Practical steps to discovering what is causing stress and ways to walk forward.
Self-care is a popular mental health buzzword right now, and with anxiety and burnout at an all-time high, this is a fantastic thing. I’ve experienced firsthand that the difference between running on empty and running with excellence begins with regular self-care habits, and I nearly lost my life in 2017 due to my lack of self-care.
Maybe you too understand the importance of self-care but wonder “where do I start?!” If that’s you, this exercise is a great jumpstart for cultivating self-care rhythms.
How can you determine what type of self-care rhythms you need and how to integrate them into everyday life? Behavioral science tells us that it’s easiest to build successful habits one at a time, so we’re going to focus on building self-care rhythms in one area at a time.
Grab a piece of paper, fold it into 4 squares and let’s take the first step toward welcoming in more self-care and avoiding burnout by looking at your highest levels of stress.
Step 1: What are your biggest stressors right now?
Using the top left square on your paper, write down the following words:
- Emotional stress
- Intellectual stress
- Spiritual stress
- Physical stress
- Social stress
Then rate your level of stress and depletion in each area using a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being high). Circle the area with the highest number.
Step 2: What is specifically causing stress in this area?
Move to the top right square and write the life area with the highest number (such as “emotional stress”) at the top of the square. Then set a timer for 3 minutes and jot down the sources of that stress. For example, if you’d chosen “emotional stress” you might write something like “rebellious teens,” “marriage problems” or “job loss”.
Step 3: What would happen if…
Next discover your motivation for making this change by placing yourself 6 months into the future. Set the timer for 5 minutes and write down (in the bottom left square):
- What would happen if…I found ways to regularly take care of my stress in this area? How would my perspective, relationships, overall health change?
- What would happen if…I continued on the way that I am and didn’t find any self-care in this area? What would happen to my perspective, relationships and overall health if I did nothing?
- The more specific your answers the better. You want to really picture the impact this sort of self-care rhythm could make on your life.
Step 4: What would relieve stress in this area?
Finally, move to the bottom right square and take a second to brainstorm some potential ways to find rest and replenishment in this area. What’s worked in the past to bring relief? What might be something new you could experiment with?
Set a timer for 5 minutes and write down as many ideas as you can. Write down self-care ideas (from any life area) that could be helpful. For example, doing yoga and getting an extra 30 minutes of sleep each day would not only be beneficial for physical stress but for emotional stress as well.
Step 5: What will you start with?
Review the items you brainstormed and circle one idea that seems the most appealing. This could be a tried-and-true idea or something you’ve never done before. Lighten the pressure on yourself with the reminder that this is an experiment and you can always try something else later.
Step 6: What do you need to let go of?
Flip the paper over so that you’re looking at the other blank side. Using the top left square, consider what you need to release in order to welcome this new self-care rhythm in your life. Move to the top right square, and ask yourself: “What mindsets, habits, activities, things, and/or relationships do I need to let go of in order to make it easier to welcome this self-care rhythm? What obstacles could get in the way?” Write those down.
Step 7: When will you start and how will you make it happen?
In the top right square write down what you will do, how often you will do it, when you will start, and any supplies you’ll need to make it happen. Again, less is more. For example, if your action step is to work out, it may be ideal to work out every morning, but if you haven’t worked out in years it may make sense to commit to working out two days a week for now. For long-term success in creating self-care rhythms, focus on building consistency over building quantity.
Step 8: How will you hold yourself accountable and track your success?
Move to the bottom left square and consider how you can check in on your progress in this area. What would you consider a victory (big or small) in this area? Perhaps you set a reminder on your phone’s calendar for one week in order to quickly assess how things are going and if your stress level is changing. You could even share your plan with a trusted friend and ask them to check in with you on the topic.
Step 9: Why are you doing this?
Lastly, move to the bottom right square and write in a sentence or two why cultivating this self-care rhythm is important. Using the data from Step 3 remind yourself of the better you that’s on the other side of creating this rhythm and what will happen if you don’t make changes to lower stress and cultivate more self-care.
Let’s cheer each other on as we welcome in these self-care rhythms! Reach out to me on Instagram (@aliciamichellecoach) and let me know how your journey is going!
Alicia Michelle is a speaker, author, certified NeuroCoach and host of the award-winning Christian Mindset Coach Podcast which can be heard on KHCB’s Uplifted Radio Stream or anywhere you listen to podcasts. Through her coaching, courses and Bible studies, she loves equipping Christian women with practical brain-and-biblically-based tools to overcome anxiety, perfectionism and self-sabotage so that they can cultivate godly confidence and find lasting peace. Get her free training on how to transform your life by transforming your thoughts at VibrantChristianLiving.com/mindset.