Self-Care: Quick and Easy Reminders (That Don't Beep)

impulse control memory

[Reading time: 1 minute 50 seconds]

One of the things that comes up regularly in my time management classes is self-care. People say "I need to get out of my chair more," or "I never take time for myself."

We all know that we can't give 110% day after day. It's simply not sustainable. But it's easy to get into a rut and pretty soon the bad habit of not taking care of ourselves is established.

Here's how to turn that around

Figure out how to effectively remind yourself to take some time to unplug (or stand and stretch). The best way to do this is to do something out of the ordinary. And I don't mean get an app that's going to beep at you. The last thing you need is more noisy reminders.

Do you want to remember to get up from your desk and move around a little more?

Brains that are strong in sustained attention (focus) will often work for three or four hours at a stretch without stopping. Sitting that long without moving can be painful, so ask yourself what will help you remember to get up once in a while. Think out-of-the-box here because you're after something that is wacky and unusual, such as:

  • Put a plate on your lap - It doesn't even need to have anything on it.
  • Take one shoe off - After a while, you'll think "Why is my shoe off?"
  • Drink a big glass of water - Yup, you know what that will do.
  • Stuff a pillow or a jacket on one side of your chair - You will very likely find yourself jostling it around as you move in your chair.

The objective is to expand your awareness beyond your intense focus so you have a moment to think about something else. Why is this plate here? Oh... I ought to stand up for a minute and stretch. Why is my shoe off? Why did I put this pillow here?

You can't do the same thing every day or your brain will stop noticing, so mix it up as much as possible - or just do one of these tricks a couple times a week.

Do you want to take some personal time for yourself this week?

If you have a family, it can be doubly hard to get personal time but we all need it.

That's what we're after when we come home, collapse on the couch, and pick up our phones. We just want a little time to decompress! Phone time is not necessarily bad - but it's not always the rejuvenating and refreshing time that we need, and it often morphs into a long stint looking at YouTube, social media or the news.

The key to success: start small

Ease into this new habit by starting small. Tell yourself that in the next week, you're going to reserve one hour for yourself. One hour, once. Keep it simple and you'll be more likely to do it. If you get too complicated, it will seem like more work. Here are a few ways to remind yourself:

  • Stick a note on your bathroom mirror - Every time you brush your teeth you're going to be reminded of it. And when you've taken your one hour of personal time, draw a smiley face on the note. (That will be positive reinforcement for the next week.)
  • On the day that you decide you're going to take your requisite hour, wear a bright orange bracelet ­- All day long your subconscious will be thinking about it... and preparing your brain to take action.
  • If you wear a ring, put it on another finger - or if you wear a watch, put it on the other wrist. Your brain is going to notice it all day long and you can think "One hour for me is coming up! What do I want to do today?"

The backup plan

If you find that a week passes and you haven't claimed that hour, then revise the time down to 30 minutes the following week. The objective is to ease into the habit so if you need to make the time super small just to make it happen, do it! Once you get into the weekly habit, then you can expand it to a longer time (or more days). But start small and get a win.



What is self-care?

Self-care is about making restorative time for your brain and your body. My mom used to say I was “going like sixty” (a mile a minute) and living like that means there’s no time for self-care, let alone reflection about the day. People with strong sustained attention and goal-directed persistence can find themselves going like sixty, just like me, but you can turn that around by increasing your ability to be self-aware and present. The tools above are all about creating an opportunity to take yourself off autopilot and consciously choose something else.

Support your brain where it needs support and you'll stay on top of the things that are important to you.

GoBrainGo: Helping you get into the driver's seat of your life one video at a time.

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