Habits are my kryptonite.
The thing is, I’m really good at habits.
But in the past habits have also made me feel overwhelmed and stressed. Even the good, self care ones.
You see, habits can become a marker of productivity, even the habits that supposedly have nothing to do with work. Once we’ve crammed morning meditation, journalling, runs, yoga, healthy smoothies, 10,000 steps and meal-prepping into our day we can feel as if we’re just making it from one habit to the next.
Habits should not be another productivity goal.
3 ways to reframe your self care habits
1. list your habits and evaluate them
Lots of social media posts make it seem like habits are a virtue. And that having many makes you somehow a better human.
That, of course, is not true.
List your habits. Break them down: which ones are daily, weekly, monthly?
When I did this a few years ago just listing my habits made me feel exhausted.
The daily meditation + the daily yoga + the daily walk + the daily embroidery + the daily reading + the weekly cleaning + the other chores around the house I set myself.
How does listing your habits make you feel?
2. why are you doing the habit? What does it give you?
For a few years, my fitness tracker really motivated me to go out and walk. I would go out for a walk when I otherwise wouldn’t, and I generally felt good about it.
I got rid of my fitness tracker when I realised that the reason I was walking was no longer because it felt good. It became another thing to pressure myself with. To beat myself up with.
Ask yourself: are you doing a habit because you feel you should?
If a habit doesn’t inherently bring you joy and contentment, reconsider it. Are you punishing yourself, telling yourself you’re not good enough, or are you really, genuinely taking care of yourself?
3. choose gentle habits instead
Gentle habits are habits that you’re not (secretly) using to beat yourself up.
Gentle habits leave space. And, because you’re really clear why you’re doing gentle habits, you’ll be motivated to do them.
They’re habits that you take gently, and where you give yourself grace when needed.
Walking has become a gentle habit for me. I no longer wear a fitness tracker, and don’t count my steps.
But I realised in early lockdown that walking is important to me. It’s important because otherwise I might not be moving my body when working from home.
Even more so, walking’s important to me because I know the difference it makes to my mental health. I can feel every single walk how it affects my mood. How it makes me feel lighter and calmer.
Some days my walks are short, and on other days they are long. Occasionally, though this has become rare, I don’t walk.
I no longer force myself to go out if I’m truly exhausted—though I’ve learned that when I’m merely tired, walking gives me energy.
I steer clear of habit challenges, and anything that is too prescriptive. I go with how I feel and how I want to feel.
And based on that I’ve ended up with a very manageable list of habits—habits that truly make me feel good.