In the world of mindfulness, we talk a lot about self-care. There are a lot of things you can do to best position yourself to meet each day as best you can. From good sleep hygiene to eating well to expressing gratitude, science has given us years of research that support what we all know from experience: healthy habits increase well-being and decrease anxiety.It’s time for each of us to make it official, though. It’s time for us to write down the habits we can cultivate to get us through these particularly challenging times. I’m pretty sure I don’t have to tell anyone how much life has changed in the past few weeks, but I do have to spread the word that a self-care plan is important for all of us.
Here are some benefits of a formalized (i.e., written) self-care plan:
1. When you write things down, you not only create an accountability system, but you’re able to discern patterns. If you ever want to drink less alcohol, write down every drink you have and every penny you spend on alcohol. Oh wait, that was me . . .
2. We all need to be our best for ourselves and each other, and a formal self-care plan is a way to do our best in the situation we’re in. Your plan is about the things your unique self needs to function as well as it can. It lightens your mental load by providing you with a bespoke routine that programs a bunch of your decisions. It’s preventative, in that it puts your personal challenges right in your face and asks: What are you going to do about this today?
Me, for instance? I need a ton of sleep. And I have to stretch. Plus, I have these neck and back exercises that I don’t love doing and if I don’t check off doing them each day I promise you I will “forget” to do them. And that doesn’t end well for me or anyone in the vicinity of my aching right arm. Mindfulness? If I don’t do it, I can be snippy. Very. Snippy.
As soon as I get up, I’m all about checking things off of the list that I know are fantastic for me and make me a better person, inside and out. Or at least they maintain whatever relative goodness I ended the previous day with.
3. You are better positioned to figure out what you need to do to course-correct. Let’s say you’ve got your plan and you’re doing well and then you’re not, but you’re still following the plan. WHAT’S UP WITH THAT? Well, chances are, there’s something that needs to be added to your plan. Maybe there’s a non-essential relationship in your life that is very taxing or otherwise negative. Maybe there’s an essential relationship in your life like that. Perhaps you need to create a mini-self-care plan just for negotiating that.
My plan is actually an excel spreadsheet (here it is, if you want a good laugh), which is dreadfully boring of me, but I’m the least frilly person around so it’s appropriate. I also have a journal entry per day that includes my mood (done by colors, just because) and tidbits like: “I ate my body weight in salt today” or “Had a lovely conversation with my neighbor, Jenny!” The following day I will likely see shifts in mood.Finally, here’s a 10-minute guided meditation on self-care. Please share it.