Consistent self-care can be hard. It requires us to look at our lives, find what’s not working, and make concrete changes. And it’s an ongoing process.
It can feel like our need for self-care is in direct competition with other things in our lives. Work, family, and other responsibilities can make regular self-care a challenge.
Yet, if we don’t do it, those areas of our lives, along with our wellbeing, suffer.
So, how do we make sure we’re caring for ourselves correctly? Keep reading to learn how to create a self-care routine that’ll last.
It’s important to decide which elements of self-care are the most important to us right now. In an ideal world, we could completely makeover our lives all at once. But daily responsibilities and energy levels don’t allow for this.
To determine what we need to focus on, we can make a list of the top 10 improvements we’d like to make. Then, we can rank each item from 1 to 10, most to least important.
We can start by choosing the top two areas for improvement. This doesn’t mean the rest of the list should be ignored forever. We can focus on additional items once we’ve successfully started the top two.
Prioritizing our needs stops us from becoming overwhelmed and overcommitted. It also allows us to imagine a new and improved future more clearly.
Once we’ve narrowed down the areas of self-care we want to improve, we should think about why. Identifying our reasons for change will help us stay motivated when our goals become difficult.
If we don’t know why we want to do something, we’re less likely to follow through. This is also true if all of our reasons are external.
If our goal is to start working out, we may be driven by wanting to be seen as attractive. This is fine, but if it’s our only reason then our motivation will always rely on others’ opinions. When the external motivator is gone, we won’t be driven to pursue our goal.
When we find internal reasons (e.g., wanting to be healthy, reduce stress, or challenge ourselves) we’re more likely to stay committed.
Once we recognize our desire for positive change, it can be tempting to try to do everything at once. We may feel so excited and eager to reach our ideal self, that our goals become too lofty and rushed.
We may immediately commit to working out at 5 am for two hours, five days per week. This is a pretty intense schedule for beginners and is likely more than we can handle at first.
If we’re unable to reach our unrealistic goals, in the beginning, we may get discouraged and give up.
To avoid this, it’s better to start slow. We should consider how much time and energy we can spare. Instead of overcommitting to a grueling workout schedule, we can start with one day per week for 20 minutes.
Working out once is great. But we won’t meet our fitness goals if we don’t do it regularly. A lot of factors can hurt our ability to be consistent.
Self-doubt and criticism, competing priorities, the difficulty of the task, and unclear goals may lead to inconsistency.
If we don’t believe in our ability to get fit, it’ll be difficult to convince ourselves to work out. If we put off exercising to work late, or avoid it because working out is hard, we won’t reach our fitness goals.
This is why it’s important to break our goals into mini-goals. If our overall goal is to lift weights five days per week to gain muscle and strength, we can break it into mini-goals:
Time Frame: 6 months.
Month 1: Learn to do five pushups, sit-ups, and squats with bodyweight only.
Month 2: Sign up for a gym membership and hire a personal trainer. Learn the fundamental strength training exercises.
Month 3: Go to the gym twice per week. Do a full-body workout using the fundamental exercises.
Month 4: Go to the gym three times per week. Do a full-body workout using the fundamental exercises.
Month 5: Learn additional, body-specific exercises. Go to the gym four days per week.
- Day 1: Chest and triceps.
- Day 2: Back and biceps
- Day 3: Rest
- Day 4: Legs
- Day 5: Shoulders/arms/abs
- Days 6 and 7: Rest
Month 6: Learn additional, body part-specific exercises. Go to the gym 5 days per week.
- Day 1: Chest
- Day 2: Legs
- Day 3: Back
- Day 4: Shoulders and arms
- Day 5: Core and cardio
Whenever we reach a mini-goal, it’s important that we reward ourselves. Recognizing our achievements helps us stay motivated, and gives us something to look forward to.
We can even determine the reward when we set our mini-goals. This way, we know exactly what reward we’ll get when we succeed.
Our reward can be whatever we like, as long as we do it in moderation. The first thing that typically comes to mind is junk food. But others may include:
- Watching a favorite tv show or movie
- Taking ourselves out on a date
- Spending time in nature
- Reading a good book
- Buying something we’ve been saving for
- Going out for a drink with friends
Other people can help keep us on track to our goals. It can be useful to get an accountability partner who has pursued a similar goal.
Here are some reasons accountability partners are useful:
- They can give us valuable, experience-based advice
- They can encourage us when we are struggling with our goals, and help re-motivate us so we don’t quit.
- They can offer a fresh perspective when we’re stuck.
- They can celebrate our success with us
- They can give us honest feedback
Self-care isn’t always easy, but it’s necessary. When we explore what’s most important to us and why we can create a self-care routine that works.
Being realistic, and consistent, celebrating our successes, and asking for help allows us to reach our wellness goals.