How to Create Habits When You're Drained and Overwhelmed with Monica Packer


00:00:00    Alyssa 

You're listening to Voices of Your Village and today Monica Packer and I got to dive into how to create habits when you're drained and overwhelmed. For me, when it comes to habits, it can feel like, okay, I'm going to do this thing and then I go all in on something and then it feels really overwhelming and it doesn't continue. Or I look at it and I'm like, oh, that sounds great and I'm so spent or beyond my bandwidth that I cannot add another thing in. Even if my current system isn't working, that sometimes even accessing the bandwidth for change feels overwhelming and hard. I love that Monica has broken down specific steps, ways to form habits with little time, low support, limited energy, and how we can form supportive habits without being perfect at them. There was so much room in her approach for fluidity for it not to always look the same because we are in different seasons of life at different times and I love that it makes it feel accessible and achievable and really helps with the like perfection side to feel like okay don't have to be perfect at this for it to be helpful or effective. So without further ado, let's dive into how to create habits when you're drained and overwhelmed with Monica Packer. All right, folks, let's dive in. 


00:01:31    Alyssa

Hey there, I'm Alyssa Blask Campbell. I'm a mom with a master's degree in early childhood education and co -creator of the Collaborative Emotion Processing Method. I'm here to walk alongside you through the messy, vulnerable parts of being humans raising other humans with deep thoughts and actionable tips. Let's dive in together. 


00:01:54    Alyssa

Hello everyone and welcome back to Voices of Your Village. Today I get to hang out with Monica Packer. She's a normal mom, as she describes herself, recovering perfectionist who uncovered the truest model to lasting growth. It's progress made practical. As a podcaster and coach, she guides women to find sustainable growth by adapting progress over perfection-- here for that.  Yay. Monica is a mom of five, a former middle school teacher, sourdough obsessor, and beginning gardener. You can find more about Monica at Hello, Monica. How are you?


00:02:36    Monica

I'm doing great. Those hobbies I realized all are thanks to the pandemic. 


00:02:40    Alyssa

Oh, so funny. 


00:02:41    Monica

I'm a classic pandemic mom now. 


00:02:44    Alyssa

Hilarious. Yeah. The sourdough. I was like, I wonder if this picked up around 2020. 


00:02:48    Monica

It most certainly did. And I also homeschooled for a year, but I plan to never do that again. So at least that hobby, I didn't have to continue that one.


00:02:58    Alyssa

Sure. It's so funny. Cause I feel like I was like the opposite of the trendy the pandemic person where I was like, oh, I have no desire to ever like make my own bread or really pick up any of that. I was like, what can I just decrease from my life, was like my pandemic approach. 


00:03:16    Monica

You did it the smart way, especially, I just brought home 40 bags of compost right before this call. And I think both my husband and I will tell you, you picked the right path. 


00:03:28    Alyssa

My like go to in life when I'm feeling whelmed is like to decrease, I'm like, what can I take off my plate when I feel whelmed. And so for some folks, they want like a distraction or something else to be able to feel in control of. And I, when like everything else feels out of control, which also makes total sense. I'm like, let me just curl up in bed and do nothing is my go -to wherever possible. But those two sound- 


00:03:55    Monica

I love both of them. I love both paths, but I totally think I, the more I keep going on my path, I keep coming back to yours. So, I think you're doing it right. 


00:04:06    Alyssa

Oh, that's funny. Well, I'm excited today to get to chat about habits, especially when we just have a little bit of time and we don't have a bunch of support, we have limited energy. One of my like pet peeves is when people are like, wake up at 5 a .m. and do X, Y, and Z, and like carve out 20 minutes to just like meditate in the morning. And like - 


00:04:28    Monica

It's easy! 


00:04:29    Alyssa

Oh my gosh, I'm like - 


00:04:30    Monica

It's 20 minutes! 


00:04:31    Alyssa

I can't give up more sleep than I already give up and be a functional parent. Like I can't do that. That's not a choice for me. And so I'm excited to get to dive into this with you. 


00:04:42    Monica

Well, I am too. And I'll just start by saying that I did not plan to being a habit person. If people are listening and they're like habits, boring or habits, that's not for me, or, oh, I just feel anxious. I mean, all of the above, that was me too. So I'm here to talk to everyone feeling those things. 


00:04:59    Alyssa

And I'm curious because I'm one of five kids and I feel like my mom had and has like incredible routines and practices out of necessity of being a parent of five, right? That like, yeah, when you got one kid, we can get by with like, more unstructured stuff with less that's habit -based and routine -based because there's just more flexibility. And then as you add in kids, I'm curious how much of that plays into then like your interest and habits of like you've had to create them in order to survive and thrive in parenthood. Because I've noticed now I look at it and my mom, Zach and I were just talking about this of like, it's incredible. Like we'll go to my parents' house and there's like 18 of us with siblings and spouses and kids and whatever. And my parents just have these systems down for hosting 18 people consistently. And it is incredible to watch it all kind of play out now from a different lens where we're not young kids. And I'm like, oh, they've always been good at this. This is something they have really gotten down is routines and habits that worked for them to survive and thrive out of necessity, right? Cause they have, as my dad would say, a basketball court full of kids. And so I'm wondering for you personally, like, do you think that that has like played into then this work that you're doing now? 


