I’ve recently been feeling a bit rushed and hassled. Getting breakfast ready, I’m thinking about the packed lunch I need to prepare. As I make my son’s lunch I start thinking about getting us all dressed. As we’re getting dressed my mind is already thinking about making sure his school bag is packed next.
And it’s not just the practical issue of getting out the door on time. As I’m eating my breakfast, I’ve caught myself logging stuff on my phone and looking down to realise I’ve eaten more than I thought I had and my cup of coffee is nearly drained.
Even meditating, I’ve found myself doing it with a kind of, ‘Well, let’s get this over with so I can move onto the next thing’ attitude.
Of course, I didn’t realise all of this too clearly in the moment. But I was recently thinking about self-care. When I say ‘self care’ I’m talking about those things I do, for myself, that make me feel like Alison. These are the habits and things I do that give me the resilience to show up in all areas of my life. What did I want to do for myself? And what was I doing that wasn’t serving me?
And I realised I actually like a lot of my self care practices. Sure, maybe I could do somethings more regularly, but I like meditating daily, even if it’s for a short duration each time. I like writing in my journal. I like my weekly call with coach Jennifer Louden and the rest of the Oasis community (side note: it’s awesome and I can’t recommend it enough). I like making time to read every day…to eat well…to drink plenty of water…to get plenty of sleep.
What was missing wasn’t the habit itself, but the way I approached it.
For instance, I’ve loved my recent habit of eating a lot more whole foods. This continues to be an important and rewarding part of my routine.
But instead of thinking of how my food is nourishing me while I eat it, or savouring the taste, I’ve been thinking about logging the calories on my MyFitnessPal app. Or worse, eating while thinking about or doing something completely unrelated.
All of the time and joy and sensory delight of eating whole, homemade, nutritious foods was getting lost – and so was much of the value of what I was doing.
Sometimes it isn’t what you do that needs to change, but how you do it.
It’s easy to think of drastic changes to create more happiness in life – I need to move house! I need a kitchen refit! I need to change career! I need to go on a yoga retreat!
Sometimes big changes are called for, but sometimes big changes a) aren’t feasible right now and b) aren’t really what we need. Despite what billions of dollars of marketing tells us, the change we need is often free and in our control already.
In my case, the changes I’ve been trying to put in place are not visible to anyone but myself. I’ve started telling myself, “THIS is my time to do X [whatever I’m doing]”.
Lessons from holidays past
I remember being on our first day of holiday back home in Florida once. My husband and I were sitting on the beach on the first morning, feeling the sun soaking into my skin and listening to the waves crashing on the near-empty beach, my toes curling in the soft white sand. I had a full two weeks ahead of me of holiday, with all the hassle and stress of the flight over being completed. And my husband said, “This is the best part of the holiday. Right now. We have the whole holiday ahead of us and we’re actually here on the beach relaxing.” And he was right. That’s the feeling I want to bring to my daily rituals.
So I still eat the same toast and drink the same coffee, but when I’m doing it I’m really enjoying that THIS is my one time today to have breakfast. I actually love breakfast and my morning cups of coffee, so taking the moment to appreciate, “This is it!” helps me savour it.
I still do yoga about once a week (okay, often more like once every two weeks). When I did a 20-minute YouTube yoga session the other day, I started to feel guilty or distracted about all the other things I could/should be doing, which is what’s been happening a lot lately. But this time, when those kind of thoughts occurred to me, I told myself, “This is my time to do yoga,” and returned my attention to my breath and the pose I was supposed to be in. It was the same YouTube video, same room, with one eye on my kids playing just as before, but it felt like a million miles away from my other recent yoga sessions. I rolled up my mat at the end of it feeling restored and refreshed.
Exploring the ‘how’ rather than the ‘what’
If you have something you do in your life and you want to explore how you do it – and how you could approach it differently, try these at home prompts to reflect on.
Self-coach journal prompt: Think about what it is you do that you want to approach differently. Maybe it’s the way you feel about going into work, or how you feel about making dinner.
Now, try to find an adjective that captures how you want to feel or a quality that you feel is lacking in your life. Maybe you want to feel more cheerful about work, or calmer when you’re trying to make dinner.
What would be the fun / loving / happy / calm / slow [pick your own adjective here] way to approach this [whatever this is] in my life? What would that look like? How would I do things differently if I was approaching it in this way?
See what comes up. Try to keep writing and capture what comes up for you, even if it’s just images of your ideal way of doing something. Tap into those images and what they conjure for you.
For me, I wanted to feel nourished, so I asked, “What would be the nourishing way to approach my self-care practices?” Impressions and images that came up for me included holding yoga poses and breathing deeply, chewing slowly and deliberately without anything electronic near me.
And sometimes this exercise can highlight beliefs you didn’t realise you had. For me, when I pictured the nourishing way to approach my self-care I thought of being unapologetic, which made me realise that part of my approach to self-care has been feeling guilty or selfish for caring for myself instead of my kids. Bringing this belief out into the open has meant I could respond to it differently, rather than having it control how I feel without my being aware of it.
Have you tried it? Let me know how you find it and what came up for you. What changes will you make?