I am a strong believer in the fact that it doesn’t have to be January 1st to make a healthy change to your lifestyle. To prove that, I have taken on Dr. Amanda Brouwer’s challenge to make a healthy lifestyle change myself in a matter of weeks.
Dr. Brouwer is an associate professor in the psychology department at WSU. Her studies and area of expertise are social psychological factors that influence health and health behaviors, particularly for people living with or at risk for chronic disease.
Dr. Brouwer’s challenge “Self-as-a-Doer DIY” has focused on physical health so I have chosen to follow her steps for ways to deal with my mental health, stress as well as physical health. As a busy college student, I’m sure many people can agree that stress can take over our daily lives pretty severely and it’s something I have struggled with.
“List your goals.” Dr. Brouwer says they should be personal, specific and for the most part, positive. An example of this for me would be saying “when I feel stressed out, I should go for a walk outside.” Dr. Brouwer recommends six goals as a good starting point. Here is my list of goals:
- Write out everything I need to get done in a list form and cross off everything as I do it so I don’t get overwhelmed with tasks.
- Instead of keeping all my stresses bottled up, talk it out with a friend.
- Go to the gym and workout when I feel overwhelmed.
- When I start to feel stressed, take a deep breath and come back to what I was doing that stressed me out an hour later if possible.
- Meditate to clear my mind of worry or stress.
- Write everything down in my planner and keep a schedule to be better organized.
“Create self-doer phrases.” It describes yourself doing the goal. For example, each phrase, taken from your list of goals, ends in –er. Some of the sentences might not make perfect sense with the –er ending but don’t worry because that is ok. Some of my phrases are: “about stress with friend talker”, “gym goer”, “Meditator”,“planner/organizer”, etc. These are personal for me when it comes to me wanting to deal more effectively with my stress. The self-doer phrases will vary with each person though.
“Measure your identification with each self-as-doer phrase.” This means that for each of the self-doer phrases that you just created, rank them using a scale of 1 to 5. Here is Dr. Brouwer’s specific scale to follow:
1 – Does not describe me well at all
2 – Does not describe me well
3 – Neutral
4 – Describes me well
5 – Describes me very well
For most of my phrases I was somewhere between a 2, 3 or occasionally 4.
“Make the necessary changes so you can become the person described by your self-as-doer phrases.” This is the step where you really get down to business and can begin to achieve your goals. In this step, evaluate your scores for your self-doer phrases and for each one that you got below a number 3, those are the things you need to focus on most. For me that was not keeping stress all bottled up and talking to friends, meditating and keeping organized.
I came up with an example for each phrase to better myself and lessen my stress. For talking about my feelings more and not keep them bottled up, I will give my friends some signs to look for when I’m stressed so they know if I need a friend and can listen. For being better about meditating daily to cope with stress, I will set at least five to ten minutes aside each day and meditate either with a guided meditation or just set an alarm. The last one, staying organized, I will keep a planner or notebook next to my bed and make it a habit to write down everything I need to get done that day when I wake up and cross things off as I go.
Check in with yourself after four to six weeks to rank the phrases again. I have been tracking my progress with this challenge to make my lifestyle change of letting stress go from my life and to be honest, the results are more shocking than I thought they would be. I found that I am good at sticking to goals if I actually set them. The goals I set for myself were challenging for me but definitely attainable in the long run.
I started by organizing a plan for the next 21 days. I wrote in my planner the days and times I was available to work out, and created an hour in each of my day devoted to studying or homework. I also started to meditate every morning for at least 5 minutes a day, sometimes 10 minutes if I had more time. I honestly wasn’t sure how much of a difference these small changes would mean for my every day stress but reflecting on these weeks now, they did! It just goes to show that goals can be attained if you just put forth a little more effort. I didn’t even make huge changes that were “hard for me to handle,” I incorporated small things I knew I could do and it made a big difference in my stress.
At the end of this plan, I also re-ranked my goals to see the progress I had made since ranking them in the beginning as Dr. Brouwer requested:
Talking out my feelings – 3
Meditating – 4
Staying organized – 5
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