00:06:35    Monica

You are making a connection I didn't make before this conversation, but yes, you are so, you're so right. A lot of that has come out of necessity. In addition to having those kids, three of my five so far are neurodiverse. My oldest is autistic, among other things. And you're right, out of necessity, just to try to maintain a home that was not in a constant state of dysregulation, we had to have clearer routines. And we keep those to keep us all happy and connected, not because I want everything to be super routine. And I would also say our routines are very simple still. It's not like we have a 20 step every day, like all day, every day series of routines and each one of us 20 steps. It's pretty simple in terms of they know what touch points we have during the day and they keep us all grounded. But what I would say, Alyssa is like, I've always been good at maintaining my responsibilities. So like whatever I needed to do to do a good job when I was a teacher, when I was a piano teacher, then now like as a podcaster, like, and as a mom, I've been always able to maintain my responsibilities and the habits that help those things stay in place. But what I really suffered in was having good habits and routines for myself. And it's because I was putting the responsibilities ahead of myself because everything was urgent and everything still is urgent. Everything was reactive in nature. Things had to get done. I was the one who was there. I have always been the primary caretaker for my kids and I've also worked on the side as well. So because of that, I kind of just kept putting myself on the back burner and that led to me not being in a great place, not having a self to give from, it led to a lot of dysregulation in my household because it all stemmed back to me. And so a large part of what my work is, is helping women get better habits and routines, not for their families necessarily, although that definitely can come along for the ride. And it does always does. It's more starting with themselves. So they something to give from. 


00:08:48    Alyssa

Yeah, that makes sense to me. One of the rules in my household growing up was that if my mom was sitting on the couch and her eyes were closed, unless someone was on fire, you weren't supposed to disturb her. And that was just what we knew to be true. 


00:09:07    Monica

So smart.


00:09:07    Alyssa

Yeah, she just carved out these little pockets where it was like, I'm not available for questions right now. I will be in a little bit. And we came to learn those expectations of when she was available, when she wasn't. And I actually had recently said to somebody, I think my mom was the OG queen of self -care and she didn't even know it. She would just say, oh yeah, I'm going to go out and work in the garden for the next 15 minutes. You can come out and play in the backyard if you want. You can be a part of the garden. But I think one of the things that was really key with my mom was that she also accepted like, oh, when I open my eyes from this little cat nap, I just took on the couch. Or when I pop back in after gardening, the house isn't gonna be spotless, right? Like I just let five kids run amok. And with that is gonna come the fort that they just built with all these things or whatever. Like there was a relinquish of control that she - 


00:10:12    Monica

Also probably by necessity. 


00:10:13    Alyssa

Totally. Well, but she didn't see it as like, I need to control the space at the expense of myself. For her, it was, I need to nourish myself and relinquish the control of the space all the time. And that's a practice for me. That's something I don't think, like I want both, right? 


00:10:33    Monica

Yeah, of course. We all want that.


00:10:34    Alyssa

I want to take care of myself and keep control of the space. And that's something I'm curious to kind of hear as we're talking about habits for ourselves today. I think for some of us, like habit formation can also feel like kind of like a pass -fail challenge that I always fail where I'm like, I'm gonna start this habit and then like I'm in it and I'm like, hi, failed, right? And so then I have this narrative about myself when it comes to like starting new things that like, I don't follow through with them? 


00:11:05    Monica

I'm basically standing up and applauding because you just made two huge connections on why we fail habits so much. One is because we are set up to fail and I'll talk to that. And the second is because we form an identity of someone who was bad at habits. So let's go to the first part and I'll give you the nutshell version. We can dive into anything deeper that you'd like. The nutshell version here is that a lot of times when we think we're going to start a habit, what we're really starting is a routine. So we are not just looking at one small thing to do. We're looking at a series of habits all stacked together into a routine. We're looking at a whole time of day. And sometimes these pockets can be 20 to two hours long. And when someone says they wanna start on that, they're not realizing that what they're starting is a huge thing that's gonna require a ton of energy, a ton of time, and you can do it, but it will come at a cost. And that cost is gonna come in maybe other routines you have or relationships or your mental or physical health. So that's one big factor right there is just recognizing what's the gap between what I think is a habit and what actually is a habit. And the second half to this is that we are taught to create a habit. We have an ideal in our mind and then we start it. And then we do that ideal for 28 days, 21 days, sometimes people say 30, 100 days. And then at the end of those days, we have a new habit. But what that is setting us up for is failure. Because there's no flexibility, you're starting with the ideal, which also requires a lot of energy. Even if you're like, my ideal is a 30 -minute walk a day, that seems doable. But if you don't currently walk for 30 minutes a day, that's a lot. That's a lot to do. And so we start out with this wrong idea of what it means to one, have a habit and two, to form it. And we are set up for failure when really what we need to look for is a way to form habits that is built on flexibility. And because of that flexibility, we have the consistency we need to create habits that stick. It's a whole different way of looking at one habits and forming them. 


