One minute, you’re flying. You’re super-productive. You’re loving yourself and life and feeling invincible. And then suddenly, almost without realizing, you’re exhausted and wiped out.
It’s so easy to get distracted, to let go of the reigns, to move away from the balance you worked so hard to maintain in your daily life and start behaving in a way that really isn’t conducive to health or happiness. Healthy habits can be hard to form and unfortunately only take a short amount of time to unravel, knocking your self-love along the way.
We all have so much going on in our lives – work, social life, relationships, personal development. And let’s not pretend that any of those are simple – something like ‘work’ is actually made up of work events, projects, seminars, deadlines, meetings and so on. You throw yourself into it thinking you have it all under control, believing you can still keep up your fitness game, mindfulness practices, healthy eating habits…and the list goes on… because you’ve been doing it thus far, what could go wrong, right?. But here’s a prime example of when you need to stop and reassess.
Over the course of one week a little while ago, I had events on every evening that I just had to go to. Events I wanted to go to. My days were already packed with work and coaching clients and attending classes. In fact, two mornings, I even went to breakfast events, so I had to leave home before 7am (after getting up to run at 5am) and didn’t get back until 10pm without much of a break along the way… all the things, as a self-mastery Coach, I teach my clients not to do.
And you guessed it, by Friday I felt it. I was exhausted. Depleted. I didn’t want to do anything – I ignored the rituals I so carefully created for myself over the previous months to help keep my mind and body as nourished as possible, and instead resorted to takeaways and distracted myself with TV as my self-loving habits slowly faded.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m only human and I know that a lot of the time, being under pressure can be a good thing because you get so much done and can feel rather accomplished, but it’s just not sustainable. Your hormones, cortisol levels, sleep patterns, weight and mental health can all become affected by running on empty for even a short period of time – and therein lies the importance of seeing your self-love habits as second-nature, because when you automatically plan and prioritise them, you can stick to your mindful, wellbeing habits that keep you resilient so you can accomplish your goals and enjoy the ride.
How to start and maintain good habits
What saved me and has allowed me to course-correct quickly is what I like to call, ‘mindful monitoring’ – paying deliberate attention to the basic pillars of my wellbeing and the patterns that emerge – and one way to do that is to utilise a few handy tools.
1. Track your days
Tracking is a very important starting point. Whether you use a food diary or download an app that monitors your cycle and hormone health, just the act of completing a daily tracker prompts you to think about your day, how you’re feeling and what’s going on. You can become so much more aware of your patterns and habits, good or bad, when you’re able to refer to and check when you were hungry, what you were craving and how you felt before and after you eat, for example.
2. Spot the patterns
For example, if I work 14-hour days, 4 days in a row, and run every morning, what then happens to my energy and mood? How long does it take me to recover? Sometimes, you might not notice the effects of, say, a bad night’s sleep for a couple of days, but writing it down and paying attention to it allows you to recognise these associations more easily.
3. Plan from there
Taking some time at the start of every week to get clear on what you want to achieve and how much time you need will make sure your energy and attention are focused on the things that really matter.
One tip is to begin with the big blocks, the non-negotiable events. These are what’s most important to you in terms of making you feel your best and build on your self-love, like a morning meditation for example. Once you write it down and make it a concrete plan, you work to build trust with and care for yourself.
I’ve also learnt that work expands to fill the time you have, so I now set myself much stricter time limits. I try to work hard in the time I allocate and then enjoy the downtime I’ve planned. And there is always a lot of time – it’s just how you’re choosing to use it.
Think of your week as 21 blocks of time (morning, afternoon, and evening x 7 days). At least one of these should be dedicated to something fun and playful, preferably during the week – you don’t have to store up all the fun until the weekend! At least of one your 21 slots should be kept clear each week. Empty space is important to allow you to be spontaneous or to just curl up on the sofa for an afternoon.
It can be difficult to get into the habit of prioritising and sticking to healthy habits, but once you see that your success takes a backseat when you don’t prioritise your wellbeing, you sure understand the importance of cultivating this act of self-love.