Putting Self-Care Tips into Practice in a Sustainable Way

With all the information out there regarding self-care, it is easy to become misguided, anxious, and confused about where to start, or what is the best way to go about it. Self-care is doing what is nurturing for your body and soul and caring for your whole self in a way that will allow you to sustain through the tasks and challenges of life, as well as be more resilient to stressors. Resiliency is a necessary component of overcoming stress, successfully learning to implement healthy coping skills to difficult situations, and to build higher emotional intelligence. Resilience is also necessary to sustain wellness in a way that allows you to grow, thrive, and weather the storms it takes to blaze a path of change in the world.

As mentioned in previous articles, a great tool to use to consider self-care is the Self-Care Wheel, by Olga Phoenix. The Self-Care Wheel breaks down self-care into six different parts, including physical, emotional, spiritual, psychological, spiritual, and personal. Each section of the diagram lists examples of ways to nurture your self-care in the different areas. Treating self-care as an individual practice is necessary in finding what makes you thrive and enables you to live authentically instead of chained to the opinions of others. The more that you allow yourself to nurture the different areas of who you are with the things that are unique to what you need and enjoy, the more satisfied you will feel in your life. We also boost our confidence in our ability to manage difficult situations and change, as well as to help others when we are called to do so.

It can feel utterly overwhelming to practice skills, let alone schedule the time to practice or even think about self-care. If we are having self-defeating, automatic thoughts that are all or nothing in nature, we will struggle with this one in particular. Things cannot go from non-existent or sparse to perfect overnight, and it is unreasonable to think this would be the case. Making sure we are keeping our expectations within reach is an important key to success. We can make anything more attainable by using task analysis, or simply put, breaking it down into the smaller steps it takes to complete a task. This can be useful for a variety of reasons, including, helping us organize overwhelming tasks, reduce distraction and improve our ability to finish a task, and reduce anxiety around procrastination and finishing difficult tasks. Breaking things down into smaller steps that are easier to achieve has another important purpose, as well.

When we are feeling defeated because we are unable to achieve our goals or get motivated to complete the tasks that we need to get done, it takes a toll on our mental health, and it also impacts all areas of life because of the fallout it creates when we do not get things done. It can disappoint those close to us and ourselves, which can trigger even more difficult emotions and negative thoughts about ourselves. Using task analysis to break goals down into smaller, achievable steps helps us boost the reward circuitry in our brain and stick to our goals easier since we are actually successful at implementing new behaviors and strategies. This is an important, and often overlooked step in behavioral change because it is easier to stick with old thinking that we should be able to do things with ease or we are failing. Or perhaps there are thoughts in your mind of not being able to do things you know would be healthy for you because the situation has gotten too out of hand to get better.  The more that we take a problem and break it down into smaller steps, the more successful we will be in solving it, sticking to our goals, and feeling better about ourselves and our abilities in the process.

When it comes to physical self-care, some useful and practical ways to break tasks down into smaller steps could also be combined with behavioral activation. Behavioral Activation is the process of starting to engage in a behavior before you are motivated to do so. If your goal is to walk an hour a day, five days a week, and you are unable to leave your house because of low motivation, you could task out the goal into small, measurable steps like putting on your walking shoes, or opening up your door and going outside daily. Once you did this, you could take the next step toward meeting that goal, such as walking around your house, or your yard. Other small goals centered around physical self-care include doing one pushup a day, doing one three-second plank, one squat, and so on. Taking one step is better than taking none, and we are often motivated to continue because we feel rewarded for being successful in meeting our goals. This, in turn, helps us continue to set goals and as we do, it gets a little easier each time.

Success does not come over night and it can be a frustrating path. As you are practicing behavioral activation and task analysis, it is important to be kind to yourself. Using self-affirmations that you repeat to yourself, put around your house or workspace, and engaging in mindfulness exercises, and focused planning on your goals can help support success in overcoming your challenges and achieving your goals, as well. This process can be used in the other areas of self-care, also. You can create any mini habit your mind can dream up toward meeting a goal and the more steps you take the more momentum you will build toward the end result.

© September 22, 2021

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