase employees’ energy levels by reminding them of the good things in life and helped them experience more meaning in their work.

Here’s some other examples of things you can do in 5 minutes or less:

  • 5 minutes to mindfully make your bed in the morning. 
  • 5 minutes to write out all your thoughts in a journal before you start your day and dump out all those thoughts to start your day fresh.
  • 5 minutes of stretching or yoga poses. 
  • 2-3 minutes of listening, singing or dancing to your favourite song.
  • 5 minutes of deep mindful breathing. 
  • 5 minutes of lathering a relaxing scented cream like lavender on your body. 
  • 5 minutes to mentally disengage from the task you’re doing by reading a short article on a topic you enjoy or watching an inspiring or funny video – check out these Talks to watch when you need five minutes of peace.
  • 5 minute check-in with a friend (This one may require you to set some boundaries).
  • 5 minutes of playing an instrument you enjoy.
  • 5 minutes to play with a pet.  ​

If you did all these activities in one day, you’re looking at over 45 minutes of self-care!

Any of these activities can be completed in the morning, after work, during your lunch break, or before you go to bed. Self-care activities are not going to look the same for everyone, so it is about finding what works for you, what you enjoy and what feels like you’re taking care of yourself. 

To find yours, think about those days where you have felt your best or when you feel the most relaxed, refreshed and at peace.

What were you doing? 
How can you fit this in to your day?

The goal is to build a collection of small, repetitive rituals and implement these changes in creating effective and sustainable forms of self-care. Anything that you can do in a few minutes that can keep you refreshed throughout your day all week. It is also important to still engage in the larger or macro forms of self-care when you can but starting small can help increase your well-being and motivation in between.

Something important to remember is that self-care is more than a collection of actions or activities. You can engage in these rituals, but you must also work on internalizing and believing that you are deserving of a break, rest, relaxation, and pleasure. This is not an easy mindset to embrace and takes a lot of practice and consistent nurturing. It also requires awareness and attention to how we view this concept.

​We have likely been taught otherwise by a hustle-driven society, and there are so many variables that can threaten this. You really want to bring that intention into your self-care routine and practice that just as much as the activities themselves.

​Even if you have to repeat an affirmation from time to time…

Self-care is not selfish. You deserve this! 

Interested in more? 

Our main Resources page has many links to helpful local support groups/programs, and even a FREE self-compassion meditation. 

​If you prefer talking to a human to help find the right therapist for you,
Call 905-584-8963,
or email
(You can expect a reply within 24-48 hours, Mon-Fri, during regular business hours).

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More articles by Julia:


Bennett, A. A. (2015). Take five? Examining the impact of microbreak duration, activities, and appraisals on human energy and performance. Virginia Commonwealth University.
Janicke-Bowles, S. H., Rieger, D., & Connor, W. (2019). Finding meaning at work: The role of inspiring and funny YouTube videos on work-related well-being. Journal of Happiness Studies20(2), 619-640.
Kim, S., Park, Y., & Niu, Q. (2016). Micro-break activities at work to recover from daily work demands. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 38(1), 28–44.doi:10.1002/job.2109

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Picture of Julia D'Addurno, H.BA, MACP

Julia D'Addurno, H.BA, MACP

Registered Psychotherapist (qualifying) Julia is a Registered Psychotherapist (qualifying) with Dig A Little Deeper and also completed her graduate training with us.  Julia completed a double major undergraduate degree in Psychology and Creative Writing, before enrolling in her Masters program to become a Psychotherapist, and enjoys using her creative skills to bring mental health awareness & healing to her readers.

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