00:13:09    Alyssa

Can you give me an example of a habit? Because I think you're right that like, when we talk about habits, often what we really mean are routines. And so what would like a habit look like in comparison to a routine? 


00:13:21    Monica

Well, and sometimes this language is interchangeable. So I don't want people to to like sit there and try to parse out, wait, like where am I starting? It's just more about if you're looking at a habit, think about how many steps are a part of it and how long it takes. And that's where you can decide, oh no, this is actually more of a routine. It's a series of habits, like a nighttime routine. I wash my face, I brush my teeth, I meditate, I journal, and I go to sleep. It's simple. Well, that's like four or five series of habits right there. So instead you think of, well, what's my skincare routine? What's my skincare, like washing my face? Well, it might have multiple steps, but because it's still in a contained space and time, like maybe three to five minutes, then that can count as a habit, even though there's technically more steps to it. But that's the funny thing is most people come to me and they're like, I want to work on my morning routine. And when we parse it out, like I said, it's a whole series of sometimes 20 steps or more, they're like, okay, so let's start back to which habit do you want to with the most, and not because you think you should have it, but it's actually something that we do a little bit backwards. I ask them, how do they want to feel in this time of day? And which of those habits will help you feel that way? And then with that habit, we come up with what I call a baseline way to not only begin it, but this baseline also acts as a way to fall back on, on the days where you have these reactive responsibilities that kick into gear, where you don't have even five minutes to do your skincare routine. You have one. You don't have you have 10 minutes to journal, you have 30 seconds. And because you don't have the ideal, it doesn't mean you can't do the ideal. It means you start with and go back to the baseline way that helps you have the consistency you need to keep doing that habit. 


00:15:03    Alyssa

Okay, I feel like I need an example. There's too many terms for me. With the baseline and the habits and the routines. Yeah, so I guess -yeah, let's rock and roll here. So you can dive in and do this with me if you're down. 


00:15:17    Monica

I'd love to do that. That'd be fun. 


00:15:19    Alyssa

Cool. One thing that I know about myself is that at the end of the day, I often resort to like, so we'll put Sagey down and then we tag team just like cleaning up, doing lunch for the next day, that sort of stuff. And I love this time. I like pop in my AirPods, I listen to a podcast. Its like downtime for me. But then when that ends, I will often find myself just like scrolling for an hour or whatever and I'm like, ugh, and then I'm like in bed later than I'm on or I didn't connect with Zach or whatever. And this is a part of the day that I'm like, I wish I had like a more like concrete, more concrete habits or a more concrete routine that was nourishing for me that I feel like I end the day in a way that actually isn't nourishing. 


00:16:13    Monica

One, I'm glad you're starting with the evening because a lot of times people want to wake up earlier, have a better morning routine, and we end up always starting the night before instead. 


00:16:22    Alyssa

I, for the record, never want to wake up earlier. 


00:16:25    Monica

Again, I just, I'm standing up and giving you a round of applause here. You are my kind of gal. So listen, let's start with your nighttime routine or some, some kind of habit that you can bend, blend into this night routine. You already have some great routines there. You're, you know, getting your house in order. You're getting things ready for the next day, but you sound like you want more nourishment. 


00:16:44    Alyssa

Yeah, exactly. So like that First like half hour, maybe it's 20 minutes, some nights, whatever, feels good. It's like, okay, we're getting the house ready. We're getting prepared for the next day. And I'm listening to a podcast, which for me is just like, I don't at the end of the day, like I want a couple minutes where like, I guess 20 to 30 minutes where no one's talking to me, where I can kind of like go on my own zone. So like that feels good. It's when that ends, that it's like ends up being like an hour, an hour and a half of what then ends up feeling like wasted time. 


00:17:14    Monica

Okay. And I mean, I could spend a whole episode just on numbing behavior alone, because that is one of the things that a lot of people want to work on and me too. And I'll just say, let's take the shame out of it because scrolling the phone isn't what's bad for you. It's the lack of intention. 


00:17:28    Alyssa



00:17:29    Monica

It's not intentionally doing it maybe as long as you are, or it's taking you away from other intentions that you have. So let's start with what kind of habits would help you feel nourished yourself that you can think of? What's nourished you in the past? 


