What are your old habits telling you?

If you’re like most people, every once in a while you start to show signs of fatigue or even burnout. When we do, we often slip back into habits we thought we outgrew – getting less sleep, drinking more soda (or wine), or scrolling mindlessly on social media. Instead of scolding or shaming yourself for the habit that’s crept back in, what if you took a step back and offered yourself compassion by asking, “what is it I really need? What are these habits giving me that I’m not freely giving myself right now?”

This is what happened to me late last week. I was running on empty and thought the best response was to keep going full throttle because I had a lot of important “stuff” to do. The week prior, I had been taking care of my mom after her hip replacement surgery for seven days straight. I didn’t get much rest. I was physically and mentally exhausted, yet I went back to my full time job and running my coaching practice on Monday, as if I was super woman somehow. “I don’t need any time off. I can do it,” is what my head was telling me on repeat. Old habits started to creep back in. I was drinking a lot more soda than usual. I was spending more time than usual on social media. I was staying awake later than usual and skipping some good sleep hygiene practices. I started shaming myself for these habits.

I shamed and scolded myself for these habits until I had an appointment with a new dietician to talk about incorporating heart health into my intuitive eating practice. During that appointment she reminded me that when old habits creep in, it’s time to offer compassion and curiosity rather than shame and scolding. What is it I need? What are these habits giving me that I’m not giving myself? A-ha!!!! Lightbulb moment! It’s not like I didn’t know this intellectually before that appointment. It’s that I didn’t take the time to recognize and believe that in my heart. I was too busy staying in my head.

What I soon realized is that I was craving comfort because I was overwhelmed and feeling exhausted. I needed to offer myself some space and comfort in healthy ways. I needed some planned downtime.

That very night after my appointment, I did exactly that. I planned to do nothing after my work day. I took a hot bath and put my pajamas on early. I read. I listened to a recent favorite podcast. I went to bed on time. I was feeling better in the morning yet knew that it was not a once and done thing. I signed off early from my full time job the next day and simply rested. It was after that rest that I felt even better. I’d given myself what I needed two days in a row.

I’m sure there will be another time when I need to remember this because we are only human and life is all about the journey not the destination of “figuring it out” for good.

Every habit is an opportunity for extreme compassion and curiosity. Next time you start creeping back into old habits, ask yourself what it is you truly need. Chances are the old habit is giving you something you need and you are not giving yourself freely.

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