On Friday, I posted in the Tracking Wonder Quest group about my intention to focus daily on self-care this year.
So, what did I do when a few days later I came down with a medium-bad cold? Allow myself to take a few days off?
No! I pushed myself to keep working!
Now I’m wondering why I did that. Especially since this commitment to understanding and practicing self-care isn’t a new one. It’s been an important theme in my life and work for almost 15 years now, one that’s helped me make some important changes.
I’m realizing that if I’d slowed down and asked my Inner Encourager what to do about my illness, she’d have told me to take some sick time, nap liberally, drink plenty of Cold Care tea and binge-watch The Crown.
Instead, I listened to my Inner Critic: “You have too much to do. You just slept for 12 hours! You can’t go back to bed. And you’re not that sick. You have three deadlines coming up, and clients you need to reach out to. If you take time off now you’ll really be in a jam!
I bet you can guess how that worked out.
I wrote for hours and hours for the next three days, and produced nothing usable. I had accomplished nothing! In other words, I might as well have taken those three days off.
Instead, I spent those three days backsliding on my self-care intention. Setbacks like this happen to most of us, even when we’re well into the process of changing in long-standing behavior patterns. It’s a natural and maybe even inevitable. Yet, it caught me off guard. I didn’t think I’d be so vulnerable to this after all this time.
Even though I’ve come a long way with self-care during that time and helped others do the same, here I am, recognizing and recovering from a little setback.
Backsliding Isn’t Failing
So what should we do if we set an intention, and then find ourselves backsliding? Here are five things I’m doing now.
- See if you can laugh about it. I am laughing, in a self-compassionate way (of course!) because it’s funny to me that as soon as I publicly stated my self-care intention, I found myself backsliding!
- Be nice to yourself about it. I am using the patient, caring voice of my Inner Encourager to tell myself supportive messages: “Learning and change takes place over time. You’re walking a spiral path, not a straight line. Backsliding is a normal and necessary part of continued growth.”
- Recognize that backsliding isn’t failure. I’m working to change deeply rooted, culturally reinforced patterns of thoughts, feelings and behaviors. This is a long-term commitment. I haven’t failed; I didn’t slide back very far. This is just having to get my bearings so I can move forward again.
- Reaffirm your intention and plan ahead. I’ve returned to my intention to integrate self-care into my day-to-day life so that the energy and enthusiasm needed to bring my best to the world is continuously replenished. It’s as simple as that. Self-care is a natural part of my daily schedule, not a grand, set-aside gesture. Writing, self-Reiki, exercise, time outdoors, work breaks, limiting the projects I commit to – these are part of each day. Then there’s the menu of self-care options to draw from throughout the week, making sure I’m doing things I enjoy, making choices based on what matters most.
- See what you can learn. This experience has shown me how easy it is to backslide, even after over 10 years of commitment to change. An unexpected illness, an upsurge in stress, a family member’s need for help, a circumstance that echoes a past experience, and suddenly we can find ourselves backsliding a bit, slipping back into old patterns. Even so, the real progress I have made makes it easy to understand this as a temporary slip-up. Maybe even a necessary one, pointing out in an oh-so-helpful way that I still have work to do!