In the early months of the year, I do a lot of thinking about what goals I want to achieve and what kind of habits I’d like to cultivate in the months ahead.
In years past, I’d make a list of all the ways I wanted to be *~*a better person*~* and try to make sure I worked towards each one of those things every single day. I used to feel like I was only a good person who could say they had a successful day if I went to bed at 9:30 PM so I could get exactly 8 hours of sleep and then wake up at 5:30 AM to:
- work out, and
- make a nutritious breakfast that covered all my macros.
If I didn’t check all of those items off the to-do list then I felt like I had failed. These were all habits I was trying to cultivate, things I was trying to do to be better, so I needed to do all of them every day!! Because we all know that you need to do something every single day for 6 weeks (or wait is it 3 weeks? or maybe 3 months?) in order to build new habits.
I thought it was just my crazy ass who didn’t realize what an impossible bar I set for myself, but then I read the millennial burnout article everyone has been talking about and realized that it is all of our crazy asses who don’t realize how unnecessarily guilty and tired we are making ourselves! Hearing this author detail the cycle of shame she feels about not doing everything she can at all times to be extremely productive hit very close to home due to the very familiar feeling I’ve had of must get shit done.
Then last year, I stumbled into a life-changing revelation as I tried to do less, be more mindful, and listen to my body — a confluence of things that my therapist had been telling me I should do for years that I finally decided to give a real go. It was this:
Don’t be too strict about practicing healthy habits every single day.
I made “listen to your body” a yardstick by which I measured whether or not I should do something. If I woke up to go to the gym but felt too tired, I went back to sleep. If I was feeling cranky and restless at work, I made time to go to the gym or take a walk outside. If my mind was feeling scattered, I journaled or meditated. When I felt like eating a big breakfast in the morning, I skipped journaling and meditating and made eggs.
After a year of listening to my body and just doing the things that feel most important and good at the time, I feel like I’ve been able to break that cycle, at least for the time being. It feels radical and affirming to say to a world that is constantly telling you that you need to do more that actually, no, I need to sleep, thanks.
If you’re driven towards numerical goals like I am, then set average ones for the week instead of trying to do each thing every day. I try to get good sleep every night (but some nights I go out and have drinks with friends), eat healthy most of the time (I don’t really know how to measure this but I cook at home a lot and also eat dessert after lunch and dinner almost every day so I guess I just try to maintain balance?), work out 2–4 times/week (rarely more, sometimes less), and journal/meditate when the spirit moves me (usually on Sundays when I am up and Aaron is still sleeping).
You probably won’t lose a dramatic amount of weight, make an exorbitant amount of money, or impress a lot of people following this advice. But if you’re lucky, you’ll probably feel less anxious and have a limited amount of self-loathing, and that is a goal worth striving toward.