Building a Self-Care Plan for Your Life
We’ve reached the end of our ten-day journey, but before you go, we’ll pull together a realistic plan with a SMART goal for self-care that fits your life. Today, you’ll establish concrete action steps to support self-care for the next six weeks—and the rest of your life.
I’m sure you already know the acronym SMART, and you may have had to set SMART goals at work. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound (or Time-Specific). You can learn more about setting SMART goals at the end of this lesson. When it comes to setting self-care goals, that means you want to identify specific actions that you can realistically complete within your life and schedule: These are concrete so you can easily measure your success, they fit your current circumstances and health so you can achieve them, they align with your overall health and wellness plan so they are relevant, and they have specific timelines (time of day, week, and/or month) to help you stay on track.
Two simple examples:
• I will meditate for ten minutes each morning of every day of the week when I wake up, using the Loving-Kindness technique I learned in Lesson 9 and then jotting down on my planner a one-word sentence about how I feel, with an overall goal of reducing my stress.
• I will walk for 15 minutes each afternoon, Monday through Friday, after lunch but before returning to my desk, and focus on noticing nature (sky, birds, leaves, etc.) on each walk. This is both get exercise and feel a sense of mindful stress reduction, with an overall goal of managing work-related stress.
Notice how they are specific: what you will do, when and where you will do it, and why you are doing it. All those details add up to a plan for success.
You may wonder: Will 10 or 15 minutes really make a difference? Don’t I need a spa day or a weekend retreat?
Brief Interventions Can Have Major Impact!
Consider research that has shown that a 15-minute stroll after a meal improves blood glucose levels . This study looked at individuals with diabetes and pre-diabetes and found that just going for a stroll after a meal supported the regulation of blood glucose levels. Another study found that for individuals with hypertension, three 10-minute walks during the day actually reduced blood pressure better than one 30-minute walk . Another brief intervention found that just 20 minutes of yoga breathing reduced stress and actually lowered levels of inflammatory markers in the blood .
Your goal is to set a SMART plan for the next six weeks so you can build a habit of consistent self-care. We’ve talked about mindfulness as an overall approach to self-care, and you might consider a variety of self-care activities: from eating healthier to getting more sleep or more consistent exercise, to using stress management strategies on a regular basis. But where should you start?
Start with what matters most to you. Pick the lifestyle habit and core self-care task that feels most critical to your own well-being. Ask yourself: What is my why?
Why do you want to improve your self-care? What matters to you? What are you trying to improve in your life? The answer to “why” is your deeper motivation, the thing that’s going to help you commit, the motivation that’s going to help you take care of yourself and succeed at being better with self-care.
Once you know your why, write your SMART goal. Use my examples above, and set a very clear goal that you can consistently and realistically achieve. Once you’ve set your goal, consider a few more things:
• Support strategies: What can help you stay focused and on target? Consider inspirational music, quotes, vision posters, or rewards—whatever works for you to keep you on track each day so you can build this good habit.
• Obstacles: What might get in your way? What tasks, commitments, relationships, or complications might derail your plans? Consider in advance how you will address them and move past any challenges to succeed.
• Accountability: Who can support you, encourage you, and help you stay on track? Identify a friend, colleague, or family member who can join you in setting—and achieving—self-care goals. Having a partner increases your likelihood of success.
Overall, remember that self-care is not another obligation. It’s not a task on your to-do list. And it’s not a trendy cliché. It’s a gift you give yourself: It’s an opportunity to treat yourself with the same loving kindness you share with others.
I wish you all the best in self-care, both today and every day!
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