The Playbook For The Modern Man

How Much Slack You Should Be Cutting Yourself In Isolation, According To A Psychologist

Giving yourself a break doesn’t have to mean giving up on your routine or goals.

If 2008 was a jab to Australia’s nose, 2020 has been a right hook followed by an uppercut.

Such is the sensation when not just your finances but also your family’s health is at risk.

Not to mention the bushfires.

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In light of that, and as we reported on Sunday, many Australians are now turning to self-indulgent habits.

But how much is too much? We spoke to Dr Lars Madsen, one of Australia’s top clinical psychologists, who sits on the board of the mental health charity The Mindshift Foundation to get the down-low.

“In terms of people cutting themselves slack in this extraordinary situation, I think we need to recognise that we need to be gentle and compassionate with ourselves, but also… useful.”

This means planning our time: “We need to have structure and productive things to do during the day.”

We also need to realise that giving yourself a break doesn’t mean giving up on your routine or goals, it means being forgiving: “People need to cut themselves some slack in terms of not giving themselves a hard time or blaming themselves for being in a situation we all find ourselves in at this point in time.”

“We need to accept what we can’t control, and try not to spend a great deal of time worrying about it,” Lars told us. We also need to do nice things for ourselves, which means finding a balance between “being self-indulgent and trying to better ourselves in a healthy way.”

This means engaging in proper self-care: “activities that relate to enduring and longer-term benefits, be that physical, psychological or emotional.”

This typically involves habits like exercise, meditation, maintaining a good diet, restricting the amount of alcohol and drugs you consume, getting a good night’s sleep, avoiding toxic people, reaching out to people back home and talking about your problems [with a trusted source].”

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“These habits require a person to do some planning. It’s not something that happens automatically, and it also requires a degree of self-discipline. Say to yourself, ‘I’m going to exercise now because it’s good for me, because it’s good to manage my stress, even though right now I don’t feel like it.'”

“Self-indulgence is a much more short term focus. It’s the attitude of, ‘I just want to feel good right now.’ It’s uncomplicated and not really about any longer-term goals (think: eating the cake, getting drunk, having sex with someone you know you shouldn’t etc).”

“We can still do some of those things, but the consequences exist on a sliding scale – if you persist then the consequences are typically negative, and not in the interests of self-care at all.”

In other words: keep the bubble bath, but ditch the wine (or at least your excessive consumption).

How do you know you’re on the right track? The benefits will come after you’ve engaged in the behaviour, rather than right away: “the benefit you get is after you’ve done it.”

“A good sign [that you’re cutting yourself the right kind of slack] is that it’s a little bit harder; that it’s a little bit challenging. It’s hard to sit down and meditate, but its good for you. It’s the same with exercise: you feel better afterwards.”

“Moderate to longer-term goals require self-discipline, planning and thinking it through.”

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