Are you a victim of the self-care/self-neglect roller coaster? It starts when you find yourself in the cranky, bitchy, worn down, exhausted world of self neglect. And each time it happens you resolve to make changes so it never happens again. You change your diet, maybe go to bed earlier, start an exercise regimen and begin meditating – ALL AT ONCE -> Then life creeps in, and you’re eating on the run again, pulling late nighters, skipping your daily walks while reducing your meditation practice to three deep breaths in the morning. .. Most likely those three deep breaths are the only deep breaths you take all day.
If you have been on the self-care/self-neglect roller coaster more than once, you’re probably really frustrated. What’s the point right? … If you’re going to end up back where you started, maybe 10 pounds heavier and still no richer or relaxed for all your efforts. It is a maddening, vicious cycle. Maybe you learn a few things about yourself along the way, but wouldn’t it be great if you could break the cycle and begin a consistent self-care program which sustains you through the ups and downs in your life?
Let’s face it, if you have been inconsistent with your self-care, you probably struggle with consistency in other areas of your life. It’s ok. The truth is that many people are just not designed to be consistent. That doesn’t mean that your self-care program can’t be sustainable and successful. Let’s explore three ways that you can begin to build consistency into your self-care even if you aren’t….
Make it Automatic
The less you do “by hand”, the easier it will be to build a strong sustainable self-care foundation. Let’s say that you want to start getting regular massages. Instead of getting one massage and then waiting until you feel like you need another before you call to get the next appointment, why not set up appointments in advance at regular intervals? If you don’t already have that next massage scheduled you may never get it. And if you do actually get the next one when you need it, think about all the energy you waste trying to figure out when to do it and then finding time to. Chances are, by the time you need it your schedule is already overbooked with other things.
The time when you need to de-stress is usually when you feel like you don’t have the time to do it. If you build it into your schedule automatically, you can always change and move it. But if it’s never there in the first place it’s 10 times harder to add it later. The same holds true for vacations, retreats, exercise, meditation, dentist and doctors appointments, and even meals (if you have a habit of forgetting to eat).
Another way be automate your self-care program is to add in self-nurturing practices to already existing rituals and routines. If you may feel like your life doesn’t have a routine look a little closer. If you brush your teeth, wash your face and dress yourself before you go outside in the morning, that’s a structured routine. What can you add to those predictable patterns to enhance your well-being and self-care? Could you listen to something inspirational? Could you do affirmations while brushing your hair?
Start with One Thing
One of the big mistakes that people make is to try to establish too many new habits at once. One small change can affect every area of your life. An example of this is when I made a small tweak in my night time routine. I start to move toward bed when the sun begins to set. That doesn’t mean that I hop in my pajamas and go off to sleep before 9:00 pm. I just made a tiny shift in mindset to begin to wrap up the day’s projects as the day comes to an end. So instead of working into the evening, I order my priorities so that the most important stuff gets done first. It has affected everything I do, because I look at my to-do list through the lens of this different rhythm. Because I am one of the few people on the planet without sustainable work energy, the focus on this “one thing” has allowed me to make the most of the energy I do have through better time management and a higher quality of rest.
Your one thing to focus upon may be different. It may be to wake up 15 minutes earlier, or to read to your child every evening. Whatever it is, notice how other things in your life reorder themselves around one simple change. Once you have that mastered, move on to another thing that you can easily establish, with a little practice, into your self-care system.
Stick with It
It takes on average 21 – 30 days to make an activity a habit. It takes even longer to make a string of habits a lifestyle. Some things you try may work for you. You may need to modify others or drop them altogether. The point is to continue with an activity long enough to see if it makes a positive difference in your life… and if it does keep it up until it becomes an automatic part of your lifestyle.
It’s nearly impossible for most people to consistently stick with something new without the help of other people. Most of us are not hard-wired with willpower … or the will to continue to work at something when we don’t immediately see results. Use your friends or a coach or a mentor or anyone who gets you, as a substitute for willpower. If they’re not going to shoot you down and care enough to ask how you’re doing when they see you, then they can be an informal accountability partner. Take the risk to tell a few people about the simple change that you’re making, so that you can come back and report on your progress. Remember, especially if they’re just casual friends, that you’re not overwhelming them with too much information. You’re telling them a little bit about that one thing you’re changing. You will be far more likely to stick with it if you know that someone may ask you about it in the future.
What are some of the things you’re already doing to make your self-care program a success? Please post in the comments below…
This is the beginning of a series on self-care which will bring you insights and practical tools to help you improve and refine your personal self-care practices. Your well-being must be your priority if you want to have a joyful and vibrant life, and your self-care program is your foundation.