Recently, in finding myself challenged by what felt like an excessive workload, staff-challenges and unexpected events triggering fear and anxiety, I knew I needed to take care of me — because if I didn’t, I would be even less able to step through each day with grace and calm.
Now, there are a lot of ways to give yourself loving self-care — and I emphasize the ‘loving’ because it’s easy in times of stress to fall into a pattern of convincing yourself self-care includes doing things that aren’t that healthy — like skipping your workout or vegging out in front of mindless TV eating foods doused with saturated fats and sugar! There’s nothing wrong with watching TV but it’s important to be mindful of the ‘why and what’ of your behaviour; and raw carrots will always trump potato chips on the good for you scale!
Which is the first step to take on the journey to loving self-care:
Step 1: Get conscious of your patterns.
I have a pattern when feeling an overload of stress to want to veg and graze. My critter mind wants me to believe it’s okay. I ‘deserve’ a break. Giving myself a break to indulge in unhealthy patterns of behaviour is the last thing I need in those situations. All unhealthy self-care does is make me feel more sluggish served with a good dollop of guilt on top. With consciousness comes awareness and the ability to make choices that change my choices for the good.
Step 2: Reframe the proposition.
Too often we tell ourselves we have no choice, it’s just the way we are. Yet, the choice to not give yourself loving self-care and instead to choose self-indulgence is exactly that — a CHOICE.
Critter-mind is strong. It loves to override conscious thought with its sinister pleas to just give in, this once (like seriously. just this once), to its calling you to act out. When conscious of your critter-mind’s plots to undermine your well-being – Stop. Breathe and instead of focussing on self-indulgence and convincing yourself how what is bad for you is good, reframe it. Before indulging in negative self-care repeat 10x (write it out if it helps):
I choose to treat myself with LOVING self-care for the benefit of….. (not feeling guilty, having more energy, filling my well, being proud of me…)
Focus on the benefits of taking loving care of yourself by taking a pause between the thought and the action.
Step 3: Take your finger off the trigger.
Take a look at your triggers. Does TV automatically make you want to reach for the sugars and/or fats? Does it automatically cause you to go mindless?
Then unplug the TV. If it’s in a central area of your home, move it to a room with a door that you can close. And if it’s in your bedroom, get it out.
Taking your finger off the trigger means removing the objects with the trigger.
And yes, it’s hard work. But don’t you deserve the benefits?
Step 4: Stop the chitter-chatter.
Critter mind is an endless stream of chitter-chatter. That’s its nature. Stopping it takes a conscious decision to not listen. I’m not saying it’s easy. I am saying, Yes, you can. Stop the chatter. You have that power.
Imagine you have a stop sign in your mind. A thought about why you don’t need to go to the gym or eat a banana instead of a cookie enters. Quickly. Put up your stop sign in your mind. or Imagine your hand goes up automatically in front of the thought and your inner voice says, Talk to the Hand. Keep doing it every time the chitter-chatter ramps up. Believe me. Critter-mind will get the point of who’s boss — and in case you’re wondering — You are the boss of you!
Step 5: Baby steps.
It can feel daunting to think about breaking a pattern of negative behaviour that your critter mind has convinced you is good for you. Baby steps are important. If you get one night in without giving into the desire to veg and graze, celebrate your progress. Be cautious, celebrating doesn’t mean giving into the urge the next night. It means giving yourself some congratulatory self-talk and building on the first baby-step with the next baby-step (or leap) towards shifting the pattern. If your habit is to veg and graze 5 nights of the week, start with limiting it to 4 the first week, then 3 the next, then 2 and if you dare, 1 or none!
Baby steps shorten the distance between NOT taking care and TAKING caring of yourself. And every step towards loving self-care counts.
As you take steps towards loving care, let me know how you’re doing. I am on this path with you. I am shifting my patterns from the negative to the positive, from the dark side to the light.
And don’t forget, if you trip-up or fall off the path, loving self-care means you don’t beat yourself up. You simply, Begin again.
Always Begin Again.