Not Another Self Care Checklist - Why Self Care Tools Don't Work
Mental Health Education,  Self Care for Mental Wellness

Not Another Self Care Checklist: Why Self Care Tools Don’t Work and What to Do About It

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Just Another Checklist

I know what you’re thinking: ugh, not another self care checklist!!

Believe me, I totally understand that sentiment. I’m the queen of starting routines, following them for a couple weeks and then forgetting about them when I get too busy or stressed. I’m right there with ya.

On that note, I’m going to tell you a secret. MSB’s checklists and all our self care tools, they’re just not that special. In fact, they actually don’t do anything at all.

So why am I even sharing these tools at all if they don’t work? Well, if you’re an avid MSB reader – you already know that this isn’t your average self help post. Today we’re talking about the psychology behind self help tools, why they often fail, and what we can do about it.

So buckle up, suspend your disbelief and get curious cause here we go!

Why Do Self Care Checklists and Other Attempts at Routine Fail?

As always, let’s take a look at the “why”. Why do so many attempts at routine fail?

No, it’s not because “you suck at routine” or there’s something wrong with you. It all has to do with the process behind the routine and whether it’s sustainable or not.

You see, taking care of ourselves takes a lot of energy input (whether you realize it or not). Basically, it’s a big mental, emotional, and physical lift to start a brand-new-good-for-you habit. Many of us tackle that challenge with sheer willpower.

But what many of us don’t realize, is that willpower is a very limited resource. One that’s entirely too easily influenced by your mood, circumstances, weather, hormones, position of the moon, how your grandma’s butternut squash soup tasted…You get the idea. Willpower is well, powerful, but pretty damn flakey.

What’s that got to do with us? Well, according to Healthline, most habits take an average of 66 days to become automatic. But it can take anywhere from a few weeks or even up to a year for a habit to become fully ingrained in us. With all that time, the new car smell of even the most brilliant workout plan or skin care routine fades.

So willpower’s flakey ass alone will not get you through. And that’s why most attempts at routine fail.

How to Make a Routine You Can Stick To

Hands up if you’ve failed at a new self care routine? You can’t see me – but I’m raising two hands and one foot. Oof. The reality is – routines are hard. Why? Because good habits just can’t compete with the hit of dopamine that bad habits release in the brain.

And routines are even harder for those of us who struggle with mental health disorders and cognitive processing differences. But guess what – even with all that against you, you CAN do this. All you need is a change of perspective, a little support from family and friends, and some of MSB’s patented self care hacks. So let’s do this!

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Step 1: Change Your Perspective By Kicking Cognitive Distortions To The Curb

Have you ever heard of a cognitive distortion? In a nutshell cognitive distortions are unhelpful ways of thinking that keep us stuck and the number one reason why healthy habits fail.

(Find out more in the graphic below)

Common forms of faulty thinking. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a  scientifically proven therapy effective for thoughts and behaviors… | PWP  life | Cogni…

When building a self care routine, the biggest thought distortion we face is often “All or Nothing Thinking.” We believe we have to cut out all junk food. Or that the only way to lose weight is with intense cardio (this was one of my own distortions until recently).

This black and white thinking gets us in trouble. We think once we’ve messed up once, that’s it – it’s all over. But what if we reframed that thought? What if we realized that eating a piece of cake or forgetting to wash our face with the super special expensive cleansing system was an important part of the process instead of the end of it?

I know what you’re thinking: “That doesn’t sound right, what kind of crazy stuff are you preaching here?”

But hear me out.

When we accept failure as part of the routine building process it’s like a huge weight is lifted. There’s a lot less pressure to do things perfectly, which in turns makes the routine less of a chore and makes YOU more likely to keep doing it in the future!

So have that piece of cake in moderation. Wash your face with normal cleanser one night if you’re too tired to do the whole system. Save your energy so you can make the best decisions possible through the whole journey, not just the beginning of it.

Step 2: Understand That Change is Complex and Cut Yourself Some Slack

Real talk time:

I’ve always struggled with my weight. You could call me a classic Yo-yo dieter. I did Keto, Low Carb, counted calories, ran marathons, signed up for Cross-fit, you name it. Anything I could do but the weight always came back.

I lived like this, feeling a total failure each time I gave up on a diet or a workout program. Until one day I realized, the reason why I couldn’t maintain any of these things was because I didn’t know how to.

I was never taught how to do things sustainably so I never approached any of those workouts with that mindset. Instead, I put everything into each sport and every diet. Which of course burned me out and made me quit. Every. Single. Time.

I realized there was SO much I didn’t know about weight management, sustainable workouts, self care, healthy eating, and even the psychology behind all of that. Understanding that actually gave me a huge sense of relief.