00:17:44    Alyssa

Sure. Like connecting with Zach at the end of the day. And when there are those nights where it's like, oh, like our phones are away and we just like sit and chat and connect, like that feels good for me. Doing things sometimes, like every once in a while I'll take a bath. That feels good for me. Stretching, it sounds so silly, but like stretching. And I still don't, just don't pop it in there, you know? Um, yeah, those are three that I feel like are nourishing for me. 


00:18:13    Monica

Maybe we just start with just chatting then with your husband, and then you can add in stretching or you can add in a bath or other, sometimes it's even just adding in a pocket of me time where, you know, sometimes we go to our phones because we're still feeling the pressure of responsibilities that are looming over our shoulders. And it's the easiest way to try to escape or avoid them. So we can have that be an ultimate goal that you have time each night to wind down. And it's just about you. But to begin with your baseline way of having that wind down on your worst of day, that's what your baseline is the smallest and simplest way we can nourish yourself and connect to your husband. How could you connect with him in the smallest and simplest way? 


00:18:53    Alyssa

For me, like talking is really connecting like that with our screens away. And we can just like talk to each other and physical touch, like those two both fill me up. 


00:19:06    Monica

Love that. 


00:19:07    Alyssa

Rubbing my feet while you talk to me is the dream. 


00:19:10    Monica

Oh, yes. 


00:19:12    Monica

Oh, I just feel like we're the same person. This is what my husband has to do, too, when we chat. He rubs my feet. It's a win win. So let's say ideally it's a sit down kind of on a couch and chat, maybe rub feet, taking turns doing that. Okay, now let's decide is that really the simplest and smallest version of that? If all the stuff is going on, okay. 


00:19:34    Alyssa

No, even when I think back, when I think back to like newborn days with Sage where it was just like, oh, once Sage went to bed, like we just climbed in bed and we're like, see ya in a few hours, you know, like it was what felt most important in that season was just capitalizing on whatever sleep we could get. 


00:19:56    Monica

And I think you can honor that. That's what's great about habits. It's that they're there to support you, not the other way around. You don't have to drag them around like balls and chains, right? They're there to support you. So in this phase, let's imagine it's, and I say worst of day, but I don't mean it's the worst day of your life. I'm just trying to say, it's not an ideal day. Let's say you're not having one of those ideal days. What is the smallest and simplest way you can connect with Zach before you fall into bed and go to sleep? 


00:20:22    Alyssa

Literally, it's like saying good night and kissing him and then falling in bed and going to sleep. 


00:20:27    Monica

Okay, now when people hear this, they're gonna say, well, that sounds like it's not a habit. But I'm gonna tell you it 100 % is, it absolutely is. And I'm gonna help you really come up with a specific way to do that. But what we want is when you are done cleaning up, the AirPods go out, then you know immediately, both of you, or you've gotten ready for bed or whatever it is, we'll figure out what that is, that you have that small moment of connection even on your worst of days. And that's gonna create the foundation you need to have the connection, period. That creates that feeling of being nurtured and connected that you needed, that small moment. And also you'll have a foundation on the worst of days or on the less than ideal days, but you'll be able to keep building. It creates momentum. Some days you're going to have that kiss and hug and like talk for two minutes. Hey, better than nothing. And it's going to keep building to where maybe you are just hanging out and your feet are getting rubbed and you're having meaningful conversation for five, 10 or 20 minutes. Whatever the ideal is that you're working towards because of that baseline. 


00:21:29    Alyssa

I love that. I like that. it's like, yeah, what does it look like when you strip everything away when it isn't ideal? Because I think that's where habits can get mucky is when we build them into what's the ideal day look like, right? And like, I don't know about you, but whoever lives in the ideal day. So I like this. I like stripping it down to like, what does it look like at that baseline? I also like that you acknowledge like for some folks, it's going to feel like, oh, that's not a habit. 


00:21:57    Monica



00:21:59    Alyssa

But it absolutely is because it is something to build upon. I think those are both really key. Actually, you know what? This just came up for me. I was like, I think that one of the mindset shifts that I have to be really mindful of here, I feel like sometimes I'm like, oh, I should have this habit. It's like a should. And it's because I, whatever, I'm in comparison mode. I saw it on social media. So -and -so is doing this. Whatever. I should be doing that. That's supposed to be good for my mental health, or that's going to make me feel better, whatever, without first taking stock of like, what actually would be fulfilling for me? 


