When It's Time For Change
Emotional Health Editor, KBI Inspire Magazine
Maureen Pollard, MSW, RSW is a registered social worker with a private practice in Cobourg, Ontario. Visit her online at: maureenpollardmsw.com
"We find ways to move through our days, to interact with other people, and to handle our feelings. The routines and habits we develop become comfortable even if they sometimes cause problems."
Change is hard! We find ways to move through our days, to interact with other people, and to handle our feelings. The routines and habits we develop become comfortable even if they sometimes cause problems. When we fall into the habit of drinking a large, caffeinated drink in the afternoon, it can feel comforting as we consume it, but it can disrupt our sleep which will then impact our functioning the next day and lead us to need the comfort of that large, caffeinated drink in the afternoon once more! So many of the behaviours that create difficulty are cyclical, just like that.
Often when we think about making changes, we become overwhelmed by how much we need to do, and how hard it is to resist our usual patterns of coping and getting through our day. The key to lasting change is setting SMART goals, making them Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timely.
1. Choose one small change and be specific. Will you add a serving of vegetables to lunch and dinner to help you move toward better nutrition? Will you set your alarm fifteen minutes earlier to help you move toward being on time?
2. Make the change measurable. One serving of vegetables. Fifteen minutes earlier. Answering five emails (or one email, if five is still too overwhelming!)
3. Choose something that feels possible. When we decide to make big sweeping changes, it is often impossible to sustain and sometimes it is hard to even get started. Choose one small task and begin there.
4. Make the change relevant to how you want to feel. Are you exhausted every day? Focus on small changes that will help improve your sleep. Try swapping out that large, caffeinated drink in the afternoon for a smaller caffeinated drink at lunch or try switching to a decaffeinated choice. It’s worth the effort to find a decaffeinated drink you find just as comforting as the original.
5. Set timelines for your plan. Will you add a serving of vegetables to your lunch and dinners daily at least four days a week? Will you set your alarm fifteen minutes earlier for one week or for one month before you consider setting the alarm fifteen minutes earlier again as you look for the sweet spot that allows you to have enough sleep and be ready for your day on time?
Don’t give up! Change is hard. We are creatures of habit, and it is easy to fall back into our old behaviour patterns, even when our new choices feel good. If you find yourself slipping, be gentle with yourself. That is just part of the process of change. You can begin again anytime, choosing one small, specific change.