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Twice in one day, I had clients complain about exercise and eating healthily being chores. They had nothing but negative things to say about how they felt about engaging in these activities. Obviously, the intense feelings they had about these activities are only made worse by filing them in the category of “chore” in their brains. Would it, I wondered with them, make a difference to categorize them as “challenge”?
According to the English Oxford Living Dictionaries, a chore is either a “routine task, especially a household one,” or “a tedious but necessary task.” (accessed 1/21/19, https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/chore). Even here we have leeway. Thinking of exercise as a routine will get the job done. It’s something you do frequently and regularly, so much so that you have no need to even think about it.
The second meaning is more like how my clients view chores: as one big “Ugh!” They give them a negative connotation because they are boring. But boring is the meaning we make of an event, rather than it being an inherent quality. For sex workers, sex might be a chore because it’s their job. For a couple on their honeymoon, sex is likely to be ab exciting anticipated event. If you persistently think of exercise or healthful eating as boring or tedious, you probably won’t continue these activities. So, you need either to find something engaging and enjoyable about them or make them so automatic that you don’t need to think about them to do them, aka part of your routine. In this case, they don’t need to be anything but what they are, that is, something you do. Period.
Thinking of self-care behaviors as challenges will help. The Oxford Dictionary defines a challenge as “a task or situation that tests someone's abilities” (accessed 1/21/19), https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/challenge. Is testing your ability inherently a negative endeavor or is it a means of moving forward toward success or achieving a goal? Sure, there’s a possibility that you might fail the test, but do you need special, unusual “abilities” to take care of your body? I think not. You need only desire and drive.
As I’ve said a gazillion times, we take care of things we love. Case in point: I was doing distance therapy with a client whose dog was barking up a storm. Each time he did, she got up, went over to him, and talked firmly but sweetly to calm him down. She’s someone who finds going to the gym a chore, yet she didn’t see interrupting her session to attend to her dog as a chore. She did it out of love, as one would hope, and cared for her dog because she felt responsible for him. Why not have the same attitude toward caring for your body? Turn a chore into a challenge and a challenge into an act of love.
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