I know from my own experience and behavior, and that of my clients, that it’s very easy to forget which behaviors are good for me. This is particularly true when I’m stressed, tired, excited, or out of my usual environment. At times like these, good habits are forgotten and beneficial behaviors go by the wayside.
I strongly suspect this is the case for most people, so I’ve created a well-being checklist to help you get back on track and support yourself. By practicing some of these behaviors you can lessen your stress and stop yourself from becoming burnt out or exhausted. As a result, you’ll feel more relaxed and able to enjoy your leisure time.
What’s my sleep like?
Most people need six to seven hours of good quality sleep. (There are exceptions, but not many.) Make sure you are not overstimulated before bed, and don’t eat a heavy meal, exercise, or use electronic devices within two hours of going to sleep.
What’s my digestion like?
Eating too much fat and sugar, having too much caffeine, and eating a high-carbohydrate diet depletes our energy, even if we get an initial boost from it. Small amounts of good protein, fruits, vegetables, seeds, and nuts all support our system. Try to nurture your gut by chewing your food well and not eating in a hurry. And follow the 80/20 rule by eating well 80 percent of the time and pleasing yourself 20 percent of the time.
How much do I drink?
First, are you hydrated? Make sure you get enough liquids on hot days and busy days, preferably water. Second, how much alcohol do you drink? Alcohol is a depressant that slows down your immune function and can damage your liver and cells. Try to have three or four days when you don’t drink, and keep an eye on quantity. Also, alcohol disrupts your sleep pattern.
How do I feel about myself? How’s my self-esteem?
Do you like yourself and think you are doing a good job in or out of the home? You can improve your well-being by recognizing when you do well: Finish the laundry, then sit and have a cup of coffee. Got that project done on time? Treat yourself to your favorite sandwich. When things don’t go so well, be your own cheerleader. What can I learn from this? Maybe I need to ask for help. Make your self-talk positive.
How fast am I going?
Speeding up is a natural response when we are under stress. Unfortunately it tells our body and brain that there is a threat. Initially you will be able to respond faster, but soon you will exhaust yourself and become anxious. Slow down and assess the situation. Maybe you need more help, maybe the tasks you have to complete in one day are too numerous, or maybe your expectations are unrealistic. Whatever the case, driving yourself forward is not the answer. Learn to prioritize and be realistic and let the rest go.
Do I regularly multitask?
Constantly doing two or three things at the same time means you do none of them to the best of your ability, and you fail to get the most out of what you are doing. If you’re at your child’s school play and you’re texting, where’s your focus? How much are you enjoying yourself? Juggling is not a good thing to do every day unless you work for the circus. There’s a reason we don’t ask surgeons to re-wire our houses or plumbers to teach physics or professors to cook restaurant meals. I’m sure there are people who are multi-talented but specializing is better for us (and usually better for those around us).
Do I have one or two really good friends I can count on, and do I keep in touch with them?
Social contact with people who know and understand us is supportive and relaxing. Humans are social animals who need nurture, contact, and approval. Make sure you’re getting this. We need to be with people with whom we can just be ourselves and be appreciated for who and how we are. If your family doesn’t fit the bill, seek out friends who do and make sure you nurture these relationships; they can keep you afloat when something goes seriously wrong and support you and engender resilience in everyday life. (see: Weiss, R.S. (1974), The Provisions of Social Relationships)
How much of my day do I spend interacting with electronics instead of people?
This is fine, up to a point. You may be an IT specialist and that’s your job. However, humans need human contact for support, self-worth, and fun. Make sure that you put away your phone and turn off the computer and TV now and again and have an “electronics holiday.” We are not designed to have relationships long distance. Contact and interaction support our humanness and well-being. Make sure you get your share.
What do I do on a daily basis that gives me leisure and/or pleasure?
We all need downtime. Do you have a hobby? Do you read? Do you play a sport? Humans are designed to play, so try to find time for something that you enjoy that gives you a break from your normal tasks. Additionally, do you take pleasure in small everyday things? This can be as simple as a cup of coffee on your way to work, enjoying the view from your office window, or appreciating the man who always says hello to you. Don’t take these things for granted—everyday small pleasures improve our life. You can join in by smiling at people and saying thank you for small courtesies.
How grateful am I?
A sense of gratitude can boost your well-being and even alleviate depression. I suggest that at the end of every day you find at least three things to be thankful for. They can be basic, simple things, such as “the roof over my head” or “legs that take me wherever I want.” This brings into your awareness how fortunate you are. Not everyone has these things. Don’t forget to thank your family, partner, and friends, too. People who feel fortunate and express gratitude are more optimistic and resilient. If you do this every day for a month, the list of positive things you notice will grow exponentially and the list of things that are wrong in your life will shrink and lose their ability to affect you.
Remember, this is my list, compiled from working with clients and monitoring my own bad habits, so not everything on it may resonate with you. We are designed to pick up when things aren’t right for us, so trust your instincts and start to support yourself both physically and mentally—you’ll see your well-being soar.