Being consistant is hard. Being consistant in taking care of ourselves is even harder.
And the Internet is very good at making us feel guilty and promote perfectionism about it, instead of giving us things that are actually helpful.
I’d like to do the opposite of this, because it’s only by making my very best to combat perfectionism, rather than being perfectionist about self-care too, that I managed to start from a complete non routine, to get to an actually pretty badass one if allow myself to brag a little.
And since I’m very happy with my AM routine, but building my PM one, it’s pretty fresh in my head.
So here we go...
I thought I’d share a few principles that are helpful in that journey :
1. Your energy needs to go to doing, not thinking about what/how to do.
Think process, not results.
You want to take better care of yourself? Great, that’s big enough of a goal. The how/what is not important for now, it’s overwhelming. You can choose either one thing to do, and make sure you slowly do it consistently, or choose from a few things to do your “one thing”, whatever. There’s probably parts of you that will want to procrastinate. Your job is : DO NOT FEED THE ANIMALS.
Procrastination is thinking about how/what/when you will do and do other things “before” -yeah right-. THIS habit is the enemy, not time, people, circumstances or the perfect anything. See leads on how to start slowly defeat it below.
2. It’s not natural at first, it needs to be intentional.
It’s totally normal to not think about doing what you set out to do, not a sign of anything. It’s actually impressive if you can remember very often, celebrate yourself when you do.
Forgetfulness will happen at time, it can also be a form of resistance. Be intentional. If you can’t remember, ask yourself : how can I make myself remember? And try that. Talk about it with others about what you are trying out, make it real.
Use the fact that all animals relish in habits : do new things right after or right before things you already do. Your shower, your breakfast, waking up, going to sleep, brushing your teeth. Anything goes. It’s easier for your brain to implement something new that way.
Tracking yourself might help to make sure you don’t bullshit yourself too hard, going toward self-indulgence rather than self compassion. Firm but gentle.
3. When you don’t know what to do, explore. THEN decide and focus.
Explore your options : it’s by exploring that we really find what’s working well for us, not by preparing endlessly. When I want to set up a routine, my favourite thing is first to do whatever I want, but do one thing everyday. I like having a pool of options from which to go from, especially when I don’t know where to start.
Like at night, the goal of my routine is to calm me down and help me sleep.
I like to do mini yoga sessions on my bed so my nervous system calm down, breathing exercises, loving kindness prayer/meditation, sleep meditation, sleep hypnosis. I don’t do all of them, obviously.
But one of them the most regularly possible, especially when I didn’t have a lot of time in the morning for myself, makes a huge difference in my sleep quality and ability to wake up refresh. That’s what matters. Not deciding which one I’ll do. Listen to your guts (not your head!) in those moments, they know what you want.
With time exploring, I noticed, I really enjoy two things consistently to slow down and prepare for sleep : writing 3 things I’m grateful for then finishing the journal page by emptying my head and reading. So now, I am slowly focusing on making those more permanent. Not perfectly, just “as often as I can” and keep playing with the others. No rush, no pressure, but focus.
First explore freely and see how it feels to do, then focus on the things we love the most.
4. Don’t give up, adapt. After REALLY trying for a while.
You WILL resist doing good things for yourself if you’re not used to it.
If you wanted to do something regularly, trust yourself that you have reasons. You don’t have to stick to it forever if it really doesn’t work out, but hopping from one thing to the next or endlessly mentally tweaking them instead of doing them are a very common form of resistance/procrastination.
Set out goals in terms of days for a daily habit, start out with one week for example, one week is quick to pass, so are ten days. You can do it. THEN you assess if/how you will keep doing it.
And for the days you don’t have time at all : make it super short. 1mn of any exercise is nothing, we all have a minute to spare, even on tough days. Think about how much time you spend on your screen if you think you sometimes don’t. Replace one minute of this. No excuse possible, but better than nothing. I call this one my “better than zero” rule. Define your contingency plans for those days. And make yourself remember.
5. You’re the boss of you. Talk and act like it.
Answer to most of the “Maybe I should do that first...” or "Maybe it'd be easier if first I..." you can catch by, “No. Now. So it’s done. It doesn’t need to be perfect or at the perfect moment, it needs to be done.”. Put it on a post it, on your phone, wherever if needed.
It takes practice and intention, but it works better with time. Trust yourself, stop telling yourself you can’t because that’s really not helpful, as “they” say just fucking do it. You’re the boss of you, strengthen your inner parent by not let your inner little rebel run the show.
Breaking promises to ourselves is a particularly painful thing to do. It teaches us that we can’t count on ourselves, and if we can’t trust ourselves, who can we really trust? There’s an immense power in learning how to be consistant, because self-kindness powers it. It says to our inner child : I love you, you can count on me, I will not abandon you.
Your inner child doesn’t care about perfect (your ego does), they care about “it” being done consistently. Cultivate being the parent for yourself you always dreamt of having. You have inner power waiting for you, use it and see the magic happen.
6. Embrace brave mediocrity.
You will suck. You will be imperfect at it. Resistance is a strong force. Don’t beat yourself up, you can begin again the day after. If you did set out to do something once a day for a week, and only did 4 of them : GREAT. It’s most probably 4 more times than in the past… Month? Year? Your whole life? That's progress. And shit happens.
Routines are NEVER about perfect performance or attendance, they are about coming back to it again, and again, and again. Even when we missed a day, or a few, or even weeks/months/years. Even if we half-ass it, like doing something in front the tv, or mindlessly. It’s not our ability to stick to it perferctly that matters the most, but the courage to go back to it when we didn't. Keep pushing your edge slowly and lovingly.
Sometimes, you will choose to not follow your own terms, it’s human. We can do hard things, but not all the time. Embrace it too, don’t pretend it’s not you (who else, really?). Observe what happens. You will generally feel shitty about it, use that to tell yourself in the future gently but firmly “I know what happens when I don’t do it now, and I don’t like it. Now, let’s try again tomorrow, even if it’s hard, to see how it feels to keep our promises, or at least do our best doing it”.
It's all about balance, focusing on the process and listening to what happens when we explore. You can do this. Even if that means sometimes you can't.