00:22:39    Monica

Yes. And that's where I actually love to start is when I teach women about habits, I actually start with the mindset shifts. And it's not because we're going to go along with every other personal development coach out there and say like, today's the day. You get up, you decide for yourself what you're going to do. You make a decision, you follow through with a commitment for yourself. Like we're not going to go down that toxic positivity route of being like your thoughts determine all of your actions. And if you don't do the actions, not only are you at fault, but also your thoughts are. We're going to go instead of thinking, how am I framing habits in ways that are not helpful? What's my relationship with habits like? Because this is where I had to start, Alyssa. I was that stereotypical, overachieving perfectionist, for the first majority of my life. And then when I crashed and burned, and then I was only good at doing my responsibilities, but my self was a dumpster fire, that's what I had to figure out is like, well, is there another way to take care of myself outside of me thinking I have to wake up at 5 a .m. every day and do a whole series, like a whole day of regimented routines in order to be a good person and a good mom and a good teacher or whatever it is I had on my plate. And the answer for me was not only no, but it was also like, that is the way. If I want to be the person I wanna be, connected and have the relationships I want, the way is to shift what it looks like in my mind, to grow, to learn, to change. And it was so outside of perfectionism that it really stretched me in ways I never could have predicted. And it's changed my life, but it's also, this is why I'm gonna say to the people are like, well, that's not a habit if we're going back to those baselines. My growth has been exponential, as I've adopted the mindset, it's progress, not perfection. I have grown far more the last eight years of me working on this than I ever did as an overachieving perfectionist and for sure far more than when I was the underachieving kind, just waiting on the sidelines, waiting for the perfect time or the energy or an identity shift because I had changed. 


00:24:43    Alyssa

I think what you're like, what's coming up for me here, what you're describing is the, for us, the self -care part of the CEP method, which has gotten so buzzwordy, but for us in doing this work isn't like an occasional thing you get to if you have time, but it's those small habits all throughout the day that we have that nourish our nervous system. And I feel like that's what you're bringing in here is like, what are ways that we take care of ourselves all day long that are sometimes 20 seconds, sometimes five minutes, but also sometimes a minute. And I think a lot of them, mindset is huge because they require boundaries usually, I feel like. 


00:25:27    Monica

They do. And trade -offs too. Like you said, sometimes that means you sacrifice the space for yourself. 


00:25:34    Alyssa

Or allowing hard emotions to exist. For me, for instance, as a parent, like I will say, "buddy, I would love to come play with you or I'd love to come see that thing. I'm to finish eating my breakfast, and then I'll come watch." And especially when I first started saying that, he would melt down. I want you to come now, Mama. Mama, come see it now. And crying, he's disappointed. He would like me to drop what I'm doing to come see what he's built or created or what he's up to. He would like my attention, and that makes total sense. And as I set these boundaries for myself in different areas and created habits around, I'm going to sit down at the table and I'm going to eat my whole breakfast because that allows me to show up as more of the parent that I want to be. And that it's okay if that means we're a couple minutes late for school, it's okay if that means that he is having a hard time because he wants my attention, that all those things are okay and I'm still going to choose me for these three minutes while I eat my breakfast. And then, yes, I would love to come see what you made. As I held that boundary more and took care of myself, A, I could re -enter to go see what he made and give him attention as a more regulated human. And B, he started to learn that habit of mine. And now, he'll come over and he'll say, mama, when you're done eating, will you come see what I made? 


00:27:12    Monica

Cute. He's learned it. 


00:27:13    Alyssa

That's right. But like it took me setting that boundary and holding it. And this is where the mindset work for me has come in of like, I'm worth taking care of. 


00:27:25    Monica

Yes. Isn't that such a shift from like, I'm worth taking care of and these habits are like, this moment is for me, instead of like the other way around, I think you typically are modeled or taught what's like, you do this, good people do that. And you do it this way. And you do it this length and this time and this intensity in order for it to count. 


00:27:44    Alyssa

Right, right. Or like you need to have X amount of sleep. You need to have whatever. But when I say like, oh, I prioritize getting in bed by this time and staying in bed until this time, like I prioritize that because I feel best when I do that. Or I prioritize eating breakfast in the morning because I feel best versus like a healthy breakfast is a strong start to the day. And you're supposed to, when I'm doing it because it's somebody else's parameters, it's hard for me to actually set and hold the boundary versus when I do it because it's how I feel, which means it's how I can best show up for everyone in the world around me, it is easier for me to adhere to. 


00:28:27    Monica

And the ownership feels different. And I would say like, I think we can all feel the difference in our bodies when things are really chosen because it's what we want and it's what we need. And it matches our preferences and our season right now than when we do it out of shoulds. I even think about this when I read my kids a book, like my kids feel the difference between when I'm reading them a book out of love and I'm reading them a book because I think I should be or supposed to be. It feels different. It's the same with habits. And I'll say like, this is what has changed my life is that framework. And it's not only the mindset shift, it's also how I do things. There's so much more flexibility, which also weirdly leads to more consistency. And I've been able to release a lot in my life, but also gain so much in return. Like we have the bookmarks of our days down, both for my kids and myself. In between, there's a lot more flexibility. And also just that, like you said, the sprinkling of the self -care throughout, I show up to my kids so much better than when I'm allowing myself to do the 15 minute walk, because a kid woke up early and I wanted to do 30, and I allowed myself not to count than when I'm insisting on everybody following through so I can get this habit. And I want to say a swear word, dang it, this is the habit, so we're going to do it or not, or we're all going to suffer. But we just end up suffering in the process of trying to complete the ideals all the time. 


