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Experts weigh-in on smart goals and how to use them!

smart goals for self-care

Experts Randi Owsley, LMSW and Jess Bullwinkle, LMFT, weigh in on how to implement 5 smart goals for better self-care.

In recent years, there has been a lot of talk about self-care — the idea that it's important to take time out for your physical and emotional well being. This concept is great in theory but can be difficult to put into practice.

Many people find it difficult to create a self-care routine because they feel overwhelmed by their daily schedules. They may also be so used to being busy with other things, such as work or child care, that taking time for themselves feels foreign and unnatural.

Self-care is a vital part of living well. But it can be confusing to know how to begin, or even what that term means exactly. Psychotherapist Randi Owsley and Jessica Bullwinkle give us some tips on making self-care not just possible but sustainable. 

What is self-care?

Randi says self-care is about making life changes that make you feel good about yourself and the world around you. It can be small or big, like figuring out what purpose you want to pursue or trying a new exercise routine. You could also just sit in a hammock for an afternoon (yep Randi does).

The types of self-care routines

Although Randi's definition of self-care seems simple, she notes that there are a few specific examples that anyone can follow

When it comes to physical health, she includes the following:

  • Exercise.
  • Diet.
  • Sleep.

“It’s about how you manage your emotional well-being,” she says. “That can include relaxation techniques and even socialization (to reduce stress).

And while she recognizes that everyone has a different definition of spiritual well-being, for many people it’s tied up with organized religion. For others, it might be more about their connection to nature.

Temporarily removing yourself from social media and other distractions can help you stay focused, says Jessica. 

Why do SMART Goals Matter?

By taking time to care for yourself, you can better handle life’s demands. Whether that’s work, family or something else—only by looking after your own needs will you be able to help those around you

Again, the important thing is being deliberate about the activities you do. It doesn't matter what they are; just planning them ahead can help you prevent burnout at work.

They explain that thoughtful, deliberate planning can help us be more effective in the world around us.

How to understand SMART Goals.

If you’re wondering where to start, look for something that you’ve always wanted to do or maybe something you feel is necessary—for instance, an exercise routine. And when it comes time for your first day of action and inspiration (and motivation), follow the S-M-A-R-T concept Randi, outlines:

  • Specific: Identify the details about your goals.
  • Measurable: Decide how progress will be measured.
  • Achievable: Set realistic goals.
  • Relevant: The change will make a difference.
  • Time-bound: Set a realistic timeframe.

They recommend looking at replacing current routines or behaviors with better ones—eating healthier snacks is one example. “Always start with the easy tasks so that you can build confidence and momentum before moving on to more difficult tasks.” Says Randi. 

Jessica says that you should think of self-care activities in layers. “Some things should be done every day,” she explains. “But other types of care might only need to happen once a week or even once a year—or even less frequently!

They advise you start with your daily self-care routine (like meditating, taking a bath or exercising) and then focus on something you can do weekly that makes you feel good.

Doing something slightly bigger, like going out with friends or having a spa day, once a month will motivate you to do more big things. And setting one big thing that you want to accomplish each year can help keep you on track. Say a vacation fund, or staycation. 

By creating short-term and long-term goals, you keep yourself motivated and also give yourself regular opportunities for self care.

How long does it take to establish Smart Goals?

While the idea that it takes 21 days to establish a new habit has become popular, Randi says it’s not correct; this number was taken out of context from an old study and does not represent a true average for how long habits take to stick.

“Studies show that it takes between 18 and 250 days to develop a habit, with the average being 66 days. But this isn't always right—the time frame varies by person. Some habits are easier to pick up than others.”

Don’t stress over lapses in SMART Goals or Self-Care

(it's part of the healing process)

“You’re going to make mistakes,” says Jessica. “That's why it is so important to be forgiving of yourself when you do slip up—it might happen for any number of reasons: a change in schedule, other priorities or demands on your time or sometimes just giving yourself some rest and relaxation (which isn't a bad thing!).

Regardless of the circumstances, Randi and Jess say it's important to adjust your lifestyle instead of giving up entirely. “When changes happen in our lives we have to find a new routine and adapt ourselves into what’s going on—sometimes that takes time.”

More information on Self-Care.

Self-care is something personal, and that's why it’s important to figure out what works for you. “You have to know yourself because what may work for you—like a spa day—may not work as well someone else,” Randi says. “The more self-aware and flexible you are, the better able you will be to clearly identify what is most meaningful in your life.”

Written by: Randi Owsley, LMSW.

Favorite Self Care Items (again this looks different for everyone!)

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5 Smart Goals and How to Implement Them