The arrival of May brings the hope of bloom and warmer weather, summer and new beginnings.
Spring is a time for renewed energy, drive, and enthusiasm. Summer brings rest, relaxation and vacation! By now the dust has settled on our New Year’s resolutions. Perhaps now is the time, away from the societal pressures, to start on our goals for a refreshed body and mind. It is the opportunity to take advantage of the uplifting and rejuvenating attitude, brought on by the season’s natural end and new beginnings to achieve our goals for mental and physical wellness.
How do I recognize the need to invest in my wellbeing?
There are physical, mental, emotional, creative, spiritual and behavioural signs that our mind and body send us, signalling we are sliding into overwhelm. Physically it may show in the form of sleep disturbances, increased startle responses, and/or gastrointestinal issues. Emotionally and mentally we may experience a diminished capacity for listening or communication, a lost sense of purpose, and/or loss in confidence. Creatively and spiritually speaking, the experiencing of lost interest in those things that we previously enjoyed. Behaviourally we may show it in our sleep habits, through overeating or substance abuse. It is also notable that psychological demand is positively associated with distress, depression and burnout. Further, any changes experienced in one’s values, identity or worldviews, emotional numbing, and/or losing trust in others could indicate a slide into overwhelm.
What is involved in making the change?
The transtheoretical model of change tells us that it is critical that an adaptive model of lifestyle intervention be used that is specifically designed to target an individual’s stage and readiness for change behaviours. It is important that we identify our own stage of change when seeking to make the changes we desire. It might be that we are caught up in the contemplative or preparation stages, planning our improvements, engaging in self-reflection and building self-awareness. We may need that extra push to jump into the action stage to achieve those long-lasting positive health behaviours.
From my work as a psychotherapist and my own journey of self-care, I’ve discovered some consistent hurdles and barriers that stand in the way of making that jump from contemplative/preparation to action. Specifically, that feeling of being stuck and experiencing self-doubt (usually in the form of the self-critic) must be addressed before moving forward. The narrative that we’ve been telling ourselves for so long must be rewritten with self-confidence messages. This can be achieved through the introduction of self-compassion. It is helpful to monitor these changes through journaling or regular check-ins with the self during moments of distress and countering them with self-compassion messages. It may, also, involve self-soothing exercises such as breathing mindfully to reduce psychological overwhelm. The combination of self-soothing and self-compassion messaging helps to calm us down when we are upset.
How do I maintain the change?
Whereas self-care practices are usually recommended at a time of distress or following a level of impairment that necessitates mental health services, it is important to be preemptive in countering the development of burnout. By developing an internal awareness or attunement to the messages that you are pushing yourself into overwhelm you can take the steps to maintain your wellness and balance. Additionally, resiliency can be built by discovering any strengths and coping abilities that may buffer the effects of developing burnout.
Some examples of coping techniques include taking regular time to recharge, spending time with people who lift you up and give you energy and doing activities that you enjoy and find restorative. It is important to acknowledge that the prevention of burnout is an active process requiring constant fine tuning to get it right for the individual’s needs. Indeed, the most powerful tool one’s toolkit for combating burnout is an individualized, flexible self-care plan. One that addresses the individual’s needs currently and stays true to those needs in the moment.
The more preemptive self-care you do, the less you will need to employ in-the-moment self-soothing or coping strategies. The successful implementation and maintenance of a self-care plan will require good, strong boundaries that protect time for self-care and, likewise, a strong routine of self-care will help to support strong boundaries.
It is simple. You are worth it. It’s not unreasonable, and it’s achievable.
I am a Toronto based counsellor ready to help you in-person or virtually to create, maintain your goals for mental and physical wellness: book a free “good fit chat” today!