ME/CFS, Keeping Self-help Habits Fresh and Staying Motivated

Because of the long term nature of this condition most of the things we can do to help ourselves we have to do over and over again. The more successful we are at incorporating these things into our daily routines and making them habits, the better our quality of life is likely to be. However routines can become pretty mindless and habits can slip, so from time to time we need to find fresh motivation to pay closer attention to our self-help.

After 16 years of practising the same T’ai chi ‘form’ every morning I often find that I’ve reached the end without a moment of ‘presence’. It’s just like when you drive the same route to work every day for years you often find that you’ve arrived at your destination without any awareness of that day’s journey. With my mind elsewhere (irritatingly somewhere in an Australian jungle with a bunch of celebrities I’ve barely heard of) I lose the meditative benefits of the practise and it becomes nothing more than a gentle movement routine.

To keep things fresh I’ve found it helpful to pay particular attention to different aspects of what I’m doing. One day I might try to do my T’ai chi with my eyes closed, another I aim to keep my focus on the soles of my feet, noticing the weight change as I move around. Another day I aim to slow it right down and elongate my breathing, another I focus on lightness and flow. Some days I focus on taking in energy and directing it around my body, on really ambitious days I might try to bring it all into my practise.

I also find it helpful to vary my meditation practise. I use different breathing exercises to set myself up and different practises for my morning healing, sometime using a mantra, sometimes focusing on trust. Sometime I focus on the visual qualities of the healing energy, at other times I focus on the feeling of warmth, lightness and comfort, occasionally I try listening to a humming buzz of vibration. Without consciously deciding to do things differently I tend to get lazy using my most comfortable form of imagination and can easily find that my healing mantra is just words I’m repeating whilst my mind has wandered off elsewhere.

Recently I’ve also found myself letting my attention to pacing slip. With my fresh enthusiasm for starting my new course I’ve found myself spending a couple of hours constantly on the laptop doing my coursework, only stopping when my head is too mashed to think any more. I’d probably be far more effective if I took regular breaks and alternated with doing other things. In fact I’m guilty of it right now, I’ve been at the computer for over an hour already so I’m going to have a break and move around a bit…..

…..I’m back! And I’ve set the countdown timer on my phone to 30 minutes to remind me to take another break then.

Sometimes we let our good habits slip because of a dip in motivation. It is hard to stay motivated to constantly pay attention to self-care when it just goes on and on and on. It can be particularly difficult to keep motivation strong when we have a set back or if progress is slow. Sometimes we just want someone else to come and take over, for it not be our responsibility anymore, or for the medical profession to get their heads together and come up with a cure. These are all natural and understandable responses to an ongoing struggle for health. I find that the best thing for me to do is to accept that my motivation is never going to be constant; to allow myself to be human and to trust that sooner or later it will come to back to me again. I’ve had a few weeks of letting things slip, but I wouldn’t be writing this post if I didn’t find that one morning I just woke up wanting to do all that I can to be happy and healthy again. If you’re struggling to find your motivation, give yourself a break. Our motivation is part of our life force, it is constantly within us. Sometimes it gets obscured but if we allow ourselves to ‘be’ it will soon find its way to the surface again.

One other little tip for keeping motivation strong is to show yourself gratitude for every little thing you do that aims to improve your well-being. We all get fed up of doing things that we are never thanked for, but nobody is going to thank you for your self-help efforts except you! Show yourself some appreciation!

Do you have any tips for keeping self-help habits fresh and staying motivated?

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Tips for how to stay motivated with your self-help when you have a chroni illness

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