So if this sounds like you, cut yourself some slack. There’s probably a lot of complex reasons keeping you from making a complete change. Take a breath and then start doing some research into what’s going to work for YOU.

Step 3: Do What Works For You

Pretty much the whole reason this site exists is because there isn’t a lot of wellness advice out there that applies to neuro-divergent people. Most mainstream advice self care and workout tips don’t take into account our experiences.

For example, a lot of productivity sites list bullet journaling as a way to stay on routine. As a neuro-divergent person, creating a routine in a bullet journal is a fun exercise but it’s not going to help me stay on track. That’s because my brain just doesn’t work that way. If something isn’t right in front of me – it basically doesn’t exist. So having my schedule in a closed book is pointless.

What does work for me is having my schedule written down and posted on the wall in my office. My To Do lists are on a white board. I get a lot more done this way.

And you don’t have to be non-nuerotypical for this to apply to you. We’re all unique and motivated by different things.

So set yourself up for success by doing what works for you! You’re way more likely to achieve your goals if you do them in a way that feels natural to you.

Step 4: Get Support From Friends, Family, and Community

This one is pretty simple. Change is hard and you can’t do it alone.

Reach out to like-minded friends who may be going through the same thing. Get encouragement from family members who want the best for you. Join groups on FB that help you learn tips and tricks to stay on track. Share your wins and even your loses on social media.

There are so many things you can do to get support, pick whichever one (or multiple) that work for you. The main thing here is not to isolate. You never know what kind of support you’ll get from being open and honest about the struggles of big life change. Trust me, that support will keep you going through the doldrums of building a new routine.

Step 5: Employ MSB’s Patented Self Care Hacks Like Our Self Care Checklist

It’s a lot harder to fail when you’ve set yourself up for success.

What does this look like? Well it’s different for everyone (see Step 3) but the main principle is to make it really easy for yourself to do the right thing. Let’s look at a couple ways we can do this.

  1. Be prepared. Have healthy snack bags made up for yourself to combat the inevitable 2 o’clock slump trip to the vending machine. Lay out workout clothes from the night before (or sleep in them). Keep good, healthy food in your house (bonus, prepare it so you can reach for an easy snack).
  2. Keep the good things front and center. Put healthy food at the front of your fridge and pantry (and put the less healthy at the back). Keep skincare products out on the counter to encourage yourself to use them. Lay your yoga mat out on the floor next to your desk. You get the idea!
  3. Relax. Seriously, chill out. Making change is already hard enough (See Step 2). You’ll only make it harder by expecting tons out of yourself. Make it easier to succeed and stay consistent by officially planning rewards and breaks for yourself into your days/weeks/months.
  4. Have a failure plan in place. We know that backslides and even failure are inevitable. The trick is not to let it stop you. That’s why it’s crucial to have a plan in place to get yourself back on track after failure. If you know you’re likely to go on a pizza bender halfway through your diet change, write 3-5 ways you can get yourself back on track. Then use that plan when you need it the most. You’ll thank yourself for sure!
  5. Get accountable – have an accountability buddy, join a group, or work with a life coach. Basically anyone who is willing to help you stay on track.

Wrap Up – Why You *Should* Use a Self Care Checklist, Even if it Doesn’t Do Anything

Remember when I said MSB’s self care checklist and other tools don’t actually do anything? After reading this article why do you think I said that? Am I a really bad salesperson? Do I hate my own work? Am I a negative Nancy?

I mean yes, generally but in this case NO.

I say they don’t do anything because tools don’t work unless you pick them up and use them. You have to do the work. I can throw advice and self care checklists at you all day but unless you’re ready to use them they’ll just end up discarded.

But if you’re reading this, I know you’re already here to do the work. So when you’re ready, all the tools (and the instructions on how to use them) are here for you. And MSB is too. You can get support from our FB groups and even join our brand new Accountability Program.

You got this <3

Much Love,

MB

BONUS! BRING IN THE SELF CARE CHECKLIST!!

Here’s the JPEG versions of the self care checklist templates which you can download and print here:

AND if you want to edit the items on the checklist, click this here link. It’ll take you to the Canva version of the forms. (You’ll have to make a free account with Canva to access, takes about two seconds) https://www.canva.com/design/DAEMXaGXZf4/share/preview?token=KTqEFCVoYpsGrk7o5PfMJQ&role=EDITOR&utm_content=DAEMXaGXZf4&utm_campaign=designshare&utm_medium=link&utm_source=sharebutton

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Mad as Hell Mental Health Rights Advocate. Likes margaritas, long walks on the beach, and JUSTICE.

One Comment

  • Megan

    I love this! I’m the worst about starting routines and then just…not keeping up with them. I like thinking of these as tools to do things I need to do, rather than a whole other new thing to do. And I love the printables!

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