Several years ago, I received a speeding ticket while rushing to get to my regular yoga class. The class was important to me as it was part of my self-care regimen.
The combination of poor planning plus an inability to accept that I just wasn’t going to make it to class that day brought me to an important realization: self-care, or at least a hyper-focus on a self-care routine, can sometimes become counter-productive.
How Important Is Self-Care?
Self-care is essential for reducing stress and all its associated problems, both physical and mental.
That said, not everyone understands what it really is and many people aren’t sure what to do.
Here are a few places to start:
Dr. Kristen Neff offers some great advice in her book, Self Compassion. Her TED talks are also helpful. Guy Winch’s, Emotional First Aid, is another book that I recommend as well as his TED talks. For some further reading, I recommend this piece on self-care in the digital age and this list of self-care ideas.
Creating your own self-care regimen will help you to develop and maintain positive mental health and wellness.
You’ve Got This!
Self-care for ourselves or others can be deliberate and planned, but often we’ve already built some self-care into our daily routines. Going to the movies, talking to a close friend, or taking time to read a book can all be acts of self-care.
Self-Care vs. Self-Sabotage
Sometimes, we find ourselves avoiding discomfort by hiding under the guise of self-care. It can often prevent us from showing up, growing up, and increasing our self-efficacy and self-esteem. For example, is it self-care or avoidance if you take a break from study during finals? It’s a trick question, really, because it could be both.
On one hand, a break will give you some much-needed respite so that you can regroup and come back to your study with fresh eyes. On the other hand, too many breaks or breaks that last too long can be procrastination. It’s important to remember that avoidance keeps you stuck and prevents you from connecting to your feelings.
Ask Yourself: Is This Self-Care or Avoidance?
If the activity feels nourishing, helps you grow, and moves you forward towards your goal, it is self-care. If it takes you away from your goal, then it’s avoidance. Using techniques such as mindfulness can help you to acknowledge your feelings, and understand rather than avoid them.
Make 2019 the year you fine-tune your self-care routine (and avoid nasty surprises like speeding tickets).
We thought so!
A time of change can be a great time to learn a new skill or kick an old habit.
Our therapist, Jaylin Bradbury MSW RSW, shares her top three tips to help you stick with your plan!
1. Don’t do it alone – Having a friend, family member, or colleague with a similar goal can help keep you feeling motivated and accountable!
2. Keep it real – Pick a goal that is realistic and meaningful. Consider the changes you’ve maintained before and what made them work. If needed, break your overall goal into smaller, more attainable tasks.
3. Make the alternative a lot harder – if you’re serious about making a change, set up a negative consequence if you go back on your plan. Having a cigarette or skipping a night at the gym is suddenly a lot harder to justify when you’ve promised to give money to a rival sports team or political party each time you go back on your goal.
Often times we think of habits as being negative: nail-biting, skipping breakfast, or binge-watching Netflix. However, the power of habits can be used for good.
Imagine making a habit of flossing your teeth regularly, cleaning 15-minutes every day, or making your bed before you leave for work . . .
Take it one step further: imagine clearing your inbox every day, studying a language, or finally running that half-marathon you’ve always wanted to run.
The secret behind highly successful people is good habits—things that require hard work, discipline, and consistency. Grit, we know, is the key to success. As psychologists have learned, successful people are not always the smartest; they’re simply the ones who are willing to show up every day and put in the work.
So, how do those of us who don’t have the natural tendency for grit force ourselves to form a good habit? First, by understanding the process, and then by holding ourselves accountable.
Just like with most things, we have to understand the stages of forming good habits:
1. The Honeymoon Stage –
Just like with relationships, starting a new routine/habit may feel easy, exciting, and like no work is required. While it does have an expiry date, the feel-good beginning is crucial to getting you to commit. Use the enthusiasm to your advantage.
2. The Follow-Through –
As the inspiration wanes, it’s important to do the following:
- Recognize that you’re in the fighting stage.
- Ask yourself two things: “If I continue this, how will I feel?” and “If I stop this, how will I feel?” Let your own response be your motivator to continue.
- Envision the Future: If you’re still struggling, think about your life 2, 3, even 4 years from now. If you’ve continued with this habit, how do you think your life will look? Will you be better for it?
3. Second Nature –
After a while, you’ll find you’re in the rhythm of whatever habit you’ve tried to form. You’re bound to come across uncertainty, disruptions, and the illusion that you don’t need to continue your habit; if you start to falter, revisit the questions you asked yourself in step 2.
The second-half to habit forming is accountability.
To complement your journey, here are our Top 5 recommendations for goal-setting apps:
- coach.me app – A free habit tracking app to help you create and build good habits.
- committo3.com – Daily Focus, Accountability and Success. Achieve daily goals with support from your peers.
- productiveapp.io – Has all the tools you need to build a routine of positive, life-changing habits.
- streaksapp.com – A to-do list that helps you form good habits.
- thefabulous.co – A simple yet beautiful scientific-based coach that helps you to reach your health and productivity goals.
Depending on your goal/desired habit, you’ll find yourself surrounded by thousands of others who are working toward the same things and the possibility of having coaches along the way.
Simply open one of these apps, check in on your habit, and work hard towards becoming a better you.