“There are days I drop words of comfort on myself like falling leaves and remember that it is enough to be taken care of by myself.” – Brian Andreas
Traditionally, September brings a breath of fresh air, as the intensity of summer’s heat gives way to chilly mornings, nature changes her attire, shedding the bright shades of spring growth to rich autumnal hues, and students begin a new school year, full of promise and opportunity for a fresh start. In these ways, September can feel more like the start of a new year than January.
September is also Self-care Awareness month. Self-care is hard to come by these days, with the stresses of the global pandemic and the impact of its constant demands, the timing is right for a fresh start – starting with yourself. It seems counterintuitive, but the best time to relax and focus on your own self-care, is when you realize you don’t have time to, or you haven’t been making time to.
The practice of making a resolution at the start of the new year, to adopt healthier habits or stop unhealthy ones, is a tradition that has been going on for centuries. Eating healthier and getting more exercise are two of the most common resolutions. But studies show that by February 80% of new year resolutions have failed.
Why do resolutions fail at such staggering rates? Negative self-talk will convince us it’s due to sabotage and a lack of self-discipline. Negativity and sabotage are in direct conflict with self-care. It’s no wonder we need a month, midway, to remind us to take care of ourselves.
This month, consider taking a fresh approach to self-care resolutions, after all, you only have one you, one life to experience, one life to share with others, so treat yourself like the worthy investment that you are. Instead of focusing on the negative, take a more caring and positive approach for lasting results.
Be kind to yourself and start with small nurturing changes, focus on positive outcomes, be specific in what you will do and how it will benefit you, then track and celebrate your progress.
Be kind to you
Think about one area of your life that you have been neglecting. There are perhaps a few, but be kind and start with one to focus on for a few weeks. Research tells us that small changes can yield big benefits and more lasting results.
Once you have identified the area of self-care that you will focus on, next think about an activity that brings you joy. For example if being more active is an area of self-care that you want to focus on, but exercising inside has not worked for you in the past, and you know that you love being active while outdoors, then choose an activity that brings you outdoors.
And remember, small changes yield lasting results; you don’t have to initiate a rigorous training program like running a half marathon to realize benefits. A brisk walk at lunch or after dinner can help improve your focus as well as your blood sugar levels, and leave you feeling better at the end of the day so you sleep well at night.
Focus on positive outcomes
When adopting your self-care routine, focus on the positive outcome instead of what you’re giving up. For the example of being more active and adding a walk to your routine, instead of thinking about what you’re giving up, think about the way the positive results will make you feel. For example, “I want to feel less stiff throughout the day and wake up more refreshed.” While a daily walk will help you realize that goal, it’s far more motivating to focus on what you’ll gain from the activity, than the task of the activity.
When incorporating a new self-care practice into your routine, be specific in what that behavior will be and how often you will perform it. Instead of “I need to be more active,” which is broad and difficult to commit to and track progress, set a specific goal, such as walking 30 minutes during lunch at least four days each week.
When you set a specific goal of an observable behavior, you can track your progress. Mark the days that you walk on a calendar or write them down in a journal. If you miss meeting your goal, that’s okay, don’t sabotage your progress with negative self-talk. Be patient with your process, and give yourself grace and a little pep talk. Think of a baby taking her first steps, when she stumbles, we don’t scold her, we encourage her to keep at it.
When you do meet or exceed your self-care goals, celebrate and lean into your positive results to keep your momentum going.
This September, adopt a fresh approach to self-care. Pick one small investment in yourself, something that you enjoy, then stick with it for a few weeks before committing to another change. New routines are easier to adopt and sustain one at a time. You may just discover that making a small change of investing in yourself in one area of your life, will also bring gains in other areas.
Blog Post Written by Kathleen Donnelly