Having it all image

Self-care tip: What it really means to “have it all”

Women often hear the message that they should try to “have it all”.1 But what does that mean, and is it even possible?

It all depends on how we define it. Does “having it all” mean juggling a high-powered career with exciting hobbies and a busy family life, all while looking fabulous? That sounds great, but making it happen means spending long hours working, managing family responsibilities, and trying to squeeze in time for yourself. This can be exhausting, leading to stress, burnout, and poor mental health.2

What if there was a different way to have it all? It can be done, if you think of “having it all” as “having what matters”. It’s different for everyone, and you get to define what matters to you.

Here’s how you can start leading a full and meaningful life that reflects what’s important to you:

  1. Set priorities and re-evaluate how you spend your time 

    Setting priorities can help you achieve balance in your life.3 Start by listing a few things that you consider most important such as family, friends, health, spirituality, rewarding work, hobbies, or financial security.

    Now look at how you spend your time and see if it matches what’s important to you. If not, think of changes you could make,4 such as scheduling time for important but non-urgent tasks, saying no to things that don’t fit with your priorities, outsourcing necessary but annoying tasks, and taking short breaks during the week to reflect on your goals.5

  2. Build your support network 

    Just like anyone else, you’ll need some help to achieve your goals, and for that you need a strong support network. This can be an informal group of friends, family, coworkers, or mental health professionals that you can ask for help. 

    Look at the areas where you need help, then think about who could support you.6 You may need someone to talk to about your feelings, provide practical advice, drop off a meal, or help with childcare. To fill holes in your support network, meet new people by taking a class, volunteering, asking friends to introduce you to others, or joining an online community. To keep your support network strong, remember that it goes both ways: nurture relationships where you support each other.7

  3. Don’t forget about self-care 

    Trying to divide your time amongst the things that matter to you may leave you forgetting and even neglecting something very important – yourself. Remember, self-care isn’t selfish; it’s a responsible way to stay healthy and strong so you can be at your best.8 

    Self-care means adding some “healthy rituals” into each day, such as: 

    • Unplugging from social media before bed
    • Going to bed and waking up at the same time each day
    • Eating a healthy breakfast
    • Doing some gentle stretches or yoga
    • Chatting with a friend or family member
    • Taking a short walk outdoors
    • Setting aside “me time” to do something you enjoy8,9

As your life changes, your priorities may change with it. Check in every now and then to see if you should rethink how you spend your time or add new supports to your network. To help keep an eye on your mental health, try the mental health self-check tool.

So, can you have it all? If this means living a balanced life that fits with your priorities, then the answer is yes. If you take stock of what really matters to you, build a support network, and check in on your mental health from time to time, you can have everything that matters to you.

The information provided is for personal use, reference and education only and is not intended to be a substitute for a physician’s other healthcare provider’s advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult your healthcare professional for specific information on personal health matters. ®/TM 911979 Alberta Ltd. ©2018 Shoppers Drug Mart Inc.


  1. Slaughter, Anne Marie. “Why women still can’t have it all.” The Atlantic. https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2012/07/why-women-still-cant-have-it-all/309020/(accessed March 5, 2019).
  2. “Stress.” Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH). https://www.camh.ca/en/health-info/mental-illness-and-addiction-index/stress(accessed March 6, 2019).
  3. Nazish, Noma. “Five simple steps for creating balance in your life.” Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/nomanazish/2017/10/24/five-simple-steps-for-creating-balance-in-your-life/#7d86e49b149a(accessed March 6, 2019).
  4. “Figure out what’s important to you.” Action for happiness. https://www.actionforhappiness.org/take-action/figure-out-whats-important-to-you(accessed March 6, 2019).
  5. Vozza, Stephanie. “This is how you should be prioritizing your work and life.” Fast Company. https://www.fastcompany.com/40552870/this-is-how-you-should-be-prioritizing-your-work-and-life(accessed March 6, 2019).
  6. “Social support: tap this tool to beat stress.” Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/social-support/art-20044445(accessed March 6, 2019).
  7. “Social support.” Canadian Mental Health Association. https://cmha.ca/documents/social-support(accessed March 6, 2019).
  8. “Self-care information.” CAMH. https://www.camh.ca/-/media/images/camhxhbc/game-changers-self-care-infosheet.pdf?la=en&hash=8167B8D823FFEA98857CB4A306BD06A5F950B5D3(accessed March 6, 2019).
  9. “What is self-care?” International Self-Care Foundation. http://isfglobal.org/what-is-self-care/(accessed March 6, 2019).