© 2019 Pat McAndrew

  • Pat McAndrew

Practice Self-Care by Changing Your Habits



Why don’t more of us practice self-care?  Self-care is awesome!  And yet, the wide majority of us are often bogged down by the busyness of school and work to only find ourselves at home, beaten and exhausted from the challenges of the day.  Then, the next day we wake up and do the same thing over again.  Then, the next day.  Eventually it’s the weekend, but some combination of events, chores, and social gatherings take up our time until its back to work or school!


We are overwhelmed.  Anxiety disorders are on the rise, as are many forms of mental illness.  We are stressed.  Stressed about money, stressed about work, stressed about school, stressed about relationships.  People are taking less vacation time.  Millions of people hold more than one job. As time continues to move forward, statistics show that people are busier and more stressed than ever before.


Why aren’t we taking care of ourselves?  Is it societal pressure?  Is it the need to appease?  We are prioritizing those things that, overall, really won’t matter much.  Have a paper due tomorrow that you haven’t started?! 1) You should’ve started it last week, but more importantly 2) How much will it really effect your life if it’s handed in late?  If it’s not finished, talk to your professor about it ahead of time, if an emergency or something of the sort came up.  Most professors should be understanding.  If he or she isn’t, well screw them.  They certainly aren’t going to dictate the future of your life.


What about that special project at work that you’ve been stressing out about all week?  It needs to get done or else your boss will kill you!  Or, worse, expel you! (Am I right, Hermione?)  Again, do not let someone else dictate your happiness.  Of course, do your work.  Do your best.  But don’t let them get to you!


All of this is, naturally, easier said than done.  Sometimes if we don’t say the right thing in our work meeting, it will feel like the end of the world.  If my boss doesn’t like me or approve of me, my career is officially over as we know it.  If I get a B on my paper, I guess I should say goodbye to graduate school and therefore the rest of my life!


Rarely, things are not this bad.  We tend to exaggerate things in our mind.  We blow things out of proportion.  We like to be melodramatic.  But when we really think of the worst-case scenario, seriously and realistically, is it really that bad?  Except for a few major circumstances, it usually isn’t.


I’m a firm believer that a lot of this stress is due to poor time management.  A lot of us do not handle our time well.  We get easily distracted.  We procrastinate until the last possible day or minute.  And we know we are guilty when it comes to this, but it doesn’t alleviate the stress.  To combat this dreaded procrastination, we must plan out our days.  We also must set aside time for self-care: to exercise, eat a healthy meal, read, mediate, pray, do yoga, treat yourself to something special, and, most importantly, sleep.  These are the utmost of priorities!!  How can you expect to put your best foot forward in this thing called life if you don’t take care of yourself first?


But, alas, the combination of poor time management and lack of self-care creates a downward spiral that explodes into an unhappy mess of worry and stress.


What can help the situation?  I have an outlandish idea!  Put away the phone.  That phone is the culprit, an all-powerful device that sucks up your time, distracts your attention, pulls away focus, and manipulates you into constantly comparing yourself to other people.  None of this helps you get work done.  None of this plays a part in your self-care.


Unfortunately, as smartphones have become another limb for most of us, we have developed ingrained habits that are not good for us.  We are in the habit of procrastinating.  We are in the habit of looking at our phone when we hear a buzz or bing.  We are in the habit of thinking about the worst-case scenario.  We are in the habit of stressing and worrying.  It’s just what we do.  We are in the habit of believing that our busyness is productive when it’s anything but.


Charles Duhigg wrote an incredible book titled The Power of Habit There is quite a wealth of knowledge in this book and I highly recommend giving it a read.  In it, Duhigg quotes the famous American philosopher and psychologist, William James.  James states, “All our life, so far as it has definite form, is but a mass of habits – practical, emotional, and intellectual – systematically organized for our weal or woe, and bearing us irresistibly toward our destiny, whatever the latter may be.”


Essentially, we are our habits.  We become what our habits make us.  To strive for less stress and less worry and for more peace of mind and happiness, we need to change up our habits.  We need to look at things from a new perspective.  We need to look at the big picture and realize the things that are truly important.  Those things that we think are so vital and important in the moment, are likely of little or no importance in life.


I usually think of it this way: Is what I am worried or stressed about worth it?  Will it matter this time next year?  Or even next month?  If the answer is no, then I need not worry.  That’s not to say I won’t work hard at my job or put in many hours on a specific project that needs completion in the near future.  But it puts things into perspective.  It’s all about the process and experience and less about the result.


If we practice self-care, if we prioritize our health and happiness and manage our time well, we will be heading towards a more wholesome and impactful life.  We will enjoy each other more.  We will enjoy our work more.  And, most importantly, we will feel in control of our lives.  Apparently, the more control you feel you have over your life, the happier you are.  So, get into that driver’s seat, hop behind the wheel, and set your own course.  Be in control.  And, remember, don’t text and drive.


What are your thoughts?  Do you practice self-care on a regular basis? How essential is self-care?  Do find that you have balance and control over your life?  Or not?  Comment below!


Your friend,


Pat

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