00:29:54    Alyssa

Right. Because then we're not doing it for how are we going to feel, right? 


00:29:58    Monica

Yes. Uh -huh. 


00:29:58    Alyssa

This has been a mindset shift for me in the last few years of what's my actual lived experience, right? Because I can go through life with these ideas of like, oh, if I, you know, we should, we, it's, it's the shoulds. Like we should have family photos or we should do whatever. And like, so last year I was like, all right, we're going to do family pictures the first time, like we're going to send out holiday cards. And it's the first time I've sent out holiday cards and I never again will. 


00:30:28    Monica

It's so much work!


00:30:28    Alyssa

Where I was like, oh, and it brought like my lived experience of that was zero joy. So for myself, I've really just started to transition into like, what's my lived experience of this? And sometimes, yeah, I'm not going to have a great time, but it's worth it for some sort of skill that we're building with Sage or whatever. Every once in a while, I'm like, all right, I'll sacrifice my lived experience because in the name of parenting, or just showing up for Zach in partnership, right? 


00:31:03    Monica

Yeah, exactly. 


00:31:04    Alyssa

Maybe we're going on a date and we're going record shopping, which doesn't bring me joy, does bring him joy, but being with him brings me joy, right? So sometimes I'm going to sacrifice that, but largely what I've adopted as a mindset is like, what's my lived experience? And I think that's something that's been kind of trippy for me with habits is that when I'm stuck in this space of like, I should be doing this until I'm going to adopt this new habit. If I'm doing it from that lens, then it does feel really specific, right? Like your 30 minute walk, for instance, like, okay, well, then I have to get in 30 minute walk. And it then doesn't leave room for the like, actually, my lived experience is that when I get out, and I take a walk, and I can have fresh air in my face, and I can breathe, I feel better. And sometimes I have 30 minutes to do it. And sometimes I might have five minutes to do it, but it's restorative for me. And I'm going to prioritize that in the morning or at this point or whatever. And so that shift that you just mentioned, I think for me has been huge and it has started with the mindset part of what's my actual lived experience. 


00:32:17    Monica

I love that you are grounded in that because so many women aren't like, this just seems totally foreign. And I'll say for the women who are afraid, like they're thinking, oh, I'm going to have to abandon all the shoulds then. Like, no, I do plenty of things I don't like to do each day, like putting the dishes away. I don't like doing that. I don't hate putting away laundry. My kids wash their own laundry, fortunately, but there's plenty of tasks throughout the day that I'm like, these are shoulds. But they are, they're still shoulds. But because I'm allowed to do even these shoulds in ways that are in alignment with myself, I can do them differently. Their more-- shoulds can be chosen. And that is something that I think we can all adopt. I can choose a should if it helps me line up to my greater priorities in ways that feel like me. And it also gives me the freedom to do them in ways that make sense for me and my family. I have a friend who her kids put away their laundry, which is great, but they don't fold them. And that's great. Her kids are doing their laundry, but they don't have to fold them because that matches them and their seasons right now. They just put them in the drawer. The shirts are on the drawer and that's fine. So you can choose a should, but when you're doing it from a different framework, we're like, this should is still there to help us function and to help us show up in ways that help us feel like we're living our lives responsibly and we're connected and our relationships are being prioritized and people have socks, then we're doing it right. 


00:33:41    Alyssa

Yeah. And I look at shoulds as also spots sometimes for habits stacking. Like my, like I love that downtime at the end of the day where it's just me and a podcast or an audio book or whatever. And I would, I think, prioritize that 20 minutes of having that, AirPods in, not hearing anybody else, not having conversations anyway. And so then I'm like, oh, I can do that while cleaning up or making lunches or whatever. And it makes those transition times, and I think of this with kids too. We know transitions are hard for a lot of kids. They're hard for most adults, like just the steps it takes to clean up at the end of the day or do the dishes. There's a lot of things that we have to do in our day -to -day that aren't full of fun. 


00:34:31    Monica

Yeah, not fulfilling. 


00:34:32    Alyssa

Right. But it's like, where can we bring joy into them when we can? And with kids, it's sometimes like, I'm going to tell you a story. And it's like, I'm making up a big, fun story or we're going to play a game or whatever. And it's the AirPods to the cleaning up. It's like, how can I take this thing that isn't super joyful for me, but that has to get done and make it something that also is actually restorative for me. 


