We need to be proactive about creating practical, sustainable self-care habits and include both short-term and long-term focused self-care activities in our weeks. And there are two most important questions you should ask yourself every day to help you with that.
Have you ever decided on a fresh start?
Decided, for example, that it was time to take better care of yourself?
There are several times of the year when people have a tendency to make resolutions or set new goals and habits.
January and the New Year, spring and spring cleaning, September and the start of the school or university year: all these are times when we might be inspired to make a decision about a new objective.
Another time we often set such goals is when we make a big change in our lives. We move house, we change jobs, we declutter or complete some other significant activity that makes us feel ready for change, and along with that, we set up a host of new habits and activities we want to start.
Unfortunately for most people, the goals we set are too ambitious, or too dramatic, and they quickly disappear. Alternatively, we forget to account for our own limitations, and we can’t sustain the project we had such enthusiasm for at the beginning.
My Big Life Transition – From a Grey London Commute to a Colourful Thailand Existence
Six years ago, I made a change like this. I realized that my lifestyle in the UK, with 60-hour weeks in a management consultancy while handling two chronic illnesses, was not serving me.
I was exhausted and in pain, and while I loved my job, it wasn’t doing me any good.
I decided to take a break, went traveling, ended up in Thailand – and never went back to that old life.
As part of the new life I created, I knew I wanted to take better care of myself.
I figured I’d spend time on beaches and in cafes. I’d read my book and write. I’d drink coffee and spend time introverting and resting. I’d be a freelance consultant, and I’d only take on enough work to pay the bills.
I forgot you take your personality with you wherever you go, and that self-care wasn’t something that would happen without effort.
The life changes, huge as they were, weren’t enough to make self-care happen as a side benefit.
What actually happened…
I did go to the beach, for a while. I went for massages, and I read. I invested time in self-development and completed The Artist’s Way, a wonderful book and course which helps you get in touch with your creative side.
I realized I loved writing, and began learning more about the craft of writing, and started several non-fiction blogs. In order to do that, I had to learn how to create and manage a blog. I embarked upon learning more about writing fiction and published my first novel. I explored freelancing and connected with several clients.
By the end of my second year based in Thailand, I had taken over 120 flights for my consulting work, worked in eight different countries in the Middle East and South East Asia, written over half a million words, had three active blogs, and was trying to fit in a social life and personal development activities.
I loved what I was doing… but my immune system was weak, and I couldn’t get rid of a nasty case of strep throat. I was tired, over-worked, and had forgotten all about my plan to take better care of myself.
I was almost back where I started in the UK – just with nicer weather!
Short-Term Versus Long-Term Self-Care
The experience taught me that self-care isn’t something you tick off a list. It’s an ongoing process, and change or resolutions in themselves aren’t enough to make it happen.
Self-care is about taking accountability for your emotional, mental and physical health.
That means it’s not just about the occasional massage in the short-term, but also about investing in self-care that will work in the longer term.
A great way to think about this is to check-in with yourself, and ask yourself ‘what do I need right now?’.
That means taking a breath and paying attention to the answer.
Sometimes our body needs to stretch, or some touch, or a healthy snack. Other times, perhaps emotion is coming up inside us and we need to sit with it and let it pass. Or maybe our brain needs a break, or to be stimulated by some input.
With my new lifestyle, I realized I needed to check-in with myself more regularly, and watch out for getting caught up in the day-to-day rush and my tendency to be very goal-focused. I made sure self-care was a natural and regular part of my everyday.
A way to help yourself in this area is to have a ready-made list of activities that you know help you in the short-term. Ask yourself:
What do I need right now emotionally?
What do I need right now physically?
What do I need right now mentally?
Make a list of three to five ideas under each question, so when you’re tired and really in need of self-care at the moment, you can help yourself find the thing you need more quickly.
For the long-term, we need to consider self-care differently.
Here, the question could be, ‘what can I do now, that would be kind to future-me?’
This might not be something fun at the moment – for example, going to the dentist, or getting a health-check up could be on the list – but it will make your life better in the future.
Other examples of longer-term self-care might be exercising, eating healthily, going to therapy or addressing emotional challenges like perfectionism, or building your mental muscles so that your self-critic is a friend rather than a foe.
You can also build a few ideas for your longer-term self-care. Ask yourself now:
‘What can I do now, that would be kind to future-me emotionally?’
‘What can I do now, that would be kind to future-me physically?’
‘What can I do now, that would be kind to future-me mentally?’
Sustainable Self-Care + The 2 Most Important Questions to Ask Yourself Every Day
Self-care is something we need to see not as a chore, but something we integrate gracefully into our life, remembering it needs to be sustainable.
Self-care for the short-term and in the moment is useful and powerful, but it can sometimes be a ‘treatment’ for burnout or exhaustion or for that moment when you know life has slipped out of your control.
Self-care for the long-term is a way to inoculate yourself against those situations happening in the first place. It’s preventative, rather than a cure.
Both are important.
We need to be proactive about creating practical, sustainable self-care habits and include both short-term and long-term focused self-care activities in our weeks.
So ask yourself these two important questions regularly:
What do I need right now, at this moment?
What can I do now that would be kind to future-me?