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Old habits die hard

Updated: Sep 1, 2021

The summer is over, kids are back to school, some workplaces resume working onsite, and we all hope that the 4th wave of the pandemic will be the last. Some of us parents need to justify why we have not taken that good care of our mental wellbeing. Personally, after balancing my time between my startup and accomodating my child on summer vacation, I had a hard realisation. As an entrepreneur, it is challenging to take a day off, not to speak of a week or two holidays, when building a product with a tight timeline. The lack of time off left me feeling constantly tired. It was not only that I did not sleep enough, but by wrong priorities, I did not take care of my own physical and mental health.

I talk to my clients about the importance to help yourself first. It's like in the airline where they tell you to grab the oxygen mask first to yourself before helping others. If you are not fit mentally and physically, you cannot be there 100% for your family or job.

How do we get ourselves to start a new habit?

  1. Self-awareness. I realised I was constantly feeling tired and irritated. The feedback from others confirmed that. I started looking at my daily habits and saw that I had begun to slack in my mental health activities, such as writing my morning paper and meditation. How easy it is to think that something else is more important and that we will do our stuff "later" or "tomorrow"... as in my case; two months later, I was astonished to find out that the habits that had kept me sane for years were not part of my daily routine anymore.

  2. Motivation. I knew from experience that I would be a difficult person to be around without my routines and good habits. I need to sleep enough every night to be a productive person. How much sleep you need depends, but the rule of the thumb is that you should be able to wake up without an alarm feeling rested then you have slept enough. I need to do physical activity to sleep well. Therefore to get back to a regular gym activity was what I needed. A body analysis or similar assessment is a good starting point. This way, you get the baseline and see where to concentrate, and it helps to keep track of your progress.

  3. Repetition. After only two weeks of regular fitness, I already sleep better and can wake up earlier in the morning to make time for my morning paper, meditation, and yoga practice. The key to creating routines is to keep the repetition ongoing; set a fixed time to do your activity. Have mercy for yourself if you slack and falter the plan you establish yourself and keep doing what you are doing. Change is hard; it is easy to go back to the old habits. However, imagine how this "new you" will look like or behave and feel after you have persisted with the regular change of habit. This picture of the "better version of you" will motivate you to keep on building on your routines and habits a day, week and month at a time.

  4. Feedback. Find a way to check yourself objectively, use an app, personal trainer, coach, peer group or whatever works for you. The important thing is to keep track of how you are progressing toward your goal.

In the end, you owe it to yourself and the people who depend on you. Change starts with you. What is your mental wellbeing worth?

"The chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken."

-Bertrand Russell

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