00:35:00    Monica

Yeah. That's why I listened to so many audio books. That's how I get anything done around the house. And I want to mention one thing, because I said this earlier, for your specific habit to just connect with your husband each night, I talked about how we want to make sure we have a way to connect that. What I meant is I want to connect it back to an existing habit.  And for you, that's your, your cleanup and listen to a podcast, but that's your already existing habit that you can attach this new habit to, you know, as soon as you are done with that, you go right to giving your husband a hug and saying good night, or maybe you have to another step in between where you're getting into your pajamas and you can attach it to that. But having that kind of clarity too, can help women stack in the new habit, try to figure out where can this new habit I want be attached to an already existing habit. And a lot of times you don't know that you already have them because they're habit, like for me, starting an issue is a big one. 


00:35:55    Alyssa



00:35:55    Monica

Brushing your teeth is one,  using the bathroom. You can attach a new habit to that one all the time after you wash your hands or after you do drop off or clean up or, you know, there's so many different things that you can attach to new habits too. And that can give you a little bit more hope too, as you're starting out and you're thinking, why is this habit not sticking? A lot of times it just comes down to, you don't have a specific enough pairing there to stack it too. 


00:36:18    Alyssa

Yeah, that makes sense. something that's already a part of our subconscious. Like when I'm making my coffee in the morning, I don't have to think about like, okay, I take the mug out of this and then I push this button or whatever. I can just do that on autopilot because it's habitual. I do it every morning, do it at the same time. We do it in the same way. It is a part of my morning routine is this habit of making coffee. And so being able to stack on top of a preexisting habit that you already don't to think about. That for me is so helpful. Otherwise, I'm just like, just kind of out there flailing, trying to figure out like, where do I put in? I think of like gratitude journal, for instance, of like, yeah, I end my day with a one-a-day, like line journal for Sage that I write, like, it's six years, right? So like, I can see last year, what a memory from last year on this day and the year before that on this day, and it's something that brings me a lot of joy. And sometimes I'm writing like, whew, we had a doozy of a day, you're really sick, or people were over and it was loud and you were really overstimulated. Sometimes it's not like, oh, this is the happiest memory of the day, but it's just like a memory and a marker of that day. And it is something that I recently stacked Gratitude Journal on top of that, because I do Sage's Journal every day before I go to bed. And so I was like, all right, I'm then right after that going to write down three things that I'm grateful for. And I already have a pen now, I'm already writing stuff down. And so it just feels like an easy one to fit in. And it is something that takes very little time for me because I can write Sagey's memory in less than a minute, and then I can write three things I'm grateful for at this point in less than a minute. And so I can just like kind of bang those two things out. But I had been trying to find, since I entered into parenthood, where to stack my gratitude practice. And I just lost it as my nighttime routine as a parent changed when I came into parenthood. And I didn't have a clear place that felt consistent to put it. And then when I was like, oh, wait, no, I'm doing this journal for Sage. I can just throw it in after that. Then it started to become consistent, but it kind of took that to make it consistent. 


00:38:40    Monica

Yeah. Again, you've done the work so well on this. I think that's a huge factor for a lot of women is they're like, I keep forgetting the habit. So we just got to get clear, where are you going to attach it to? And then sometimes it also helps to practice that. You literally practice it out of context. You pretend you're writing your journal for Sage, and then you go to your next journal and you do that three or five times in a row, and it will help your brain implement it in real time later because you have that brain -body connection, which I love hijacking. 


00:39:08    Alyssa

Yeah. Well, and then it starts to feel weird if you don't do it, right? Like then routines feel off kind of like when I'm on vacation and like, I love that when I'm on vacation, somebody else makes the coffee, but also it just like feels different. You're like out of routine. You're out of your normal habits. 


00:39:23    Monica

You love getting back into the routine when you get back. Isn't it weird? 


00:39:27    Alyssa



00:39:27    Monica

It's so, you know, one thing I will say too is, so I actually have a journal like that for my kids. It's the only way I journal right now. The habit I actually started to get back into habit formation for myself was journaling because I had been a really diligent journaler up until I got married. And then when I got married, I felt all that pressure to like journal our wedding day. Like the perfect memory of every single moment. And that meant I delayed it for six or seven years. And then by then we'd had like two kids, I think. And then I'm probably pregnant with my third. And I was just like, not only have I not documented the wedding day, I've not documented my kids' lives. So to get back into that, I started with the baseline of, I just have to write one incomplete sentence a day. And that was my baseline for years. And then it built. And then anyway, the long story short is I had journaling again. And then I got that children's journal, like similar to yours, it's called Flecks of Gold Journal is the one I have. And that is actually the only way I journal now. I was journaling for myself in addition, like I had the two stacked together, but I had my baby in January. And it was such a survival period, both leading up to his birth and long after, he's now nine months old, that I'm like, it's okay. It's okay that I've stepped away from journaling for myself right now. This is my life experience, if we're going back to what you shared. Right now, my life experience is, I want to journal for sure for my kids, and it feels so nice, but for myself, I don't need that right now. 


