Developing the right habits can be challenging, however possible. As a Life Coach, I often mentor youth and young adults and had one ask me the other day, “I am always late to wherever I go, and I don’t mean to, but no matter how I try, I am. How can I improve?” We sat down and went through her typical day and found little adjustments that could be made, like getting her bag ready the night before or laying out her clothes for the next day the night before to save her the hurricane that goes through her closet every morning. This scenario is, however, not unique to this young woman; and is common for many people across all walks of life.
Most of these are often simple, and perhaps not new, but why don’t we do them?
Creating new habits and making them stick seems more like a burden like hiking a steep mountain with a 2,000 ft. gain in elevation within a few minutes. Why is this? In my interactions with individuals over the years, a common theme continues to emerge, which is most people get stuck in the “guilt phase.” “Oh my! I already ate three cookies anyway. Argh! I hate myself. What’s the point, I’ll eat the entire box?” I am running late again; I might as well not go to that meeting. Everyone will think I am not dependable”. Then limiting belief sets in which reinforces the fact that they cannot change or improve, which further deepens the path of guilt that started plotting in their minds. If you haven’t noticed, the closest fan of guilt is shame; but the two are not always related. Someone who is guilty of something might not feel shame, and a person who feels shame for something might not feel or be guilty at all (topic for another day).
These are disempowering experiences, but we need not stay stuck there. It’s a choice. The only way to master your day is first by actively being involved in your own life. Do what you can, today. We can choose, from a position of power to kick-start our day right and also continue it from a position of strength and determination. Here are a few tips to help you.
- Lay out your cloths and prepare your bag the day before. I developed this habit as a youngster! I had 4 younger siblings to get ready for school, and then myself and needed to fast-track the morning, everyone’s bag, socks, uniforms, underwear was set on the couch the night before. If you have kids and need to get them ready for school, you can appreciate the pandemonium in the morning when they can’t find a pair of socks, their homework book, their pencil or eraser or better still, their bags gone missing and walked out the front door. This strategy helped me recently when I suddenly woke up late. I was panicking from the time my eyes opened but was able to get out the front door in 15 mins; showered, brushed my teeth and dressed in 15 mins. My clothing, bag, and shoes were laid out the night before. I remember trying to tie my shoes as I ran out the door. It was funny, but I was less stressed and didn’t forget anything. Setting a reminder to start doing this just before you go to bed every night can help. It can take as little as 5 minutes.
- Get some sunlight! “Oh sun! How we underestimate you.” I recently had a friend who had been depressed and fatigued for so long and nothing seemed to work. I recommended some supplements, but also advised her to get blood work done. The blood work revealed some ridiculously low vitamin D levels. She leaves for work before sunrise, works in an office, leaves for home when the sun has gone down and she doesn’t get out much. You get great benefits from being in the sun. A few minutes in the day is good, and without sun screen (or what is the point then). The sun can also energize you.
- Use a daily planner. It can be digital or physical or a wall calendar. Find out what works for you and block out days and times of important events for you. It doesn’t have to be fancy. I have found using pen and paper to be just as effective. One thing I have found is to try not to book very intense or critical activities/events back-to-back. Leave room in between to recuperate. Take care of yourself. Also, don’t let the calendar rule your life, use it as a guide.
- Take a walk. Use those legs. I have found walks to be very relaxing and decompressing. On walks, I can either process my day and/or any emotions I have been feeling. Movement is good, if you can’t get to the gym, take a walk. Even if you get to the gym, still take a walk. This is especially important for people with desk jobs. You can organize walking groups at your workplace, which can also serve as a double reward and help you bond with your teammates. When happy, take a walk. When sad, take a walk. When stressed, take a walk. Take a walk and appreciate the beauty around you. Recently, I took a walk at almost 10 pm one night, I had been feeling “stuck” in my body all day. It felt weird to want to take a walk, but the urge persisted. I took a walk to the nearby grocery store. The approximate 45 minute walk did magic. I was hyper-alert because it was during the night and my mind was distracted from whatever I was previously thinking. I realized when I arrived back home that I felt better. A walk fixed it!
- Touch more. We are innately wired for touch. It is a language of communication that needs no “verbal language.” Every baby of every race, every culture, tongue and tribe, responds to being carried, hugged, stroked, and touched. It is calming, and says to the child, “I am here. No need to fear.” In professional settings, be the first to shake hands and compliment others. A compliment is an emotional touch. Be authentic about it. When you see your friends, don’t be afraid to initiate hugs and kisses (if appropriate in your culture). Of course, ask for permission or ask “can I give you a hug?” It doesn’t hurt to ask. If you are touch-averse, you can learn it, it will heal you. Not growing up in a touch-centered home, I would squirm at the hugs I got as an adult. A friend sees me and they are diving for a hug and my brain is thinking, “Somebody save me!” and when they hug me, my brain is thinking “ok…….ok……ok, that’s enough….ok…Disengage! Disengage! Disengage!” I kept exposing myself to the discomfort till it became normal for me, because the truth is those hugs did make me feel better.
- Learn to say NO. If you are a people pleaser, I understand how this makes you feel. However, recognize that those who love and respect you will not suddenly become your enemy if you say “No.” In an emotionally healthy relationship; whether at work, home or play, an individual should be able to say “Yes” or “No” without fear. If you have relationships that cause you anxiety because of “feared consequences” as a result of saying “No”, it might be time to re-evaluate them.
- Do something for yourself. What makes you feel better? It might be reading for 20 minutes. Sitting in silence for 15 minutes. Talking to a friend for 10 minutes. Listening to a podcast. Going through a beauty routine. Prioritize self-care; when you do, you are expressing love to yourself. It is not selfish to take care of yourself and choose yourself at certain times above others. I love to read and gain new knowledge. I noticed if I don’t read and digest new information in a day, I feel funny. It doesn’t have to be anything long or deep. I subscribed to an online dictionary that sends me new words daily and how to use them in sentences and that for me can be enough.
There are many other tips too, like eating healthy, doing something nice for someone without them asking, and engaging in positive self-talk. Hopefully any one of these can help you.
What ways have you been able to master your day?
What strategies have you developed? What worked? What didn’t?
What was the tipping factor to your emotional breakthrough in establishing new habits?
Willing to share? I am eager to hear. Let’s start this conversation.
Dr. Tolu Oyewumi is a people developer, divergent thinker and voracious reader who is madly in love with learning. With her strong scientific and artistic talent, she invites you to look at the world through a different set of binoculars and microscopes.