Do it again and again. Consistency makes the rain drops to create holes in the rock. Whatever is difficult can be done easily with regular attendance, attention and action.Israelmore Ayivor
We’ve just launched into the eighth month of what has been one of the more interesting years in modern history. It’s time for an update on how my word of the year Consistency has been helping.
As with most people I can confidently say that this year looks nothing like I expected it to. I started working from home at the end of March and the change threw me for a little while. I failed to create new routines right away and floundered until I worked out why. I needed a new set of habits and routines! I am not ashamed to admit that my wobble that lasted several weeks set me back on my health journey a little. But this is the way we learn isn’t it? We stumble, and then we get up and dust ourselves off and figure out the best way to attack what lies before us. We cannot be lax and think that just because we are home and in a safe space that everything else will fall into place. Figuring out what works in the new context takes some awareness and thought.
I had fallen into the trap of keeping self-care activities for when I got to crisis point. I was being reactive. It had come to the point where concern about the future has become background noise and I don’t always feel that I am stressed until it builds to a crisis point.
The thing is though that self-care needs to be proactive. It’s a way of life where you need to incorporate these practices into your daily routines so that you can keep ticking over with your head above water, without reaching crisis point and having to scramble back up from under the water. All of which takes up more energy that we can sometimes spare.
This new reality has meant that I needed to sharpen my focus on the things that really matter and cut out the things that don’t. I am optimistic, but I am weary, so proactive self-care and self-management are crucial for me to be resilient and stay in a good place as much as possible while things are more than a little crazy around me. And I know that I am in a very privileged position. Other people are doing it far harder than I am, but that doesn’t negate my own feelings and reactions to what is happening. For me to stay even, I need to recognise and accept what I am feeling. Then I am in a better position to help others.
What am I focussing on?
Things that will not only support my long-term goals, but also help with the simmering anxiety about the pandemic:
- Exercise daily
- Physical health and nutrition
- Feed my brain stuff other than the slews of rubbish on social media
- Order in my physical environment
- Balance busy with rest
What has helped me stay consistent
Here are the routines that have helped me get back on track:
- Reasonably rigid times for work and exercise
- Going to bed at the same time each night
- Reading – feeding my brain the good stuff
- Lists – I am writing everything down, because my mind is like a sieve at the moment… not sure if that’s the simmering anxiety or the reverse-puberty adventure.
- Morning routine that includes meditation and journalling
- Scheduling – block time out in my calendar for everything, including rest and routines
Checking in with myself
I was doing these weekly, but found that it wasn’t often enough, so I am now doing them daily. It helps quiet my mind and prepare me for bed.
You can find out more about check ins at Pilgrim Soul.
This is where I could pour out all the sadness and anxiety about the pandemic and whatever else was bothering me. No judgement, no sharing with others, just removing what is whirling round in my head and putting it down on paper so that I didn’t have to think about it anymore. A brain dump to clear the mind-attic or the rubbish that accumulates.
Once it’s all out I can leave it there and then get on with my day… or sleep.
Committing to the two-minute rule
If I have committed to doing something and don’t feel like doing it, then I tell myself to start whatever it is and do it for two minutes. By that time I am either into it and want to keep going, or if there is a deeper malaise, I reschedule the commitment and have a bit of a dig as to what the issue is that is making me think I cannot do whatever it is. It works particularly well with exercise. Even if I start and want to keep going but still feel rubbish, I alter what I am doing to be kind to myself. A little bit is better than nothing at all and it serves to cement the habit for the long-term.
If you want to know more about the two-minute rule, check out James Clear’s Atomic Habits book.
Benefits of consistency
Our brains like stability and order. Being consistent helps bring order to our internal world and keeps us calm and focused. Knowing there is always a plan to follow even when we are feeling discombobulated and disconnected from ourselves and others is soothing.
Little things add up, even if it doesn’t feel like it at the time. Consistency is the bedrock of forming great long-term habits and making progress toward our goals.
When people see commitments are met with consistency, they tend to develop trust. Trust is the key to persuasion.Khalid Imran
Generally, I originally set the goals that I am working towards when I am in a happier headspace, so I need to trust that I have developed the habits and goals for good reasons. This of course means that we need to review our habits regularly to ensure they are still serving us. Look particularly closely at the easy things to be sure you haven’t fallen into a rut.
Now that things are ticking over reasonably well it’s time to consolidate, meaning I need to keep going the way I am going without adding anything big or new for the next month or so. Which is not to say they are set in concrete, there’s always leeway to tweak existing habits and adjust course if they are not doing what I need them to. But on the whole, stick with it.
Remember to hold your routines and habits with an open hand though. If we hold on too tight to these routines, the next time a spanner is thrown in the works, we will spiral. So I need to be flexible enough to roll with the punches but also maintain the routines and habits as the ground shifts under me.
I love working from home and being a hermit in my little home is right up my alley from the perspective of my personality, but that doesn’t negate the undercurrents of being anxious for family and friends and for protecting my well being. I need to ensure consistency is maintained so that I can be resilient so that I can help others when the need arises.
Do I always get it right? Um… no! But it’s a cycle, and consistency builds resilience and trust in myself. Onwards!
For changes to be of any true value, they’ve got to be lasting and consistent.Anthony Robbins