00:40:54    Alyssa

Yeah. Well, and it doesn't feel fulfilling, right? So like when you're doing it out of obligation and not because it actually feels good. This was actually kind of on the reverse. I started doing cold showers at the end of my shower. 


00:41:07    Monica



00:41:08    Alyssa

And I like really wanted it to not feel good because I hate being cold. But as I was doing it, I was like, oh, actually, like I was noticing. Yes, I would feel good for like four to five hours after just my mood was boosted. I had more energy and I was like, ah, shoot, I'm going to keep this one up. But for me it was like, yeah, that felt more attainable from like a mood booster, dopamine aspect for to end my shower with two minutes of cold water than it did to like get in a half hour run or workout in that season of my life. And so that's where it like kickstarted where I was like, I need a dopamine boost that's going to be accessible. And that's going to have lasting effects. And, but it was the opposite where I was like, please don't work. Please don't work. Please don't work. 


00:41:59    Monica

I know I'm like, I'm kind of sad to hear that work for you. Cause I similarly hate being cold, but I keep hearing about the science of this. I need to just need to try it out. But I will say though, like I do love the result of journaling for myself, but I'm just, I'm still not quite there, but I know when I'm ready, I can. And when I do, I'm going to go back to my original baseline. My baseline grew by the way, it used to just be one incomplete line. And a few years in, it was like a paragraph a day was my baseline. That was easy. I could do that on my worst day. But right now, when I get back into it, I know I'm going to go back to my original baseline and that is okay. 


00:42:34    Alyssa

Love that. Yeah. 


00:42:35    Monica

They're for your seasons. That's okay. You can do them differently too. 


00:42:39    Alyssa

Yeah. I love that. And for me, like first trimester, I was like, I just like, so didn't feel in my body in same way that I was like, I'm just going to cold shower for 15 seconds like at the end. That point was up to like two and a half minutes before going into the first trimester and went back down to like 15 seconds. And then when I felt better in my body and I was like, okay, I feel like I, because it's a mental game every single time I do it. Then I just didn't have the mental capacity. I found myself being like, I don't want to do it. I'm just going to avoid it. And I was like, just do 15 seconds because I know that my lived experience after it feels really good. Then I went back to 15 seconds and I was like, I can do anything for 15 seconds and I saw some effects and I was like, okay. And then as I got out and started, moved into my second trimester and felt better, got back up to doing it for a couple of minutes and was like, okay, great. But allowing that ebb and flow is huge and so hard for those of us who, I have been an overachiever my whole life. And being able to say, I won't get an A plus, right? Or that the bar for A -plus moves. And I'm like, no, it doesn't. This is what it is. This is how you get an A -plus. And so that is like a mindset shift piece for me. Where would you recommend that like busy parents start? 


00:44:07    Monica

So I'm a habit person now. I can confidently say that. But based off of these mindset shifts that we've talked about, as well as the practice of doing things differently. But one of the things I think might be fascinating for people to know is like, even me as like a working mom of five kids, my day is not 100 % regimented. I don't have good habits that are completely like maxed out all day, every day. I focus primarily on the bookends because those are the most controllable, sometimes not, depending on the season, for me. So the mornings or the evenings. And you know, it's so funny that that's where we kind of used your example. I'd actually recommend people start with the evening. Don't worry about all day, everyday stuff. Don't even start with the mornings yet until you have a good way to wind down at night. A way that helps you feel the ways and the feelings that you want to feel, whether that's restored or connected or calm, or maybe you're feeling is even, you feeling more alive, like yourself. Maybe some people love to learn at night. I don't know. Focus on the nighttime for yourself. That's going to give back so much more starting the next morning. 


00:45:17    Alyssa

Love it. I love that idea of like, what do you want to feel? Monica, thank you for this and thank you for doing this work. Where can people learn more about you, follow you, all that jazz? 


00:45:28    Monica

I have loved this conversation and I also adore you and your work so much. I pre -ordered your book as soon as it was available and I loved having you on my podcast as well. So that's actually where they can find me primarily go, go scoot over on your search on whatever podcast app you're looking for and search for About Progress. I've been doing this for almost seven years and it's like I said, changed my life, but all by accident. And I would love for them to join in the experiment of, you know, trying progress outside of perfectionism. And I do actually have a course called the Sticky Habit Method. It's designed for real women who want habits that are supportive of their lives. And they can find that at 


00:46:08    Alyssa

Great. Perfect. Thank you so, so much, Monica. 


00:46:12    Monica

Oh, it was an honor for me. Thank you. 


00:46:15    Alyssa

Thanks for tuning in to Voices of Your Village. Check out the transcript at Did you know that we have a special community over on Instagram hanging out every day with more free content? Come join us at, S -E -W. Take a screenshot of you tuning in, share it on the gram and tag to let me know your key takeaway. If you're digging this podcast, make sure to subscribe so you don't miss an episode. We love collaborating with you to raise emotionally intelligent humans.


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