Self-care is an important part of maintaining our changes of thought and action. We’ve talked about developing habits of self-talk that reduce the amount of shame and guilt and increase the amount of affirmation and support we provide for ourselves. We’ve also talked about tailoring food and exercise plans to our lifestyle, making them feel good, and making sure we are having fun with the choices we’re making. The reality is that we are definitely making changes, possibly many changes. We might be taking steps to make them fun, but at some level, change is at least a little uncomfortable just because things are different now.
We can ease that discomfort by taking steps to make sure we feel cared for, nurtured, and well rested. It’s important that we provide care, nurturing, and rest for ourselves mentally and emotionally as well as physically.
When we leave self-care in the realm of a good idea, something I really should do, or something I wish I did more often, then it always stays ‘out there’ somewhere.
Self-care never actually happens for us if we don’t take steps to make it a reality. In the same way that we identified different levels of reward, we can identify different levels, or frequencies of self-care. Maybe there are some things you want to do daily, different things you want to do weekly or monthly, and other things that you would do once or twice a year.
Let’s look at some examples of daily self-care. Maybe you want 10 minutes alone and away from people, TV, social media, and phone. Maybe you want to do some light reading for a half hour a day. Maybe you have a favorite show you want to watch without interruptions. What you do for yourself on a daily basis is personal to you.
How are you going to make that happen? What time of day will you set aside for self-care? Is it first thing in the morning, lunchtime, mid-afternoon, or just before bed? You might want to make it a definite time of day, like 9:00 am or simply decide it will be one hour after you wake up. Be sure to allow yourself some flexibility with this. Beware of all or nothing thinking! If your time adjusts from day to day, or if you miss a day, give yourself the grace to pick up your self-care routine the next hour or the next day.
You’ll want to be sure to communicate your intention for self-care to others who live with you. It’s important to have them support you in taking time for yourself, or at the very least, that they don’t sabotage you. You may have to a set a boundary in order for them to understand that you are committed to this time you’ve set aside.
If you live alone, but have a busy schedule, you may have to block this time out and be firm with yourself in not answering phone calls, not looking at the next email that pops in, and not browsing social media or your favorite internet sites. You also have to acknowledge that your self-care routine is important and brings value to you. If you take it lightly, as something I can do ‘anytime,’ then ‘anytime’ never comes. It’s more likely to happen when you make it a priority.
No matter your living situation, the only way daily self-care will actually happen is if you identify what you’re going to do, when you’re going to do it, and commit to practicing it.
What are some things you want to do on a weekly or monthly basis? Maybe it’s a phone call to a friend or family member. Maybe it’s a massage. Maybe it’s lunch with a friend. Maybe it’s a night out for a dinner and a movie.
I want to acknowledge that I’m writing this 18 months into the COVID-19 pandemic. So we might need to get creative where out-of-the-house activities are concerned. But they are still possible to do and necessary to our mental and emotional well-being. It’s too easy to use the pandemic as an excuse to skip the self-care activities that would enhance our lives and increase our joy.
The same scheduling and commitment that we used for daily activities are necessary in order for our weekly and monthly activities to happen. If it’s lunch with a friend, even if that means sharing a meal outside on the patio at one another’s house instead of at a restaurant, when will you do it? Whose house will you meet at? Will you each bring your own food, or will you both contribute to a shared meal? Will you schedule the next lunch date before you leave? Giving your time and attention to all of these details makes it more likely that your self-care has the proper priority and value in your life.
And what about that big thing you do once a year or once every other year? A few years ago I had to make a decision that would have life-changing effects for me. I scheduled a 5-day personal retreat in a neighboring beach town. My week was full of walking, reading, writing, meditating and living with no routine and no one depending on me for anything. While I was there, I thought that I’d like to take a week away every year for centering and just general self-care. I never scheduled it the next year or the next and it hasn’t happened since then.
Now that travel is restricted and the risks of being in an unfamiliar environment are higher, I don’t feel safe taking that kind of trip. And after a year and half of limited interaction with people I’m feeling confined, restricted, and alone. My ability to maintain my habits of positive, self-affirming thought and behavior is wearing thin. I have to wonder how much better off I’d be right now if I had scheduled in those personal retreats when I had the chance.
Now, I have to get creative! What can I do now that would be different from my usual routine? What would restore and renew my energy? What can I organize or gift myself with that would have the same effect as a week away? Maybe this time, instead of being alone, I can figure out how to have more interaction with the people I care about. Instead of a retreat, I need a ‘together.’
Once I figure out how to make the ‘together’ happen, I will have a way to do something ‘big’ for myself with or without leaving home. I’ll also have a no-cost way to do that big, once-a-year event and I can then alternate it from year to year with a trip, vacation, or retreat.
While you’re working on scheduling in your daily, monthly, and yearly self-care, think about what could get in the way of your self-care time. What might happen that would prevent you from carrying through with your plans? If you know ahead of time what usually blocks you, you can plan around those blocks. Again, you’ll find your own way.
No one can tell you what self-care means to you. No one can tell you how to plan it or schedule it. No one can predict what will block you and no one can help you work around the blocks. This is uniquely yours. And that’s the joy of it! You get to decide what to do. You get to decide when to do it. And you get to decide how to make it happen when life happens all around you.
Self-care is essential to maintaining a weight management plan because the desire to achieve and maintain a weigh goal involves change. Also, from our talk about motivation, the desire that lies underneath a change in body size, is the desire to be happier and live a happy life. When we practice regular self-care, our mental attitude is improved. We find it easier to stay out of the negative self-talk that’s always ready to jump in without an invitation whenever our spirits start to droop.
Practicing self-care forms a habit of being good to ourselves. It establishes the fact that we value ourselves on the deepest level possible. We more easily maintain those new habits of positive self-talk, those new habits of movement, and those new habits of food choice when we have a well-established practice of valuing ourselves and taking care of ourselves on a regular basis. We are, in fact, happier when we take care of ourselves.
Before we know it, we realize that weight management is, in fact, self-care. The practice of positive self-talk translates to practices of nourishment and movement like a natural rhythm. What we learn to do mentally becomes the next natural step physically. It becomes effortless. We don’t have to shame ourselves into anything because we are living the life of our own design and our own choice.