Many caregivers acknowledge the importance of caring for themselves yet, in another breath, we hear them use statements such as, “I feel overwhelmed,” “I’m stressed out,” “I’m too busy to eat, let alone find time to stay healthy,” or “there are so many things to do, how can I make time for myself?”
Firstly, self-care or how we self-manage our health and well-being is always a decision. We can choose to be active in working towards change or we can choose to be passive or even decide not to act. But it’s always our decision.
Secondly, self-management is a skill. Skills need to be learned, tweaked and practised.
Self-management and goal setting go together. The research on goal setting suggests listing as many goals as we want to reach. Don’t worry if the list is too long, too short or the goals seem lofty. Just start by writing them down. Then, choose the one that is most important to you or the one that you want to work on first.
Let’s say your goal is to “become fitter.”
Start by listing options of how you want to become fitter. This may include walking, going to the gym, swimming, or taking up pickleball. Perhaps you decide swimming is the option you want to try as the pool is on the way to and from work and you have a friend that wants to start swimming again.
According to self-management research, one of the keys to goal-setting is to focus on one step at a time or a short-term action that can be accomplished in a week. This is called an action plan. Short-term and easy-to-reach goals help build confidence and, ultimately, success in reaching larger goals.
An action plan is a tool that helps you reach your goal. It’s about making a very specific plan, including:
What you are going to do?
How much will you do?
When you will do it?
How often will you do it?
If your goal was to become fitter by swimming, then the action plan for your first week, might be:
I am going to swim two times a week for 20 minutes on Mondays and Wednesdays right after work with my friend.
The research on action planning suggests a key ingredient for success is once you’ve written your action plan down, ask yourself, “on a scale of 0 to 10, with 0 being totally unsure and 10 being totally certain, how sure am I that I can complete this entire plan?” If you answer 7 or more, then chances are very high that you’ve set a realistic goal. If you are less than 7, go back to your action plan and dig deeper to find out why you don’t feel confident. This will help you change the action plan to one that you feel more likely to complete.
Find the best way to check in with yourself on how the plan is going. It might be having a friend or co-worker check in or it could be checking off the items on your action plan.
This article was originally published in INSPIRED Senior Living.