Light in my Shadow

Improve Self-Care – Baby Steps Is How You Get There (Keep On Going!)

When you first begin to improve self-care – whether it’s taking up a new habit or stopping an old one – it can be REALLY hard.
It’s often starts as one step forwards, and one step back (or two or three steps back if you’re like I was…).
But this is still progress because it’s how we learn. We’re human – we’re not perfect so go easy on yourself. I didn’t get it straight away – far from it – I crawled forward, crying and cursing half the time, and often I slid right backwards. I sucked with willpower and I excelled at self-sabotage. Hell of a time I had, but the point is, I still got there. If I could it, anyone can.
improve self-care

Deciding to improve your self-care kicks in pretty early in your mindful drawing practice.

With consistent practice, mindful drawing teaches you to slip into observer mode.
First, you’ll have an awareness of the more obvious things you know you could do to improve self-care. Those things you’ve wanted to do for ages. And this process never really goes away. As you get a handle on those first healthy habits, you’ll become aware of new ones. You continually improve self-care, layer by layer.
For me, my wise inner voice was always broadcasting self-care messages like: “Starting from tomorrow, drink more water. Don’t spend all day on Instagram. Write in your journal. Meditate FFS. Eat less junk food. Chocolate is NOT breakfast. Drink less coffee. MOVE your ASS and do some goddamn stretches girl! Stop checking the news for the 30th time. Read before bed.” (When I re-read this paragraph, I hear it in a militant-overlord-through-a-megaphone voice. Weird).
That’s a peek at what my self-care wish list looked like (I had tons more btw but this ain’t a novel).

Your personal plan to improve self-care might look something like this:

Eat less meat this week. Cook at home a little more instead of getting takeout so much. Spend some time away from the kids to recharge ON YOUR OWN instead of going bonkers. Go for a long walk. Have a bath until your feet are all wrinkly and not feel guilty. Make time for mindful drawing and journal about the process. Drink more hibiscus tea. Stop with the online shopping (cause you know you don’t need all that the shit). Cut down on wine. Watch less trashy reality shows. Read that book. Listen to more podcasts or immerse yourself in silence. Maybe it’s a desire to practice setting better boundaries.

What I do next, is I get all excited.

I get really hyped for this new version of me. I’ll write my list in thick black sharpie onto big A4 paper, and I’d stick it to my wall where I can’t NOT see it. Every single Monday I’d be raring to go.

The harder half of this well-versed scenario, is actually doing these things.

Everyone is different with taking up new habits, but I feeling pretty comfortable speaking for the entire world’s population in saying that trying to take up a new healthy habit is NOT easy.
I’m gobsmacked at how strong human programs are – take Version 1.0 of me for example (aka the old, super dysfunctional me). When I got really sick with bronchitis I’d still be ripping bongs every day- I couldn’t stop. I still took drugs, drank wine and gambled even though it was damaging me (definitive characteristics of my Substance Abuse Disorder and Gambling Affected Disorder. *cringe*).
I had grandmothers on both sides who were diagnosed with diabetes. Sugar is like crack (except it’s legal and people shovel it into their mouths). Even when they lost their eyesight, their fingers, toes, and years off their life they still couldn’t improve their diet. That’s how hard it can be to implement new habits.

I’ve never had a problem knowing what to do to improve self-care.

At any time I could list 10 things I should do less of, and 10 I should do more of. I think we can all do that part – it seems easy enough.
Sometimes I did that new thing for a few days, then I slid back into old ways of functioning (habit). Sometimes this meant relapses from my addictions. Often it was about a diet change, more exercise, less social media, or slacking off on my spiritual practices like journaling or meditation.

And when old programs slide back in and override your willpower, it’s a kick in the guts.

Some hurt more than others, depending on how serious it is. Having half a block of chocky for breaky instead of cereal for the third time this month? I can live with that.
Relapsing seriously with drugs, booze and gambling for the 70th time? When it’s your rent money? Now that’s a level of self-loathing, disgust and disappointment that takes days to shake off. I’ve visited that place many times and will never go there again.
My lack of self-care extended to visits to the dentist. Old me never addressed my dental issues for decades (flat out truth? for serious addicts, brushing your teeth twice daily is way down the list of priorities). When I finally began to improve self-care I had to fix all this and it wasn’t fun at all.

I have so many examples of my lack of self-care.

Once I had stitches in my shoulder that I never even bothered to take out – I just left them in there for months. I used to get cigarette burns on my fingers ALL THE TIME because I was so drunk I didn’t even realise they were burning me. Back in my 20s I’d sleep with people without protection, and I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’d get into cars to get lifts from people who I DID NOT KNOW because I was either drunk or high. Old me used to not eat for days at a time, to the point where I couldn’t stand up without being so dizzy I felt like I was going to pass out.

I can keep going on and on with these examples, but I think now is a good time to stop…
It makes me so sad this was me. And it’s dangerous. It is also typical behaviour of people who have serious issues with lack of self-care (because we have lack of self-love).
It’s actually pretty hard saying all that. But this ain’t a bar and I’m not here to pick up. I’m here to be REAL. I’m here to be brave and if people judge me, that’s none of my business – it’s theirs. My business is that I’m honest. If my story is ever going to help people, it means I have to tell it like it is, not airbrush the grit and darkness out.

I can’t actually fathom old me now.

I cannot comprehend being like that – but I was. Getting my addiction needs met was my only priority. It’s the only way I knew how to keep my emotions and trauma locked away.
On a semi-lighter note, I know women religiously take their make up off and apply eye cream and moisturiser every night. I didn’t wash my make up off at night or moisturise EVER from around 15-40. When you’re drunk or high every night, the last thing you’re thinking about is your fucking skin care regime.

These days I wash my face every single night. I moisturise. I brush my goddamn hair and I keep my dental appointments. I’m all about prevention. Better late than never isn’t just a saying.

Not long into your consistent practice of mindful drawing, you’ll start getting inklings on what you should do less of, and what you feel you should do more of to contribute to a healthier, happier you.

You’ll write a list, and you’ll probably start doing some of them, and you’ll probably…..stop. Stop, start, stop, start – and using willpower and self-awareness you’ll keep going, learning a little more about yourself each time.
As long as you put in the consistent practice, other benefits I’ve mentioned will also start appearing for you, and each one will play a role in gradually helping you to overcome your programs.
It’s all about direction, not the speed. Baby steps forward are perfect, because what are 100 baby steps? They’re great big strides. You can climb Mount Everest with baby steps.

I can teach you the same way I learned through mindful drawing if you wish to learn. When your intention is strong and you put in the work, regardless of how long it takes to improve self-care, you WILL get there.